Here’s a novel fashion idea: books. For back-to-school. September? Groundbreaking. But this season, the literary scene is very much in. Perhaps it’s never really been out – from the early influence of writer Elsa Triolet on Schiaparelli in the Thirties to the impact of HG Wells and Mary Shelley on Alexander McQueen and the enduring appeal of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.
This year, book references have spilled well beyond the page. British author Zadie Smith sat front row at Loewe’s AW22 collection, which itself was inspired by poet Seamus Heaney and soundtracked by a reading of Sylvia Plath. Ottessa Moshfegh, the writer of My Year of Rest and Relaxation, emerged as a main character at New York Fashion Week, writing an original piece for Proenza Schouler and walking in Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s AW22 show. ‘Her presence is mysterious and poetic; she made the show complete – added depth, surprise and substance,’ says Zadeh.
On the runways, AW22 brought us Brobdingnagian book-sized pockets on pinafore dresses by Louis Vuitton and knitwear at Chanel. Miu Miu’s mini quilted bags put a novella-shaped spin on the classic book bag (a style which continues to fly off shelves at Dior, where it’s available in over 60 colourways). For Dior Men’s, Kim Jones partnered with the Jack Kerouac estate to bring prints inspired by the late Beat poet’s life to the catwalk. Valentino commissioned original writing by authors including Mieko Kawakami and Fatima Farheen Mirza for window displays in independent bookstores such as NYC’s Strand, while Chanel launched a podcast dedicated to first-time women authors.
And there are new Instagram book clubs, too: one launched by Kaia Gerber; another by model Bibi Abdulkadir called @bibisbooks, which celebrates Black authors; and @belletrist, founded by actor Emma Roberts and producer Karah Preiss. ‘Designers have always relied on literature for inspiration,’ says Preiss. ‘The difference now is the insistence that a fashion brand be something more than just a manufacturer of luxury goods.’
Want in on the scene? The advent of the book stylist – an expert who selects the right reading material for celebrities to be seen with in public – suggests that the ‘It bag’ has new competition. For this season’s most sought-after accessory, look no further than the local library.
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