Given the creative nature of the industry, people who work in fashion are frequently looking for inspiration, from all sorts of material — films, visual art, travel, history and, certainly, books. From stunning coffee table books to juicy tell-alls to novels that aren't technically about fashion, we asked some of our favorite fashion people to share the tomes that have inspired them over the years. Ahead, their picks.
Victor Glemaud, founder of Victor Glemaud
"'Duro Olowu: Seeing' is the perfect mix of style — art, culture, fashion! Perfect for these days when all I wear are gym clothes and cashmere sweaters."
Wes Gordon, creative director of Carolina Herrera
"'The Count of Monte Cristo' by Alexandre Dumas. The ultimate tale of revenge, love, and power — there's a reason this book has stood the test of time. I first read it in school and have loved it ever since. Trust me, the book is much better than the film versions."
Aurora James, founder and creative director of Brother Vellies
"'In the Kitchen with Love' by Sophia Loren. I have owned this particular Sophia Loren cookbook since I moved to Los Angeles when I was 23 years old. I found it at a second hand store for 35 cents and fell in love. I loved Sophia Loren's relationship to food. I think that indulgence with food is a very beautiful thing when you can afford [it], within financial and health constraints. But there's nothing I appreciate more than a fresh bounty from the farmers market or a beautiful overflowing charcuterie plate with wine and tipsy friends. I subscribe to an Italian romanticism around food — I find cooking erotic at times.
"Everything I create I see as an act of service because I'm honoring the women we are and the women we want to be. I'm a female accessory designer making products for other women to live their lives in. I really favor ingredients/materials — process/technique — to arrive at a beautiful end result in both my cooking and my craft.
"[Then,] 'Deana Lawson: An Aperture Monograph' — I purchased [it] a couple of years ago for myself as a gift. It was important to me to bring her images into my home. The way Deana captures people, particularly black people, with a deep understanding of culture and identity. It's both tender and powerful in the same time. And at times, fragile, in the way that a bomb is as oppose to a flower.
"I create product as a service to great creatives like Deana, that is all I can ask for. We must bow at the feet of these incredible women who capture these moments in time so well for us. I know that I will never remember today, this exact moment as hard as I can try. But she could preserve it for me, and there is a magic in that."
Hillary Taymour, creative director of Collina Strada
"'MOM' by Charlie Engman. This book is literally everything, and I have watched it from its inception about a decade ago. A true visual delight. Charlie has always been a huge inspiration in everything I do and am daily asking him for advice and approval as I go about designing. I love his brain."
Becca McCharen-Tran, founder, CEO and creative director of Chromat
"The first book that comes to mind is Terry Agins's 'The End of Fashion.' I read it over 10 years ago, before starting Chromat, and it really helped me understand how the fashion industry works before ever entering it. I'm sure it's more of a time capsule now and possibly less relevant, as so much has changed since then, with wholesale versus DTC and digital marketing. I remember reading that Jean-Paul Gaultier made all his money on perfumes and none from his actual garments and it was very revolutionary to me at the time, thinking about what fashion means.
"A more contemporary book I would recommend is Lindsey Peoples Wagner's 'Becoming a Fashion Designer,' and not just because I'm in it! She outlines what it takes to start and run a fashion label today and how important it is to have a message and belief system within the ethos of your label, or [else] there's no point. I have loved Lindsey's work since she wrote the massive anthology, What It's Really Like to Be Black and Work in Fashion, for The Cut. Lindsey does a great job of highlighting people that have a huge influence on the industry without historically being centered.
"The last book I'd recommend (who knew I had so many favorites?) is Cora Harrington's 'In Intimate Detail.' Cora does a great job of writing a comprehensive guide to buying, wearing, caring for and designing undergarments and she does it in a seamlessly gender-inclusive and size-inclusive way. The entire book is written without ever using definitive gender pronouns when referring to who wears lingerie. I love that. And the illustrations are gorgeous."
Susan Korn, founder of Susan Alexandra
"I'm endlessly inspired by the queen of purses, Judith Leiber! One day I hope to work with Judith Leiber, and my way of manifesting this is by indulging in this delicious book, Enid Nemy's 'Judith Leiber: The Art of the Handbag', which is chock full of eye candy and whimsy!"
Han Chong, founder and creative director of Self-Portrait
"'Ren Hang' by Taschen. I was admiring his works long before the book came out. He has such a unique vision and personal signature in his works. His provocative and passionate point of view, which also goes beyond shock value [is inspiring]. He captures not only the flesh, but raw emotions. His works are contemporary classic, uncompromising creativity. He knew exactly what kind of photographs he wanted and went for it, despite what others may think or even censor. It's an inspiration to stay true to your own visions."
Tanya Taylor, founder and designer of Tanya Taylor
"'The Illustrator, 100 Best From Around The World' by Taschen. This is one of my favorite creative resources. I love seeing how people interpret and draw the world around them."
Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder and chief brand officer of Moda Operandi
"Alicia Drake's 'The Beautiful Fall' and John Fairchild's 'Chic Savages' — both tell the behind-the-scenes stories of the fashion world. 'Beautiful Fall' is focused on Paris, while 'Chic Savages' spotlights New York City. Rumor has it, Karl [Lagerfeld] tried to buy all the copies of 'Beautiful Fall' off the shelves when it was released."
Hanako Maeda, founder and designer of Adeam
"'Madeleine Vionnet' by Betty Kirke. I was studying abroad at Parsons in Paris during my junior year of college, and I visited the Vionnet exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. This experience completely changed my life. I was mesmerized by how Vionnet created intricate patterns using simple geometric shapes. Also, it was incredible to see how she invented the bias cut, and her focus on capturing the beauty of the female form without restricting the body.
"Discovering Vionnet and her work had changed my perspective on fashion. I was studying art history at Columbia University, and my study abroad experience was my first exposure to fashion as a discipline. It was incredible to see the connection between ancient Greek art and Vionnet's work and how she beautifully captured form and movement. This was the first time that I understood fashion is a part of a greater cultural discourse.
"From Vionnet's work, I realized that creativity and functionality can coexist, and this has become a core philosophy of Adeam. This is why I love using technical Japanese fabrics that are wrinkle-free and machine-washable, so that my pieces are about the everyday in a woman's life. I'm also attracted by this idea of keeping the patterns as simple as possible, and creating interesting drapes from simple shapes. I think this notion is also found in how traditional Japanese kimonos are created.
"I think Vionnet is one of the greatest female designers in history, and I'm so inspired by her creativity and innovation. I'm always inspired to push my creative bounds when I look back at her book."
Thakoon Panichgul, founder and designer of Thakoon
"One of my favorite fashion books is 'Models Manual' by Arthur Elgort. It's a great book that captures joy in the '90s, and so relevant for today."
Jonathan Cohen, co-founder and designer of Jonathan Cohen
"'Tom Ford' — I bought this book when I was moving to NYC and it changed the way I viewed fashion. Tom is a genius at marketing and creating a world that was extremely desirable. He taps into the dream of fashion and how to create it into a business. The photos are amazing and it's a must for anyone who wants a career in fashion.
Not necessarily a fashion book, but the way Patti Smith describes NYC culture and style [from] this period in 'Just Kids' is incredible. Reading the book, it really charges all the senses in your body. You really can envision how they dressed and styled themselves during this time. It's been a while since I have read the book, but have started it again since quarantine. One of my favorites."
Sandy Liang, founder and designer of Sandy Liang
Mara Hoffman, founder and designer of Mara Hoffman
"'Let My People Go Surfing' is about the journey of a business icon, the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. One of my favorite quotes is: 'Studying zen has taught me to simplify, to simplify yields a richer result.'"
Alejandra Alonso Rojas, founder and designer of Alejandra Alonso Rojas
"'Grace' by Grace Coddington. I came across it around 2012. The bold orange cover caught my eye and I opened it and started reading — I had to keep going, so I bought it. Years later, I went to the Strand bookstore on Broadway to buy her newest book 'Grace, The American Vogue Years,' and she was there signing them! So I bought my copy of her memoir and got to talk to her. She signed both.
"She has always been fearless. She talks about her private world, her toughest moments and how she grew from them. Grace's voice is very honest and inspiring. I have always admired her work but after reading her book I even have more respect and admiration. I also love how she talks and illustrates her teams through the years, all the people who worked next to her to create those breathtaking images.
"Grace started her career in front of the cameras and ended up behind them as the Creative Director of American Vogue. Life is about ups and downs, sometimes it's a rollercoaster, personally and professionally... but you need not only to follow your dreams, but also to work very hard every day to make them happen. It's about passion and dedication."
Karla Welch, stylist, founder of xKarla and co-founder of Wishi
"'Shoe Dog' by Phil Knight — an inspirational story of what it takes to create a brand while being human. The good, the bad and the ugly."
Sandra Sandor, founder and creative director of Nanushka
"I was 20 when I first read 'Book of Mirdad' by Mikhail Naimy. It talks to your heart. It's a very honest and daring book, not afraid to point out the truth. One of the main themes is the unity of different people and groups. I think this is more important than ever, especially in these uncertain times. Spirituality is very important in my life and work it helps me keep focused and a clear mind. I like to return to this book to help provide guidance in difficult situations."
Brandon Maxwell, founder at Brandon Maxwell
"'Halston: Inventing American Fashion' — Halston has always been one of my biggest inspirations, since I was a kid. Not only do I love the clothes, I love the era completely. Diving in to books and films about his life, his friends and their adventures is always a great way to escape for me."