Here’s a new fashion idea: books. For the start of school. September? groundbreaking. But this season the literary scene is very much in. Perhaps it was never really out – from the early influence of writer Elsa Triolet on Schiaparelli in the 1930s, to the influence of HG Wells and Mary Shelley on Alexander McQueen, to the enduring appeal of Virginia woolfs Orlando.
This year, the book references have gone well beyond the page. British author Zadie Smith sat front row for Loewe’s AW22 collection, which was itself inspired by poet Seamus Heaney and accompanied by a reading by Sylvia Plath. Ottessa Moshfegh, the author of My year of rest and relaxation, starred in New York Fashion Week, wrote an original piece for Proenza Schouler and walked in Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s AW22 show. “Her presence is mysterious and poetic; She made the show complete – she added depth, surprise and substance,” says Zadeh.
On the runways, AW22 brought us book-sized Brobdingnagian bags atop Louis Vuitton dungarees and Chanel knitwear. Miu Miu’s quilted mini bags give the classic book bag (a style that continues to fly off the shelves at Dior, where it’s available in over 60 colorways) a novella form. For Dior Men’s, Kim Jones collaborated with the Jack Kerouac estate to bring prints to the runway inspired by the life of the late Beat poet. Valentino commissioned authors such as Mieko Kawakami and Fatima Farheen Mirza to write original writing for window displays at independent bookstores such as NYC’s Strand, while Chanel launched a podcast dedicated to first-time authors.
And there are new Instagram book clubs too: one by Kaia Gerber; another by model Bibi Abdulkadir called @bibisbooks celebrating black authors; and @belletrist, founded by actress Emma Roberts and producer Karah Preiss. “Designers have always relied on literature for inspiration,” says Preiss. “The difference now is that a fashion brand should be more than just a manufacturer of luxury goods.”
Do you want to be in the scene? The emergence of the book stylist — an expert who selects the right reading for celebrities to be seen in public with — suggests that the “it-bag” is facing new competition. Find this season’s most coveted accessory at your local library.
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