James Abbe, a 1920s fashion photographer, and Zoran, the designer whose simple, monochromatic clothes were extremely popular in the 1970s, anchor the 500 entries in this massive encyclopedia of fashion. Each designer, photographer, model, or icon gets a page with a large photo and informative but short caption. This has the wonderful effect of weighting each entry equally, thereby devoting the same amount of space to Charles Revson, creator of the Revlon cosmetics empire, and relative makeup newcomer François Nars, pioneering clothing designer Mariano Fortuny and contemporary favorite Tom Ford.Clearly, a good set of eyes edited this book. It’s a tall order to choose just one image to define the many facets of a designer, model, or photographer. The choices made here are excellent and often surprising. The indomitable Chanel demonstrates the ease of movement her designs afforded women by briskly swinging her arm out to one side, while Kate Moss is shown at the height of her wisdom, likely the mode in which she will best be remembered. Model Linda Evangelista is pictured with curly locks of hair. It’s obvious, too, that the editors employed the haphazard juxtaposition created by the alphabetical organization. Facing entries, no matter how seemingly incongruous, are united by a visual theme, to spectacular effect. The ovals made by the either screaming or yawning mouths of Kurt Cobain and his infant daughter are mirrored in a 1937 Jean Cocteau illustration of an Elsa Schiaparelli design. A model in a 1930s outfit by John-Frederics faces a portrait of post-punk design queen Betsey Johnson, whose floral outfit echoes the flowery silhouette behind the model.
The reams of fabulous images and the inventive design alone make The Fashion Book a treat at any cost, but the low price-to-size ratio (like its cousins The Art Book and The Photography Book) makes it a real steal.