Art and fashion often come hand in hand. Iconic designers are often perceived as artists in their own right, with some of their haute couture creations becoming nothing short of artistic masterpieces.
Fashion is more than just elegant clothes, trends, catwalks and celebrities that grace the covers of Vogue magazines. A couturier’s creative process often involves building on the past achievements of great artists and turning for inspiration to experimental contemporary art.
For those looking to take a deep dive into the workings of the fashion industry or just seeking inspiration, here is a selection of the most prominent, engaging and - needless to say - stylish publications on art and fashion. What better way to accessorise your coffee table?
Terry Jones "100 Contemporary Fashion Designers"
A must-have encyclopaedia on the shelves of any fashion connoisseur with a taste for haute couture. Behind the stylish cover of this compact but robust publication you can find the biographies and interviews with the most prominent fashion gurus, whose creations are lavishly illustrated throughout.
Some of the iconic names that made the shortlist include Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford and Yohji Yamamoto. But you will likely also discover some new names who have helped shape the face of fashion today.
Kurt Beers "100 Sculptors of Tomorrow"
Unlike painting, photography or even architecture, sculpture as a distinct discipline has very few admirers. This tends to be even more the case for contemporary sculpture. If Alberto Giacometti and Constantine Brancusi is where your vocabulary ends, it might be time to fill in the gaps with such names as Cameron Platter and Holly Hendry with the help of this hefty, little tome edited by Kurt Beers.
Expect bio-overviews, carefully selected key works by emerging stars and inspiring quotes by artists who have put world of contemporary sculpture in the spotlight.
Rainer Metzger, Ingo F. Walther "Chagall"
The German publisher Taschen’s Basic Art Series goes back to 1985 and is an epitome of high- quality art publishing today. A generous selection of illustrations, minimalist font and deep art historical analysis are the heart of this series.
These elegant and immediately recognisable book spines are sought after by anyone looking to give their bookshelves a curatorial touch. Why not start your own journey with this series with Marc Chagall, who was not only one of the most romantic artists of the Russian avant-garde but also a true poet, whose perspectives on art, love and creativity were as fascinating as his phantasmagorical painting motifs.
Mary Ann Caws "Creative Gatherings"
According to the literary critic Mary Ann Caws, the idea of a creative genius as a lone wolf, a hermit, whose sole interests revolve around work and books, is a romanticised myth. In reality, a significant amount of great ideas came about as a result of heated debates, fruitful conversations and friendly exchanges, rather than in solitude.
This book unravels the art historically significant creative clusters, bohemian salons and Parisian cafes, where such greats as Virginia Woolf, Pablo Picasso, Franz Kafka (and many other artists in the widest sense) worked, debated, fell in love and got their creative inspiration from.
John Seed "Disrupted Realism"
This is a book dedicated to contemporary artists who are challenging century-long realism traditions and are launching a new phase in the history of painting right in front of our eyes. Art journalist John Seed invites readers to participate in an engaging dialogue with the artists, as he interprets the world of colours, symbols, philosophical concepts and visuals into plain English. This is a book that unpacks the meaning behind the works.
Kyoto Costume Institute "Fashion History: From the 18th to the 20th Century"
An impressive volume of nearly 650 pages with a striking cover. Another proof that fashion can be in dialogue with art. The book, co-published by the Kyoto Costume Institute, provides an overview of the history of fashion through the lens of sociology and cultural studies. How do the underwear and high heels define the personality and confidence of those who wear them?
But more than anything, this book is a treat for anyone with a love of vintage and antique. You are unlikely to find such a rich collection of detailed photographs of 18th-20th century fashion anywhere else.
Olivia Laing "Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency"
British writer Olivia Laing, known for The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone and To the River, writes in a quirky genre, which sits somewhere between autofiction and an art historical essay.
In her books reality is closely intertwined with history and the experience of the great artists of the past helps resolve a protagonist’s personal crises of today. This new collection once again taps into the role of art in our lives. Olivia invites us to ponder over the works of Georgia O’Keeffe and the music of David Bowie and their influence on the way we view the world.
"Revolution: Russian Art 1917—1932"
The Russian avant-garde is a unique phenomenon in art history. The rapid artistic revolution, led by Malevich, Tatlin, Rodchenko and Kandinsky, became the natural extension of the political processes at the time and had forever changed the course of creative thinking. This British catalogue tied to the Royal Academy of Arts’ 2017 exhibition of the same name is a vivid guide to the artistic landscape of this vibrant and rebellious 15-year period in Russian history, which was so saturated with great names and events.
Rosalind P. Blakesley "Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757—1881"
Another book dedicated to Russian art, this time tailored to fans of classical painting by Venetsianov, Bryullov, Tropinin and other Russian Itinerants. This monograph, written by Professor Rosalind Polly Blakesley, is an award-winning tome which can count the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize and The Art Newspaper Russia’s Book of the Year nomination under its belt.
It is not often that Russian art is treated with such expertise, admiration and adoration. As Rosalind declares, she wanted to show that Russian artists of that period were far from being on the outskirts of Europe and were in fact an integral part of the international arts scene.
Mikhail Piotrovsky "Russian Splendor: Sumptuous Fashions of the Russian Court"
This is an encyclopaedia of Russian regal fashion by the director of The Hermitage and an example of a book that is a work of art in its own right. Its splendid cover opens the door to the full glory of court fashion in some 440 pages with an extensive introductory commentary and plenty of detailed illustrations throughout. What made 18th century fashionistas tick? What did the wedding dresses look like centuries ago? What trended at Oriental themed fancy-dress parties? Answers to all of this and more inside the book!
"Vogue on Location: People, Places, Portraits"
A spectacular journey around the world with Vogue. This book gathers the best photoshoots and travel features from around the world over the course of the magazine’s 100-year history. There are plenty of reasons to take a peek into this publication, even if images of exotic destinations make you miss international travel.
Think Truman Capote, Irving Penn, Helmut Newton, Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Annie Leibovitz. In fact, this book is so saturated with the names of cult authors and photographers over its 300 pages that one can simply loose count. Why not just read an essay by Joan Didion instead?
Frances Corner "Why Fashion Matters"
The book’s title speaks for itself. The relationship between a catwalk and our everyday life might not be obvious at first sight. The former head of London College of Fashion, Frances Corner reveals the influence of the fashion industry on all aspects of our life.
This growing global business has a direct impact on international economy, the development of technology, the state of our ecology and, indeed, our individual self-expression, even if you are not a trends watcher.
Giuseppe Santamaria "Women in this Town"
Moving on from the big names and scholarly monographs, here is more down-to-earth guide to street style purely for inspiration. The pages of this book gather photographs of women, who the fashion expert Giuseppe Santamaria came across on the streets of London, Paris and New York. Featuring the young and the old, high heels and trainers, rigid fans of minimalism and deliberately scruffy head turners. Each and every one of these women is perfect in her authentic self-expression with plenty of tips to take note of.
Sandrine Gulbenkian "The World According to Karl"
This stylish book of quotes by Karl Lagerfeld is a tribute to his talent and wisdom. Created under the watchful eye of the maestro himself, it is a treasure box of concise, scathing and inspiring statements regarding haute couture fashion, art, politics, women and beauty, in other words – everything that made up his life.
Like other books of quotes, this is not one to read in a single sitting. Instead open a random page each morning to get inspired, use it as a conversation starter or come to it if you are in need of inspiration.
Susannah Frankel "Prada Catwalk: The Complete Collections"
This is a rare case of beauty and brains: a pretty cover and solid content. Published in collaboration with Prada to mark the 30th anniversary of their first fashion collection, it provides an exhaustive account of the history of this iconic brand. It goes back to 1913, when it was just another leather handbag shop in Milan. The archival images of the catwalks are a particular highlight, which help trace the evolution of Miuccia Prada’s style and are such an aesthetically pleasing treat for the senses.