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Fashion Memoirs: Thames & Hudson pounds 12.95
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The Independent Online
Fashion designers are always more than the sum of their life's work. Ultimately our curiosity strays to the person behind the designs. How did they get to the top? What do their designs say about them? There are plenty of coffee-table tomes, picture books and weighty biographies that attempt to explore the myth of the fashion designer, but none so succinctly as the notebook-sized series of Fashion Memoirs published by Thames & Hudson.

The first four books, on Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Vionnet and Azzedine Alaia, were published last June, and were followed by Jean-Paul Gaultier and Valentino in October. They have been so successful that this year 12 more memoirs will be published.

On May 19, books on Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Schiaparelli and Charles James will be in the shops. The Yves Saint Laurent memoir has been written by his life-long friend and business partner Pierre Berge, and contains personal and professional insights into the most sensitive designer of our time.

The photographic content is where each book comes into its own. Each page tells a visual story: in YSL's case, we skip from his workroom to the brilliance of his ground-breaking designs, then back to his muses Catherine Deneuve and Loulou de la Falaise in a matter of a few pages. In the Versace book, we see him as swarthy Young Turk posing with fierce dogs and a youthful Donatella, followed by examples from his more memorable advertising campaigns.

Both the Versace and Charles James books have been written by Richard Martin, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Schiaparelli memoirs by the French fashion writer Francois Baudot. Later this year they will be joined by books on the fashion illustrator Rene Gruau, Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyaken

Melanie Rickey