Now Reading
Top 5 Inspiring Books for Your (Fashion) Career Journey

Top 5 Inspiring Books for Your (Fashion) Career Journey

Inspiring Books on Iconic Fashion Personalities and Brands Title

Are you thinking about working in fashion or do you want to learn from industry leaders? Here are my current top 5 books about fashion personalities and brands which I found very inspiring.

(Note: This is a non-sponsored post, I am sharing my personal opinion.)

You can also watch my book reviews here.

Anna, Amy Odell, 2022

Inspiring Books on Iconic Fashion Personalities and Brands Anna Amy Odell

When thinking about careers in fashion, we probably either think of designers or those who write about them. Of course, my list has to include one of the most impressive but also polarising opinion leaders in fashion: Anna Wintour. After “The Devil Wears Prada”, most people probably associate Wintour with Starbucks lattes, fast firing of assistants and ghosting people who “disappointed” her.

When Odell published “Anna” in 2022, I was intrigued, because even though Wintour never formally authorized this biography, it appears to be very well researched. The author carried out over 250 interviews and extensive research of the archives which includes letters to, for example Wintour’s father, and a big number of Wintour’s fashion spreads during the course of her career not only at Vogue but also at other publications. Nevertheless, some publications criticize Odell for not backing up comments made in the interviews, but when reading these articles, I had a feeling that most of them were also the ones who disagree with Anna Wintour herself. This is just an observation, hence, let’s not bother too much with that.

I found it interesting to learn more about Anna Wintour’s life story. I have to admit, I had not read any other biography about Wintour, I plan to read them, to get a better overview. I found “Anna” easy to read (and also listen to, as I also have the audiobook) and to dive in and also hear about Anna’s life before she moved to America. She has obviously always loved to socialize and use it to her advantage. But already early on, she seemed to enjoy the dressing up and meeting people more than the drinking and often went home early.

This book also shows that her networking skills certainly helped her build her career. She also meticulously crafted her public persona – which connects her to Karl Lagerfeld who I cover below. The book also shows different sides of her personality – everybody knows about her work ethics and what she demands from her staff but what many people do not know is that, similar to Lagerfeld, she has a broad range of interests. Furthermore, there is a brief anecdote in there about how fast she reads: she finished an entire book on a short-distance flight but, nevertheless, knew more details than her conversation partner. Being a fast reader myself, I found this quite amusing.

In conclusion, I enjoyed reading about how Wintour built her career. My personal takeaway was the focus on networking, taking risks and working hard. Whatever you may think about her personality, or rather her public persona, Wintour has established herself as a powerful influencer beyond fashion and I would say that this book is interesting for anyone who seeks inspiration for their career – irrespective of the industry. Will you start loving Anna Wintour after the book? I do not know, but I would say give “Anna” a try.

Paradise Now, William Middleton, 2023

Inspiring Books on Iconic Fashion Personalities and Brands Paradise Now William Middleton

From one polarizing personality to the next: As I mentioned in my previous article “Lagerfeld and I”, I used to be very skeptical of Karl Lagerfeld. I did not appreciate his comments in the media and I just found him kind of bizarre. However, for my Fashion Talks with Madame Faction about the Met Gala 2023 and the exhibition “A Line of Beauty” at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (which you can watch here), I started to research Lagerfeld more – his designs and also his person. “Paradise Now” was one of the books which I read, it came out early this year and is one of the latest publications about the designer. I also listened to parts of the audiobook but I think this book is better suited for reading. Furthermore, I found it a bit annoying how the person reading the book out loud mispronounced most of the French terms. 

This book is a very comprehensive biography and really allows the reader to get to know the person behind the persona Lagerfeld created. I have to admit, some parts are a bit lengthy, but I still enjoyed the detail and descriptions of the designer, his family and friends. It really allowed me to get a better insight into why Lagerfeld obviously loved to polarize. He was a marketing genius and used these comments to create a buzz about himself and the brands he ran. I leave the decision whether this was justified strategy or not up to you. It was also interesting to learn how well-read the designer was: he had a huge library and similar to Wintour, he had so many interests – from literature, to sketching, to photography. He even taught himself French at the age of six to understand his parents who used the language to converse about topics he was not supposed to understand.

Whether you like Lagerfeld or not, this is a book I really recommend – I actually think it is a great book especially if you have reservations about him like I had previously. Even if it does not turn you into a “Lagerfeld-fan”, it is a very interesting biography which I also recommend to anyone who either is or aspires to become a designer or who wants to build a fashion business or career. Despite his polarizing persona, whe can learn a lot from him and the book shows that to succeed in fashion, you need to be versatile, well-connected, know about trends and wear many hats, ie. know about business strategies and marketing.

House of Gucci, Sara Gay Forden, 2001

Inspiring Books on Iconic Fashion Personalities and Brands House of Gucci Sara Gay Forden

I am sure you have seen the movie, but I would like to focus on the book which was published in 2001. I read this book about the Gucci empire already in 2018 and it was definitely one which I could not put down. It is impeccably researched and well written. Even if you have seen the movie, I highly recommend reading the book and here is why: The movie mainly focused on the relationship between Maurizio Gucci and Patricia and the characters around them such as Maurizio’s cousin Paolo who is very comedic on screen. Needless to say, the film is much more light-hearted than the book which focuses on how the Gucci empire was built. Which is fair. 

Forden’s book starts much earlier than the movie: It goes back to the beginnings of the company when Guccio Gucci started the business by trading in leather goods from Tuscany. It dives much deeper into the business-side: how the company diversified and changed from trading in leather goods to producing them, the global expansion in the 1970s and the move away from a family-run business which came along with Tom Ford and Domenico de Sole. All of these are just briefly mentioned in the film or they are just being implied. 

Needless to say, in a family business like Gucci, the rows started as soon as the initial founder passed away; and Maurizio’s and Patricia’s love affair leading to Maurizio’s murder was among them. These personal stories are riveting. Nevertheless, I appreciated how Forden also managed to weave in the business-side and show how a small business, a “one-man-show”, developed into a global household name. 

Furthermore, if you read the book, you will also understand the movie better. For example, there is a scene at the birthday party of Maurizio’s uncle Aldo. In a speech Guccio Gucci is being described as royalty. Maurizio then whispers that he cannot stand the lies anymore. Without reading the book, you would not know that this was a myth created when the company was much more successful. This is one of the details I appreciated by reading the book and it is actually on my list to read a second time.

House of Versace Deborah Ball, 2011

Inspiring Books on Iconic Fashion Personalities and Brands House of Versace Deborah Ball

Speaking of Italian dynasties – the “House of Versace” is another book which I really enjoyed. Needless to say, Gianni Versace is one of my favourite designers and learning more about how he built his business was really inspiring – from the beginnings of learning the craft in Sicily to building a gigantic fashion empire.

I personally found it really interesting how the book focused on his close relationship to his sister Donatella. He created many designs for her, she was one of his main muses, but she also was the marketing genius behind his brand. Today, most people associate Donatella with her creations and we can debate if they will ever be as successful as Gianni’s. But what this book will show you is the importance of Donatella’s contributions to Gianni’s success. I do not want to spoil here but just in a nutshell: while Gianni was the creative brain, Donatella was not only a great networker, she also had a feeling for trends. Together with Gianni, she understood the importance of partnering up with the likes of Claudia Schiffer and the other supermodels. The Versaces basically started the trend of flying models in on private jets for their runway shows, gifting them clothes and later on paying them for wearing their creations. 

As you can imagine, this was not a “cheap” marketing strategy, we could even say they kind of created a monster and the book also deals with the financial difficulties of the brand after Gianni’s death and in the early 2000s. Did you know that at the time when Jennifer Lopez wore the famous Jungle Dress in 2000, the company was at the brink of bankruptcy? This was due to not only marketing spending but also the lifestyle and shopping addiction of Gianni and his sister. But I think I have already shared enough, go read this book!

In My Shoes Tamara Mellon

Inspiring Books on Iconic Fashion Personalities and Brands In My Shoes Tamara Mellon

I stumbled upon this book by chance in a bookstore. I am always looking out for biographies about founders or personalities in the fashion industry and, frankly, there are not that many out there which are not boring or merely a chronological overview of a person’s life or the development of a brand.  

You may have heard about Tamara Mellon who today runs a shoe brand under her own name. You definitely have heard about Jimmy Choo. Many people do not know that Mellon was the co-founder of the famous shoe brand. She started to create shoes together with the London-based shoemaker Jimmy Choo. 

Why is the story so interesting? Because until today, there is kind of a fight between Mellon and Choo. On the “About Us” page of Jimmy Choo, there is no mention of Tamara Mellon’s role in the business at all; it only talks about Choo and his niece Sandra Choi. Needless to say, Mellon and Choo did not part amicably. And on whichever side you may be, you will have to admit that it is strange that the current management of the company leaves a co-founder completely out of the brand’s history, irrespective of how the relationship ended.

While there are always to sides to a conflict, I enjoyed reading Mellon’s version of the story. I also have to mention that there is not much to find online about Jimmy Choo himself who has always avoided the spotlight. (Even on the above-mentioned “About Us” page, there is only a picture of Choi.) Mellon shares how she came up with the business idea, how she found Choo and how they started building the business and how the relationship deteriorated. According to Mellon, Choo did not understand or support many of the moves she made to turn the business into a global brand. 

Apart from the personal conflict, I found it interesting to learn about a business which was funded by private equity. As a founder myself, investment is a big topic and many people think that finding an investor is the holy grail of running your business. Mellon wrote about the involvement of a private equity firm very openly and shows how the business could on the one hand grow because of the investment, but on the other how the capital came with strings attached which should negatively affect the brand, e.g. switching to lower-cost suppliers and materials to increase margins. Especially the latter surprised me considering the high prices at which Jimmy Choo products retail. Definitely worth reading as well!

These were my current Top 5 books about inspiring fashion personalities and brands. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Or do you have any further recommendations? I’m always looking for new books to read.

More Fashion Topics

Focus on India

India’s Influence on Fashion

Yves Saint Laurent’s India

Karl Lagerfeld’s “Orientalism”

Focus on Fashion Month – September 2023

Paris Fashion Week Review (Video)

Saint Laurent Spring Summer 2024 Runway Review – How 3 Iconic Creations by Yves Saint Laurent Inspired the Collection

See Also

Focus on Karl Lagerfeld (Articles including YouTube-Videos)

Lagerfeld and I – What I Learned from My Research about the Fashion Designer

Exploring Karl Lagerfeld: A Multifaceted Designer’s Journey Through History, Art, and Innovation

Other Fashion Topics

Are Designer Bags a Good Investment?

Iconic Bags and the Women Who Inspired Them

Barbie – A Miniature Protagonist of Fashion History

Lady Gaga’s Best “House of Gucci” Outfits and How to Wear Them

The Haute Couture “Looks” of the Heidi Horten Collection in the Context of Fashion History

The Fashion History of the Dirndl – How Did This Iconic Trachten-Garment Come About?

Movie Review – Is “The House of Gucci” Worth Watching?

Office Outfits Inspired by Emily in Paris’s Sylvie Season 1 and Season 2

Outfits Inspired by the Halston Netflix Series

Business Style Guide – What to Wear in Vienna in Winter

Singapore Business Style Guide

The Magic of Fabric in Venice – Fortuny Factory & Showroom

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top