Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review: Fashion Show, Paris Style

This book is not what it appears. While it may appear from the cover to be a superficial look at the world of fashion, it contains a wealth of information on the history of French fashion, beginning in the 17th century and up to the present day. Fashion Show: Paris Style was the exhibition catalogue from a 2006 show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The essay "La Mode: Paris and the Development of the French Fashion Industry" by Pamela A. Parmal, curator and head of the Department of Textile and Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, comprises one third of the book. Well written and beautifully illustrated with engravings, paintings and fashion plates, this is the best part of the book. Parmal writes with precision and elegance as she explores the rich history of the development of Paris as a fashion capital. I have read this essay numerous times and with each rereading I come away with a deeper level of understanding as to why Paris remains the focus of fashion to this day.

"To be in Paris without seeing fashion is to have one's eyes closed."
Marquis de Caraccioli, 1772 (page 13)

The second part of the book is a bridge between fashion history and contemporary fashion designers and consists of an 18-page essay on "Haute Couture and Ready-to-Wear: A Recent History" by Didier Grumbach.

The balance of the book is comprised of profiles of 10 fashion houses and designers, including: Azzedine Alaia, Hussein Chalayan, Chanel, Christian Dior, Maison Martin Margiela, Rochas, Valentino. Viktor & Rolf and Yohji Yamamoto. The profiles are accompanied by lavish colour photographs.

This book is an absolute must-read for all serious students of fashion!!

Title: Fashion Show, Paris Style
(Exhibition Catalogue, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Essays by Pamela A. Parmal and Didier Grumbach
Designer Profiles by Susan Ward and Lauren D. Whitley
Published by: MFA Publications, Boston 2006
Category: Non-fiction, fashion
Number of Pages: 221
Price: $65