Winter is the perfect season to curl up with a good read and a cup of something warm, which makes Christmas a great time for gifting books. In that spirit of bookishness, we’ve collected some of our favorite stylish writings that will appeal to anyone on your list: history buffs, art lovers, non-readers, little one and dudes, too. Because if there are two things we all could benefit from, it’s some quiet time and some fashionable fun.
There are many lives exposed online. Through Clarendon and Lark filters, most of them appear pretty glamorous, if not just prettily posed. But few can compete with the world of Megan Hess. Hess is a fashion illustrator, that once common but now rare art form that depicts lithe ladies wearing the latest styles. During the ’40s and ’50s, and even into the ’90s for many European magazines, illustration was the primary visual expression for designers like Oleg Cassini and Pierre Cardin to showcase their creations. Hess’s modern-day illustrations for Fendi, Chanel, Prada and Christian Louboutin have taken her around the globe on enviable projects–you can see the pictures of these trips on her insanely lovely Instagram account.
However, her latest project puts Hess in the designer’s role. Shoes of Prey selected the artist to collaborate on a new collection of shoes. We spoke with Hess about her dream job, drawing Michelle Obama and the shiny shoes she created, which you can shop now.
How did this collaboration with Shoes of Prey come about? Why did it feel right?
Who doesn’t want to design a shoe collection? It was really exciting. In terms of the brands I work with, you know, I illustrate for everyone from Fendi to Prada to Dior; I’ve only worked with really high-end brands. So when I spoke with Shoes of Prey, their attention to detail, the way in which they were going to be making the shoes and promoting the shoes, everything from production to creative was really in sync with things that I work on. So I felt it was a great fit in terms collaboration. And then the fact that I could really start from scratch.
Of course the fashions are the main attraction, but the actual runway is frequently just as artfully constructed. Maisons and designers don’t let their visions end at the dress’s hem; many make universes within which to present their collections, to the delight of the lucky few who get to attend their shows.
A new book put out by Irish lifestyle group Roads captures this fleeting art form. The Fashion Set: The Art of the Fashion Show presents 10 years of the most memorable, outlandish and groundbreaking set designs in the modern history of fashion.
Fendi Spring/Summer 2008. Photo by Vincent Lappartient, courtesy of Roads Publishing.
In his introduction to the 200-plus-page tome of beautiful photos thoughtfully contextualized, Italian editor Federico Poletti describes the project as an attempt to celebrate the “miniature world that has been carefully planned and constructed, only to suddenly vanish after just twelve spectacular minutes.” The temporality of these performances lends to their special status, as well as the privilege of the audience. Fashion shows are notoriously difficult to access, and this book appeals to our desire for inclusion in the most rarified circles.
Sometimes grand, as in Karl Lagerfeld’s Fendi Spring 2008 show on China’s Great Wall, fashion sets can tap into global historical or artistic influences. Or, as in the case of Henrik Vibskov’s Fall 2015 show titled “The Messy Massage Class,” they may explore, tongue in cheek, smaller social themes like our preoccupation with health services.
Henrik Vibskov Autumn/Winter 2015. Photo by Alastair Philip Wiper, courtesy of Roads Publishing.
SEE: The Night Manager on AMC and online
Travel the world on an epic espionage assignment crafted by legendary spy novelist John le Carré. Tom Hiddleston stars as Jonathan Pine, a hotel manager recruited to thwart an international arms dealer played by the suavely villainous Hugh Laurie. Visually, the six-part series is stunning, whisking viewers off to exotic locales. But the cast and plot of this adaptation will be the true cause of your binge-watching.
READ: Approval Junkie: Adventures in Caring Too Much by Faith Salie
A kind of self-help book that reads like a comedic monologue, Approval Junkie explores the hilarious lengths one woman will go to gain admiration and affection. Salie’s book isn’t a sad sack’s memoir but a humorous and vulnerable work by an accomplished TV (CBS News) and radio host (NPR), one plagued by perfectionism and a relatable if sometimes perverse need for validation.
GET: Miu Miusic at the App Store
Miu Miu’s app is an image-driven music service curated by DJ Frédéric Sanchez that takes listeners through kaleidoscopic graphics of fashion. Select a song and design theme, then perfect your runway walk to pics of Miu Miu styles.
SEE: The Invitation
Our imaginations and paranoias are often more horrific than any boogeyman. This seems the premise of Karyn Kusama’s newest film. Set at a Hollywood Hills dinner party, The Invitation causes us to question whether Will’s (Logan Marshall-Green) ex-wife and her new husband are hiding something behind their serene hospitality or whether we are yoked to an increasingly troubled protagonist. The chills derive from the subtle uncertainty sown in their interactions.
HEAR: Sept. 5th by dvsn
Pronounced “division,” this R&B duo on Drake’s OVO Sound label received a warm, lingering embrace from the music community for their sparse but sultry jams. Echoing rhythms lay the groundwork for a careful crescendo of sound and emotion on songs like “Hallucinations.” Ultimately the seduction of their music rests on its ability to retreat into the background or command attention, depending on one’s mood.
Love Streams by Tim Hecker
Working with Oscar-winning Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, veteran electric musician Tim Hecker created a delicate album featuring the sounds of an Icelandic choir, a harpsichord, bass clarinets, strings and electric guitars along with his usual boards and mixers. It’s a pastiche of orchestration, resembling church choral compositions, suitable to a digital age when novelty can derive from our nostalgia.
Ology by Gallant
The debut of another emerging alt-R&B act, Gallant, eviscerates with so many feelings, from the frustrated hopelessness beautifully rendered on “Bourbon” to the bargain striking of “Bone + Tissue.” Gallant’s “Weight in Gold” rightly gained acclaim and some popularity. This collection of new tracks will doubtlessly grant more airtime for his mesmerizing vocal range and to air his fuzzy emotions.
HEAR: Second Love by Emmy the Great
Pop singer and songwriter Emma Lee Moss’s third album covers difficult emotional terrain, but this soul-stirring singer seems to skate on it with her honeyed voice. Occasionally the atmospheric album becomes aloof, yet songs like “Algorithm” and “Hyperlink” reduce love’s struggles to orchestrated abstractions that an indie-inclined audience would recognize as brilliant modern day similes.
READ: An Unrestored Woman: And Other Stories by Shobha Rao
Stories exploring the 1947 schism of India and Pakistan could seem as daunting as that contentious border. In Shobha Rao’s hands, however, we are immersed in the sympathetic lives of citizens arbitrarily controlled by the geo-political divisions of territory. Love is aborted, children lost, families separated, individuals left to their alien resources in paired stories set both in the diaspora and the domestic.
SEE: City of Gold
The prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold is an admired and imitated connoisseur of urban eats. It’s not an exaggeration to attribute to him our national predilections for food trucks, obscure ethnic foods and adventurous eating. This documentary follows the insatiable scribe around LA, a city that warmly embraces him and his enthusiasm for its citizens and their culinary ambitions.
LISTEN: Emily’s D+Evolution by Esperanza Spalding
The jazz vocalist, bassist and composer seems to absorb and reinterpret musical genres with refreshing ingenuity. Using her middle name as an alter ego, on Emily’s D+Evolution Spalding constructs jazz rock that is interchangeably boundary-pushing while reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, a musician who also used jazz music to support her jarringly personal reflections. But instead of folk, funk fills this soundscape, making the result distinctly Spalding’s own.
untitled unmastered by Kendrick Lamar
Released Friday on the sly, this collection of untitled tracks by the undisputed hip-hop master bristles with Lamar’s seething lyricism and layered grooves. “Untitled” was previously performed on The Colbert Report; “Untitled 2” was later debuted on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Combined, however, these eight songs show that Lamar’s touch is golden and his vision for hip-hop holistic and honest.
READ: Version Control by Dexter Palmer
Set in a recognizable future, Palmer’s work explores the impact of technology on our relationships and collective memories. Rebecca works at a dating site while her reality appears to unravel as she recovers from a personal loss. Her husband, meanwhile, labors on a causality violation device—a type of time machine. Version Control ultimately explores being present, even as we flirt with the future and struggle with the past.
Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard
Maynard is known in the literary world both for her 1998 memoir about her teenage relationship with the much older J. D. Salinger and for her own body of work, both novels and journalism. Under the Influence shows her rhapsodic talent in the service of Helen. A drinker whose life is collapsing, Helen becomes seduced by glamorous friends as she tries to maintain her relationship with her young son.
LISTEN: Chaleur Humaine by Christine and the Queens
This reissue in English of the French pop chart-topper will alleviate plenty of Google translation. According to Christine herself (Héloïse Letissier), many of her incisive lyrics exploring identity and sexuality were originally written in English anyway. Thank goodness, we monoglots can now sing (and still dance) along.
SVIIB by School of Seven Bells
Recorded as a eulogy of sorts for band member Benjamin Curtis, with whom this album was written, singer Alejandra Deheza concocted this penetrating but uplifting collection of songs. A poppy music haze bleeds into dance anthems and touching indie rock. Atmospheric layers wrap Deheza’s personal reflections in a meditative but engaging experience that is just captivating.
STREAM: American Masters: Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll on PBS
Sister Tharpe brought gospel into the rock era with her singular stringing and performances at the Cotton Club and other New York venues, attracting the admiration of legends like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. Her guitar chops inspired Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Little Richard. Watch her story and see her perform in this historical documentary.
LISTEN: Good Advice by Basia Bulat
The Canadian’s third album finds her mixing and bending musical genres to suit her soulful voice. At times poppy, at turns bluesy, Bulat energizes heartbreak with playful lyrics and jumping basslines produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Turns out it’s the perfect soundtrack to whatever kind of Valentine’s Day you’re having.
WATCH: Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: The Movie on Funny or Die
Johnny Depp (no kidding) in a wig and a prosthetic nose portrays the legendary real-estate tycoon and presidential candidate for the comedic website Funny or Die. Narrated by Ron Howard, this satirical made-for-TV movie was purportedly written, directed, edited and produced by Donald J. Trump, but the true talent is delightfully surprising.
11.22.63 on Hulu
Based on a Stephen King novel and directed by J.J. Abrams, this Hulu original series stars James Franco as a teacher traveling back in time to thwart the assassination of J.F.K. The thrilling eight-part opus premieres online on President’s Day. Stephen King fans, you’ll want to track the many author-themed Easter eggs hidden throughout the episodes.
CELEBRATE: Lunar New Year
Monday marks the beginning of the Year of the Monkey. We’ll be celebrating Saturday with a Chinese Lion Dance at our Downtown Seattle store beginning at 2pm PST. Other stores across the country will mark the occasion with events, red envelopes and surprises. You can also shop our Lunar New Year gifts online.
HEAR: Is the Is Are by DIIV
Although the band is its own hype machine for borough-residing hipster music (the lead singer draws exhausting comparisons between himself and Kurt Cobain), turns out Is the Is Are is a solid shoe-gazing collection of pleasurable listening. Leaning heavily on fuzzy guitars and muffled melodies, DIIV’s sophomore effort spins a cocoon of comforting sound.
READ: The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
Following the fictional opera singer Lilliet Berne through a historic romp of the Belle Époque, Chee’s epic novel constructs a dazzling portrait of the period’s fashions and players. Presented with a libretto mirroring her life’s story, Berne chases its provenance while encountering musical and historical enigmas all set to Chee’s evocative prose.