Muses of the Fashion World

In giddy anticipation of Grace Coddington’s memoir, dropping November 20, 2012, we've rounded up some companion books for fashion aficionados who want to better understand the lives that inspire their favorite tastemakers.

Coddington, Vogue magazine’s creative director and the modest yet scene-stealing co-star of the 2009 documentary The September Issue, possesses a creative vision enriched by decades of immersion in film, art, music, and literature. Fantasy becomes reality through her eyes and her hands-on approach to working with designers, photographers, stylists, and models. Like so many artists pushing the boundaries of fashion, Coddington is driven by a passionate and cross-disciplinary appreciation of life at its richest, documented in the sketches and diaries from which her memoir is largely drawn.

Of her ambitiously whimsical 2003 Vogue spread "Alice in Wonderland: A Fashion Fairytale," in which wide-eyed model Natalia Vodianova played the title role (alongside Tom Ford as the White Rabbit and John Galliano as the Red Queen, all photographed by Annie Leibovitz), Coddington has said of her casting, "Alice is my dream girl, and so is Natalia."

To understand the role of Alice and all that she represents to Coddington and to generations of readers since the novel was first published in 1865, explore the life of the man who created the iconic character. Drawing from thirty years of research and volumes of letters and diaries, "Lewis Carroll: A Biography" by Morten N. Cohen explains the writer’s transcending of Victorian moral constraints through his fanciful books for children. We look forward to the possibility that Coddington’s memoir will address the Alice shoot as an artistic turning point in her storied career.

Stuart Vevers, another creative director who crosses Coddington’s path as the man behind the Madrid-based leather goods house Loewe, recently told Vogue that his Spring 2013 ready-to-wear line was inspired by a trip he took this summer to Cadaqués in northeast Spain. After reading about Gala Dalí, wife and muse of Salvador, he visited the castle where she lived. "She drove this enormous Cadillac along these cliff edges; she was known for having a voracious appetite for men; she was very idiosyncratic, outspoken, very bold," he said, explaining how she inspired his collection. "It got me thinking about how she might be today and it became a clash of these two worlds: her aristocracy and youthful attitudes with these broad Spanish aesthetics." In her book "The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired," Francine Prose devotes a chapter to the Dalís in which she sheds light on Gala’s power over Salvador. No wonder Vevers was also drawn into her force field decades after she lived, transmuting her magnetic qualities into a twenty-first century fashion collection that looks both back and ahead.

In 2008, British menswear designer Paul Smith told the U.K. publication The Express that
Jack Kerouac’s life story had "A HUGE influence on me as a young man. I was fascinated by the whole beatnik lifestyle and looks -- and as a clothes designer it sent out all sorts of signals about coffee bars and jazz clubs. It made me wonder how a person into that scene would look -- and gave me lots of ideas." Go along for the ride on Kerouac’s epic and generation-defining adventure by throwing yourself into his 1957 autobiographically inspired road trip novel "On the Road."

The life of Alexander McQueen’s mentor and muse is documented in "Isabella Blow: A Life in Fashion" by Lauren Goldstein Crowe. Blow, who began her fashion career in New York City as assistant to Anna Wintour at Vogue, plucked McQueen from obscurity and helped catapult him to stardom by purchasing his entire graduate collection. In 2007, she killed herself at the age of forty-eight after repeated attempts; three years later, McQueen’s own death by suicide sent another chilling shock through the world where high art and fashion meet.

In 1985, the same year she starred in Out of Africa alongside Robert Redford and Meryl Streep, Yves Saint Laurent cited Somali-born Iman as the muse for his African Queen couture collection. For insight into the supermodel, actress, entrepreneur, and philanthropist -- also known as David Bowie’s wife and YSL’s "dream woman" -- follow her groundbreaking path in the autobiographical and photo-rich "I am Iman."