Image Conscious: Fall's Fashionable Reads

The season is filled with a slew of new books, from the quotable Karl Lagerfeld to an A to Z of fashion.

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"Giambattista Valli"

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"Alexander McQueen: Working Process"

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There’s plenty to see in the new fashion and design books.

"Sirens & Sinners: A Visual History of Weimar Film 1918-1933” (Thames & Hudson; available Sept. 9), by Hans Helmut Prinzler. Germany’s Weimar period is endlessly fascinating, and this book explores one of the many art forms that blossomed in that time and place. It launched the careers of Fritz Lang, Max Ophuls and Ernst Lubitsch, along with those of Pola Negri, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. More than 70 films are covered by the book, with a synopsis, a cast list and stills from each. “M,” “Pandora’s Box,” “The Blue Angel”…it’s all here.

“The World According to Karl: The Wit and Wisdom of Karl Lagerfeld” (Flammarion, available Sept. 17), edited by Jean-Christophe Napias and Sandrine Gulbenkian with a foreword by Patrick Mauriès and illustrations by Charles Ameline. Lagerfeld has delivered many an excellent quote, and the ones here are divided into 15 categories, which include “Karl on Chanel” and “Karl on Books.” Some samples: “Fashion is made up of two things: continuity and the opposite. That’s why you have to keep moving.” “Every era gets the bad taste it deserves.” “I’ve been around for so long, prehistoric man can’t compete.” “I want to read everything, to see everything, to be informed. I am a paper addict, a paper freak, a paper-worm.”

“The Inspired Home: Interiors of Deep Beauty” (Harper Design, available Sept. 17), by Karen Lehrman Bloch with a foreword by Donna Karan. The book looks at the dwellings of a variety of designers, artists and stylists for whom the phrase “less is more” is a mantra at home. Artist Michele Oka Doner, for instance, has an artful display of shell fragments on a table, while designer Jérôme Abel Seguin created his own world on Bali, having a single-story house built in a shape that resembled a hangar. Palettes are usually in shades of white, cream and brown.

“Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman, King of the B Movie” (Abrams, available Sept. 10), by Chris Nashawaty with an introduction by John Landis. The plots were silly, and the special effects laughable, but Corman’s movies gave the first directing jobs to Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme and Ron Howard, while Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Tommy Lee Jones, Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock acted in his films. There are conversations with Corman alums, along with items from the director’s personal collection, including posters for such unforgettable classics as “Ski Troop Attack,” with the tag line “They turned a white hell red with enemy blood,” and “Rock All Night,” with its motto, “Some have to dance...some have to kill!…”

“Louis Comfort Tiffany: Treasures From the Driehaus Collection” (The Monacelli Press, available Sept. 10), by David A. Hanks with an essay by Richard H. Driehaus and photographs by John Faier. This book was created to go with an exhibition of the same name that will open on Sept. 28 at the Driehaus Museum in Chicago. The book features essays on six categories of Tiffany designs, including lamps, furniture and interiors and decorative objects, with remarkable close-up pictures of vases, candlesticks and chandeliers that show the details of the colors in the glass.

“The Fashion Book: New Edition” (Phaidon, available Oct. 14), by the Editors of Phaidon. The original book came out in 1998, and the new one includes 72 new entries. As the introduction puts it, “Pioneering designers Coco Chanel and Issey Miyake are joined by new figures such as Alexander Wang and Phoebe Philo, alongside influential photographers from Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton to Mert & Marcus and Terry Richardson.” The images are fresh and often unexpected. In the first entry, on Twenties and Thirties photographer James Abbe, for instance, “Ziegfeld Follies” dancer Gilda Gray looks surprisingly modern in a long, fringed dress, glancing away from the camera.

“GQ Men”
(Assouline, available Sept. 15), with an introduction by GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson and an essay by Glenn O’Brien. This book is a striking compilation of great photographs of men, including Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Pablo Picasso, Malcolm X, Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Jude Law, Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Drake, Ryan Gosling and Jon Hamm. There are still-lifes of classic fashion pieces such as a shirt and tie, a watch and a black leather jacket. But the energy is in the men’s portraits, which vary considerably, but which are all full of personality.

“Giambattista Valli”
(Rizzoli, available Oct. 15), by Giambattista Valli with text by Lee Radziwill, John Galliano and Pamela Golbin and an introduction by Francesco Clemente. The titular designer launched his own collection in 2005, and it has become one of fashion’s most influential, lauded for the way he combines feminine details with linear, modern silhouettes, creating a highly distinctive romantic vision. This book examines the stages of his design process, including fabric selection and development.

“Cat Hats: Sixteen Paper Hats to Put on Your Unsuspecting Kitty!” (Hardie Grant Books, available Oct. 8), by Kitty Barnett. This charming volume contains a considerable variety of dizzy hats with which to embarrass a feline. The possibilities include a crown, a captain’s hat, a bowler, a giant bow and devil’s horns, and they can all be cut out of the book with scissors. The author lives in London with 12 cats and owns a shop called Paws and Relax.

“Alexander McQueen: Working Process”
(Damiani, available Oct. 31), with photographs by Nick Waplington and an introduction by Susannah Frankel. Waplington and Frankel were invited by McQueen to document the making of his fall 2009 ready-to-wear collection, called the Horn of Plenty, from start to finish. They did so, and the designer edited the resulting pictures. Then he died, and the project was put on hold. Now it’s being published, and it shows everything from sketches and mood boards to meetings with editors such as Anna Wintour and Camilla Nickerson to the models with their giant, clownlike lips backstage at the presentation itself.

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