10 Inspirational Fashion Books for Aspiring Designers


Project Runway — the reality show with it’s own official avenue — has become a television phenomenon since launching on Bravo in 2004. Similar shows like Launch My Line and The Fashion Show have emerged, but they’ve failed to match the original’s viewership. (We’d blame a lack of Michael Kors’ quips.) Consequently, the show’s popularity has inspired a jump in sewing class rosters, and inspired a new generation of Threadheads — who are currently 35 million strong. Apparently knitting is so 2004.

In that spirit, after the jump we’ve compiled a starter list of sartorial reads for the aspiring designer – a mix of how-to guides, photography collections, and influential biographies. We’ve also got a sneak peek at Thursday night’s season premiere. Will you be watching?

1. The Fashion Designer Survival Guide by Mary Gehlhar

This guide provides comprehensive advice on creating business plans, executing marketing strategies, and locating materials, with tips from the likes of Zac Posen, Cynthia Rowley, and other insiders. A must-read for emerging designers.

2. Vogue Fashion: Over 100 years of Style by Decade and Designer by Linda Watson

Also known as the sartorial bible, Vogue Fashion presents a catalogue of 250 designers and trends that have influenced fashion since the turn of the century.

3. Coco Chanel: A Life by Justine Picardie (April 6)

Coco Chanel, who was responsible for introducing the “little black dress” and feminizing well-tailored jackets and suits, has inspired many books, a recent film starring Audrey Tatou, and a Lifetime Original. But in this forthcoming biography, Justin Picardie examines Chanel’s glorious life and debunks speculation that the designer was a Nazi.

4. Patternmaking for Fashion Design (3rd Edition) by Helen Joseph Armstrong

This beginner-to-intermediate guide covers basic patternmaking terminology and principles (i.e. dart manipulation, contouring, added fullness) for items such as pants and bodices. Consider it required reading if you’re planning to audition for the show.

5. Maison Martin Margiela by Maison Martin Margiela

Previously a member of John Gaultier’s team and one of the Antwerp Six, Belgian designer Martin Margiela deconstructs the design process. He is known for his Japanese-inspired, monochromatic style and was a founder of the men’s boutique, Commes des Garcons.

6. (un)Fashion by Tilbor Kalman

Tilbor Kalman presents an engaging, anthropological depiction of global fashion that challenges preconceived norms. Catalogued by theme, the author juxtaposes an image of an African man wearing a rose-adorned cap with a jock wearing a watermelon hat, filed under “headgear.”

7. Diane: A Signature Life by Diane von Furstenberg

Forty years ago Diane von Furstenberg gave the modern woman the wrap dress. Her autobiography illustrates the story of a woman who embarked on a career after marrying her prince to become the brand she is today. She once told Diane Sawyer, “I have yet to meet a woman who is not strong. They don’t exist.”

8. Dior by Dior by Christian Dior

Christian Dior’s autobiography chronicles his childhood in Normandy and ascension into a prominent couturier in the 1950s. Haute couture is exclusive high-end dressmaking. Dior became known for his “New Look” in the ’40s, an aesthetic resembling an hourglass-shaped dress.

9. Fierce Style: How to Be Your Most Fabulous Self by Christian Siriano, Rennie Dyball

One of Runway‘s fiercest success stories, Christian Siriano delivers everyday personal-style advice written in a witty and encouraging tone. Since his win on the fourth season of Runway, he has designed for the likes of Lady Gaga and Victoria Beckham. Host Tim Gunn labeled Siriano as “the next great American fashion designer.” He labeled almost everything in sight a “hot tranny mess.”

10. Isabel Toledo: Fashion from the Inside Out by Valerie Steele

Isabel Toledo is an award-winning Cuban-American designer who previously worked for Anne Klein. Her designs became a mainstream fixture during President Obama’s Inauguration when Michelle Obama wore Toledo’s olive-colored ensemble to the ceremony.

Season 7 of Project Runway premieres on January 14 with guest judge Nicole Richie. Are you as elated as we are that they’re returning to New York?