From the latest editorial effort by the late Virgil Abloh to the illuminating speech by Paul B. Preciado, a selection of books to explore the many facets of fashion
Fashion is traditionally conveyed by the media as a visual and socially elitist phenomenon. It is actually a very complex whole, but among the books that talk about fashion, many continue to be packaged as luxurious coffee table books. The definition – a bit ’80s – persists. But fashion is also and above all a “heavy industry” which has its sense of existing in the indissoluble chain of design-production-distribution. In this brief review, therefore, there are “light” books packaged in a very heavy physically (format, weight in kilograms, large number of pages) and, on the contrary, books with a weighty and often irritating content packaged in a slim and light way.
– Aldo Premoli
1. VIRGIL ABLOH – ICONS
Perhaps it will be the last “book” to bear the signature of Virgil Abloh. Above all, it tells in a visual way the extensive collaboration project between Nike and the designer who passed away on November 28th. In this collaboration with the American brand Abloh had found a completely congenial field of action in the sneaker. This volume of atypical dimensions (26.3 x 3.5x 30.9 cm), printed on 2.3 kilograms of carbon footprint zero paper, collects hundreds of illustrations and is based on the complex (but very captivating) graphics of the London studio of Zak Kyes . To understand how the “disruptor Abloh” reasoned, it is useful beyond the fact that the process takes place around sneakers or any other object. “The foundation of my study is not nearly the end result – it is the rigor and process of logic. The archive is the paper trail of these artifacts”, Said Abloh. “The book ‘ICONS’ is, in a sense, the only revealing lens to understand that the catalog of over 50 Nike shoes I have designed is in my mind ‘one shoe. One story ‘“.
Virgil Abloh – Nike. ICONS
Taschen, Cologne 2020
Pages 632, € 57
2. DONALD – THE BOOK
A book monstre formerly a coffee table book, now a collector’s item. Published by Assouline, which no longer even has it in its catalog (but it can be found on Amazon at gradually increasing prices), this tome that weighs more than three kilos has never arrived in Italy. It has therefore never been translated, but it matters little: the text is almost non-existent in the face of hundreds of flamboyant fashion illustrations by Donald Robertson. It collects the work of what American fashion has renamed “the Andy Warhol of Instagram“. In its genre it is undoubtedly a masterpiece so sparkling and energetic as to justify a starting cover price that was already monstre in 2017.
Taylor Viens (Editor) – Donald. The book
Assouline, Paris 2017
Pages 300, € 600 approx.
3. RESURRECTING RETAIL
The author of this book is the advisor of brands such as Ikea, Walmart, Esté Lauder, BMW and Google. Doug Stephens is considered a retail futurologist and this booklet is easy to find on the desks of Made in USA CEOs. The subtitle reads The future of business in a post-pandemic world. The starting point of the reflection is the chaos created in the distribution with the arrival of the virus. The possibilities created for the maximum predators existing on international markets are then taken into consideration: Alibaba and Amazon for example. The point of arrival is the useful information for the survival of large and medium-sized people. Resurrecting Retail it is certainly a reflection on the US market and in fact it has not yet been translated into Italian. For those who work in this area, the rich set of notes of the eight chapters into which it is divided should not be underestimated: for such a specific aspect of the complex fashion machine, a good track to continue research.
Doug Stephens – Resurrecting Retail
Figure 1 Publishing Inc., Vancouver 2021
Pages 243, $ 28
4. I’M A MONSTER TALKING TO YOU
“I know well that I made my body a showroom …“. These few words would be enough to make this text by Paul B. Preciado a necessary reading “also” for those involved in fashion. The author is first of all a philosopher and curator (Documenta 14 Kassel and Athens) and the one presented here is the report given in 2019 by a trans woman (Preciado) in front of 3500 psychoanalysts at a conference at the École de la cause freudienne in Paris . Start point A relationship for an academy by Kafka (1917). Result? A violent fight that has not yet subsided. It’s a beautifully written first-person speech, it’s glowing and violent, it tries to unhinge any persistent gender convention.
It “dangerously” refers to technology linked to near-term sexuality and reproduction outside human parameters. Science fiction? Yeah, but who am I animal “necropolitical / binary / white / colonial / patriarchal“To judge? In any case, an unmissable text.
Paul B. Preciado – I am a monster that speaks to you
Fandango books, Rome 2021
Pages 110, € 13.90
5. THE SALVATION OF THE BEAUTIFUL
Another essential reading that speaks of fashion, but only in a tangent way. Byung-Chul Han it retraces essential moments of European thought on beauty, from Plato to Nietzsche and Adorno, to question all our previous ideas on aesthetic experience. For him, beauty does not refer to the feeling of pleasure, but to an experience of truth often connected with pain (one of the recurring paradigms of all his reflections). The author undoubtedly belongs to the category of “nuisances”: those you don’t want to read but can’t avoid, those with whom you engage in a melee to stay with your idea, but just can’t do it. At least a hundred doubts even with only a hundred pages makes them come to you. And if you never have doubts, well the problem is all yours.