Sunday, 29 November 2009
The Great Fashion Designers: Brenda Polan and Roger Tredre
Over to London College of Fashion this week for the launch of a new book by Brenda Polan and Roger Tredre. The authors - both respected journalists and academics (and they still had time to publish a book?) - have chosen the 50 greatest designers of the twentieth century, 'through much debate, sometimes learned and courteous, sometimes outrageous and alcohol-fuelled.' From Charles Frederick Worth in the early days, to the nineties and Nicholas Ghesquiere, this is a timeline of commercial and creative success.
What started off as a collection of interviews; Polan for The Guardian, The Financial Times and The Independent on Sunday, Tredre for The Independent, The Observer and WGSN, morphed into 'the book we wish we had in our hands when we were feeling our way into fashion.' Each designer has a comprehensive profile followed by a handy list of books for further reading, making this perfect for students and fashion-followers alike.
And yes, there are loads of twentieth century fashion books out there but with over 30 years in the industry, Polan and Tredre give fashion history a personal spin - including an interview with Azzedine Alaia, conducted in 1982, whilst Polan was sitting on a (closed) lavatory!
Cristobal Balenciaga: 'Unquestionably the greatest fashion designer of the twentieth century.' Colin McDowell
'I decided to bring into women's wear that sort of practical, rational way of dressing that really did not exist,' Giorgio Armani told Brenda Polan in 2000.
On Calvin Klein: 'Apart from Gianni Versace, no other upmarket designer has used sex to sell in quite such an up-front (and up-front more than describes his ads for men's underpants) way.'
'Perhaps I want to question people's prejudices about what is beautiful, what makes a lady beautiful. Through fashion I try to re-evoke the past and reflect on it,' Vivienne Westwood told Polan in 1991.
On Azzedine Alaia: 'There were no press cuttings for some basic research so the bread-and-butter questions had to be asked. In response to one of the first Alaia was evasive but charming. 'How old? Does it matter? I am as old as the pharoahs.'
Balenciaga photo: Getty Images
Cover photo and catwalk shots: Chris Moore