The best books on fashion to explore the provocative talents of the industry

Emma Baxter-Wright Author Of Chanel Paperscapes: The Book That Transforms Into a Work of Art
By Emma Baxter-Wright

The Books I Picked & Why

Jean Paul Gaultier

By Colin McDowell

Book cover of Jean Paul Gaultier

Why this book?

In his early career, Gaultier was a regular visitor to London and took inspiration from Soho’s indie art school clubs, Billy’s, The Blitz, The Wag. As a fashion student at St. Martins at the time, we were often on the same dance floor together and I identified with his rebellious attitude, which continued to challenge the fashion status quo and never waned. Glossy catwalk pictures of a distinct tribe of models, (not the usual crowd of supermodels) original design sketches, quotes from JPG the "enfant terrible" of Parisian fashion who famously broke all the rules on gender in the 1990s, and an intelligent text by Colin McDowell, a renowned fashion historian, all contribute to a wonderful book that brilliantly captures the truly unique talent of this designer. 

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By Carine Roitfeld

Book cover of Irreverent

Why this book?

When I started out working on magazines everybody told me not to look at British Vogue, (which was apparently rubbish at the time) but to save up and buy a copy of Italian or French Vogue, both of which featured stunning photographic spreads and crazily innovative ideas that were too avant-garde for the Brits. Carine Roitfeld, fashion director at French Vogue was responsible for the daring often controversial shoots that appeared in the stylish glossy for a 10-year period. Known for her sense of humour and her desire to constantly investigate new designers and unexplored territory, this massive volume of her work features lavish editorial stories from her tenure at Vogue and the memorable advertising campaigns she shot with Tom Ford at Gucci in the 1990s.

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The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

By Alicia Drake

Book cover of The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius, and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

Why this book?

Meticulously researched by brilliant fashion journalist Alicia Drake, this book charts the bitchy, high octane rivalry of two mega egos of the industry, Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. As a journalist working today in an era of horrendous consumerism known as ‘fast fashion’ this detailed account of how both men were instrumental in shifting the established codes of a refined haute couture system into a faster-paced ready-to-wear market in the 1970s is illuminating. It also documents the evolution of couturier as a celebrity, detailing how YSL used an image of himself to promote his aftershave in 1971, a revolutionary idea of self-promotion at the time, and now a very necessary part of the ‘selfie’ obsessed generation of creatives working in fashion.  

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Quant by Quant: The Autobiography of Mary Quant

By Mary Quant

Book cover of Quant by Quant: The Autobiography of Mary Quant

Why this book?

A totally unpretentious, rollicking first-hand account, of the events that spawned the mythology of the Swinging Sixties of which Mary Quant was an integral part. Having grown up with Quant as a fashion hero, I was thrilled to collaborate with her on a retail beauty video in the 1990s and researched her professional background by reading this autobiography. (first published in 1966, and recently re-issued to coincide with the Quant exhibition at the V&A last year). Credited with inventing hot pants and the mini skirt, purple lipstick, and striped underwear, this old-fashioned biography recounts how the music and fashion that exploded from London during this era, culminated in the invention of ‘youth culture’ a shifting phenomenon that England continually excels in. Without formal training, Quant’s naive optimism is hugely uplifting and will encourage any aspiring designer to follow their dreams. 

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By Ray Petri

Book cover of Buffalo

Why this book?

Throughout the 1980’s new style magazines like The Face, ID and Arena regularly succeeded in presenting the holy grail of fashion photography, with one man responsible for more iconic imagery than anyone else.  Ray Petri was a genius stylist who invented a ragga, post-punk identity that operated under the banner of Buffalo, a gang of like-minded creatives that included photographers, models, and fashion stylists who produced ground-breaking work together.  The Buffalo collective exuded an attitude that exalted the street and rejected high-status fashion, taking inspiration from the Caribbean rude boys who looked effortlessly cool in teenage gangs. 

His distinct vision that subverted fashion imagery (Nick Kamen in a skirt and Doc Martens) juxtaposed pretty boy masculinity with hard-edged utilitarian workwear. His legacy as a style innovator is immense, his imagery instantly recognisable, and his body of work, much of which is represented in this book, continues to inspire a legion of imitators. 

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