5 books to understand fashion

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


Virgil Abloh – Nike. ICONS (Taschen, Cologne 2020)

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
ISBN 9783836585095


Taylor Viens (Editor) – Donald. The book (Assouline, Paris 2017)

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.
ISBN 9781614285301


Doug Stephens – Resurrecting Retail (Figure 1 Publishing Inc., Vancouver 2021)

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
ISBN 9781773271439


Paul B. Preciado – I am a monster who speaks to you (Fandango books, Rome 2021)

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
ISBN 978886044778


Byung-Chul Han – The salvation of beauty (Nottempo, Milan 2019)

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.

Byung-Chul Han – The salvation of beauty
Nottetempo, Milan, 2019
Pages 108, € 15
ISBN 9788874527489

Aldo Premoli

Milanese by birth, he lives in Noto and Cernobbio. And then New York, where his children work. Between 1989 and 2000 he directed “L’Uomo Vogue”. In 2001 he founded Apstudio and provides consultancy to Italian and foreign companies and industrial associations. He has lectured on three continents for Ice, Anci and Aimpes and curated exhibitions that bridge the gap between art and fashion. Between 2013 and 2014 he directs “Tar magazine”, a magazine of art, science and ethics. He is currently blogger of “Huffington Post”, columnist of “Linkiesta” and director of the hyper local platform “SudStyle”. He is the independent curator of exhibitions that bridge the gap between art and science. In Sicily he founded “Mediterraneo Sicilia Europa onlus”, in Lombardy “La Cernobbina Art Studio”. He works as a visiting professor for academies in the north as well as in the south of the Peninsula.

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