Alexander Fury boasts a C.V. that is both prolific and precocious, including stints as editor of LOVE magazine, fashion editor of the Independent and fashion director of Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio. Now chief fashion correspondent of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Fury’s latest work is Dior: The Collections, 1947-2017, where he painstakingly documents the French house’s output across the past 70 years and through seven creative directors.
To mark its release, Fury takes Vanity Fair on a tour back through the books that have inspired him over the years.
D.V. by Diana Vreeland (1984)
The ultimate fashion book? Probably. The former editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland melded fact and fiction together seamlessly (no pun) in her autobiography, which skilfully leaps from non sequitur to non sequitur and contains, to my mind, some of the most evocative and compelling writing about clothing committed to print. Vreeland’s descriptions of colour alone put everyone else to shame. Plus, it has more italicization than any other book I’ve read.
The Fashion Conspiracy by Nicholas Coleridge (1988)
In the late 1980s, Nicholas Coleridge—now chairman of Condé Nast Britain, then editor of the British magazine Harpers & Queen—journeyed around the globe to record the fashion world from Texas to Tokyo. Interviewing designers, recording fashion’s foibles, it’s an entire world in microcosm, and one of the best books ever written about the fashion industry. I got my hands on a copy aged 13 in a library in the north of England, where I grew up; and I still reference it today. If I have a fashion bible, this is it.
À Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans (1884)
The suffocating world of Jean des Esseintes, an aristocratic aesthete who devotes himself to the pursuit of pleasure, primarily through sensory stimulation, is relayed with a zealous overload of adjectives by Huysmans in this slight but powerful 19th-century novel. It is all the more compelling because it’s rooted in truth—in the excesses of Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fézensac, a French nobleman who wrote unmemorable poetry but was memorably painted by Whistler and Boldini, and who was also the inspiration for Baron de Charlus in À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. It’s the sort of life I always wished I could lead—failing that, it’s one John Galliano recreated in many of his shows. Minus the famous gilded tortoise.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991)
Like many a teenager, I was obsessed with American Psycho—but for different reasons to others. I was more drawn to the painstaking descriptions of fashion items in the text, peppering it like magazine credits. It was interesting how those fashion items could become a literary shorthand for a certain type of person—the idea of clothes not only dressing a body, but defining a self.
Kate Harrington, Truman Capote and Gloria Swanson at Studio 54, June 1978
Answered Prayers by Truman Capote (1987)
Before The Devil Wears Prada there was Answered Prayers—the ultimate roman-à-clef when Capote skewered the social world he called his, and the female friends he had previously dubbed his “swans”. Capote was ousted from his circle, never to return. Unfinished at the time of his death, Capote envisaged it as the great American novel, but only three fragments remain. It’s a spiteful, caustic, wonderfully written book—the bare bones of something that could have been truly great, but is now an entertaining holiday read about the lives of the rich and now-infamous. But it also serves as a succinct literary warning, for any critic. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you—or at least, don’t bite it too hard.
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Credits: Jack Robinson/Contributor/Getty Images (Vreeland); Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images (Capote)