Whether you’re looking for a gift for an aspiring fashionista or a treat for yourself, a couple of books published this fall might fill the bill.
In “Rock in Fashion,” menswear designer John Varvatos breaks down the elements of rock ‘n’ roll style that have inspired him since his youth in Detroit in the 1960s and ‘70s, looks including Robert Plant’s “way too small” girls’ blouses, Elvis Costello’s shades and Bob Dylan’s scarves.
More than a fashion book, it is a rich catalog of men’s style with more than 250 photographs of rock gods, from the Rolling Stones to the Kings of Leon. The images, shot by Mick Rock, Bob Gruen, Elliott Landy and other legendary lensmen, were curated by Varvatos, who provides commentary dissecting every detail.
Each chapter is devoted to a specific style flourish — hair, sunglasses or military jackets, for example.
There are well-known images, such as that of Jimi Hendrix in his velvet military coat with gold-braided trim, which inspired a design in Varvatos’ spring 2002 collection. And there are lesser-known images, such as that of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott in an outsized afro and tribal necklace. (“What’s the first thing about a person that says rock ‘n’ roll?” Varvatos writes. “Hair.”)
Then there are the images that Varvatos created himself. Since 2005, he has collaborated on ad campaigns for his line with musicians who include Iggy Pop, Willie Nelson and Alice Cooper. A 2007 image of Cooper in a tux and top hat, posed with an 18-foot anaconda draped over his shoulders and across his lap, seems likely to become as iconic as the ones Varvatos so diligently studied.
“Rock in Fashion” by John Varvatos with Holly George-Warren (Harper Design, $60).
“Perry Ellis: An American Original” is the first monograph devoted to the 1970s- and ‘80s-era sportswear designer who mentored Marc Jacobs, Isaac Mizrahi and many others.
The lavish book includes editorial, ad campaign and runway images unearthed from the archives of L.A.-based photographer Erica Lennard, with whom Ellis worked almost exclusively, as well as sketches and other historical material.
Ellis, born and raised in Virginia, came on the scene at the same time Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein were launching their businesses in New York. But instead of Anglo American heritage or Minimalist polish, Ellis built his brand on clean-cut American style in the form of effortless soft tailoring, including giant-shouldered coats over straight corduroy skirts and baggy pants worn with shrunken hand-knit sweaters.
Much of his clothing had a collegiate feel that the designer himself described as “the slouch look.” And, indeed, the book tells the story of his first major fashion show, for the fall 1978 season, for which Ellis imported Princeton’s cheerleading squad to lead a pep rally on the runway.
The book offers insight to connect the dots to Jacobs, who was mentored by Ellis at the Parsons School for Design and who eventually took over the brand in 1988 after Ellis died. Jacobs showed his own “slouch look” with the 1992 grunge collection he designed for the Perry Ellis label.
As Jacobs writes in the foreword, “Perry, for me, offered the possibility that American fashion could be fashion as I imagined it. It could have a voice: young, personal, whimsical, emotional, creative — something that pulls at your heart.”
“Perry Ellis: An American Original” by Jeffrey Banks, Doria de la Chapelle and Erica Lennard (Rizzoli, $75).