What’s wonderful about Jan Kedves' new book, Talking Fashion: From Nick Knight to Raf Simons In Their Own Words, is the candor with which the interviews are portrayed. Most often fashion features contain edited quotes and sound bites, and often trite, with bits and pieces tailored to a specific context or commentary. In any case, it’s rare to hear so much open information from such prolific names in fashion, with featured interviewees including Helmut Lang, Viviane Sassen, Raf Simons, Valerie Steele, Juergen Teller, Damir Doma, and Bruce Weber, to name a few.
While not a complete outsider to the world of fashion, Kedves is granted the perspective of an observer, as the former editor of the German pop culture magazine Spex. Throughout the comprehensive series of twenty-five interviews, there is a clear appreciation of fashion as something larger than the immediate sense of the trade. The first interview of the book is conducted with legendary art director Jean-Paul Goude, and while the focus of their conversation is on his role in creating iconic fashion images used in advertising and elsewhere (such as Grace Jones’ epic semi-nude stretch), the reader also gets an idea of the abstract concepts about the body that are part of the production of sartorial imagery.
Something that comes across while reading Talking Fashion, perhaps unwittingly, is the degree to which the fashion industry is a conglomerate of so many different kinds of people. Willi Ninja’s interview is, for example, followed by Pierre Cardin. The extravagant bohemian performer next to the corporate designer/businessman who institutionalized prêt-à-porter is, in short, a mixed bag. Whether you’re an initiate or have worked in fashion for decades, this book provides insights and rumination that can be appreciated by all sides.