Since I’ve been putting in serious hours in the gym, working to regain my long lost endurance, I haven’t been curling up much in my reading chair.  Sadly, I’ve neglected my TBR pile and this blog after dragging my exhausted self directly to bed night after night.

This book I’ve  picked up, however, was perfect for my frame of mind last week.  I didn’t want to wade through serious text;  so, this little gossip of a novel was just the  perfect shallow read for my brain to happily coast along with.

Author :  Imogen Edward-Jones

First Publication Date   :  2006

First Publisher :  Bantam Books

This Edition’s Publication Date :  2007

This Edition’s Publisher :  Corgi Books

No of  pages :  379

A  frank and often hilarious look up at fashion industry’s underpants, “Fashion Babylon” is an intriguing non-fictional account in a six-month period that marks a designer’s life in between creating collections.  Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous ( the insider who spills the juicy tidbits about our revered designers and celebs), recounts the world of  glamour through a fictitious designer.

What makes the novel so intriguing is that the gossipy anecdotes are all true!  This is a work of non-fiction and only a few names are changed to protect the identities.  But, there are a lot of real names in there, names we do know as fashion icons— Anna Wintour, Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, to name a few.   Oh, and the book gives us a pretty good idea of how things really work in the world of high fashion and the mind-boggling lifestyle endemic to it.  It is a wonder how many survive the almost daily booze and drugs needed to keep up with all the stresses of deadlines, backstabbing, career and financial precariousness over a single mediocre collection, etc.

Anything and everything  — clothes, accessories, pets, food, hobbies, people– fall into two categories: “cool” or very last season.  “Coolness” is a very unpredictable status which can turn into “last season” in a blink of an eye if the wrong sort of people get their hands on the trend:

“…Stella McCartney’s over-the-knee non-leather boots are a case in point.  They were worn by Madonna on Monday, Posh on Wednesday, and a footballer’s wife on the Friday.  In fashion terms they were dead and buried within a week.

Half of the reason why companies like Balenciaga are always churning out new versions of the same bag is because they are constantly being killed off by the wrong sort of celebrity.  You can imagine how much Roland must have wanted to slash his wrists when he saw Countdown’s Carol Vorderman wearing his dress.  It went from Scarlet Johansson via Cameron Diaz and Rachel Weisz to Carol in three months.  As a result, Scarlett is now running miles from the Galaxy dress.  In the end, I suppose that is the price of having a hit collection.” —- pp. 202 -203

In fashion, image is everything.  That is why…

“…Thousands of pounds of expensive, beautiful clothes are destroyed every year by their own designers rather than being sold somewhere that might tarnish the brand.  Fashion may be about beauty and aesthetic and aspiration, but it is also about the brand.  Brand is everything.  Tarnish the brand and what are you left with?  Why pay  a thousand pounds for a dress that you know costs less than a hundred pounds to make?  Why buy a Chanel bag when there is one at Accessorize that is just as charming?  So, rather than helping out those less fortunate than ourselves, we guard our image and burn the lot.” … p.105

“…You might be starving, drunk and high , with dried-up kidneys and the liver of a fifty-five-year-old alcoholic, but just as long as you can make it down the catwalk looking fabulous, who cares?”…p. 81

And the pervasive exhaustion of it all is partly because…

“Drugs are endemic in this insudstry because it is all about make-believe…You can’t really talk seriously about fashion–there is nothing to talk about.  You can’t just say I have done this great skirt this season.   It’s all about dressing this bitch because she’s cool and she’s going to help my brand.  If she goes out in this dress she is going to give me some kudos, so I have to get up her arse, and then I have to be nice and suck cok with some journalist, and then I have to be nice to this buyer to help my brand.  It is all so soul-destroying….You don’t make friends in this industry.  There is no camaraderie.  There is no one trying to make real connections.  People are parasites.  They do the fashion rubbish talk.  That’s why people are high all the time, to help them escape it all.  They’d rather not confront the reality.   We all live on fresh air, so it has to be high-octane and fun otherwise we would all sit here and say, “I’m not making any money.  What the fuck am I doing?”….p. 181

If you want the insider tidbits on fashion’s characters, this book is chock-full of it.  If you’re a hard-core fashionista, perhaps a lot would be old hat to you by now.  But to the less glamorous of us,  some will be just downright funny and shocking at the same time.  Did you know that…

“Thiery Mugler has an atelier where there is a glass shower by the gym so anyone who is in the gym can work out while watching someone hosing themselves down.”

“…Sienna Miller gets seeded by nearly everyone.  In fact, the girl gets something like twenty-six handbags a month, and they are worth between £2,000 and  £30,000 each.  An estate car comes to her house every week loaded down with dresses, bags, coats, hats, make-up, body products and, more weirdly, candles.”  — p. 134

“Gwyneth Paltrow can’t cope with all the stuff she gets sent out.  She often has parties at her house where she invites all her mates over to go through the piles of freebies on the instruction that they can take what they want.” — p. 134

There’s never a dull moment with this book in hand.  Lightly written with lots of contemporary droll English wit,  Fashion Babylon will delight every gossipy heart that loves fashion and celebrities.  Plus the astonishing revelations behind the backroom of couture is guaranteed to keep you marvelously glued in between covers.

My Mark :  Fabulous!