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Fashion books of the year: All you need is tweed

Best threads: from Chanel & the Tweedmaker by Patricia Hitchon.  Picture: Getty

Best threads: from Chanel & the Tweedmaker by Patricia Hitchon. Picture: Getty

  • by JACKIE McGLONE
 

AMID the hype surrounding Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s decision to present Scotland with his latest Metiers d’Art show celebrating tweed, the important contribution made to the French couture house by a Borders tweed factory has been largely ignored.

Yet Linton Tweeds, in Carlisle, provided the fabric that Chanel used in her debut couture collection in 1928 – and there’s never been a collection since that has not featured the Cumbrian mill’s tweeds, as local historian Patricia M Hitchon relates in the exhaustively – sometimes exhaustingly – researched Chanel & The Tweedmaker: Weavers of Dreams (P3 Publications, £20).

While Lagerfeld’s Linlithgow Palace event showcased artisanal suppliers, Chanel started to buy up and protect a decade ago – the latest being cashmere suppliers, Barrie of Hawick – the warp and weft of the threads , colourful as Linton’s cobweb-soft tweeds, that bind it to the Borders.

William Linton, an eccentric from Hawick, founded the Carlisle mill in 1912, when the city was famed for the skills of its handloom weavers. With their expertise Chanel’s signature tweed – a wool and mohair blend in ecru white, which when dyed creates a natural check within the fabric – was created. Indeed, Mademoiselle was buried wearing her favourite Linton tweed pink-and-green suit.

Countless couturiers have used the mill’s tweeds, including Jean Muir and Hardy Amies. Published to coincide with an exhibition of his unashamedly romantic designs at London’s Fashion & Textile Museum, Hardy Amies by Michael Pick (ACC, £45) draws on revealing conversations with the designer, who began visiting the Carlisle factory in the 1930s.

Since then their exquisite tweeds have been worn by everyone from royalty to Michelle Obama, while Joanna Lumley executed her Absolutely Fabulous pratfalls in Chanel suits fashioned from the fabric. More recently Victoria Beckham has used tweeds incorporating rubber, which Lintons made at Lagerfeld’s request, in her collections.

Supermodel Agnyess Deyn was not wearing Chanel on the summery morning I opened the bedroom curtains to discover her clutching a piglet in the garden, when world-famous fashion photographer Tim Walker – surrounded by stylists and fashion editors – was shooting a spread for Vogue in the Scottish Borders, where I happened to be weekending.

We were lucky that Prada-clad Deyn’s only accessory was a piglet. As the gorgeously illustrated Tim Walker: Story Teller (Thames & Hudson, £45), reveals, he might have installed a Spitfire or an enormous, sinister doll in the shrubbery, for he revels in the joy of sets.

His beautiful, bonkers take on fashion is currently on show at London’s Somerset House, hence the monograph. Some of his most ravishing images were made in the Borders, many at Eglingham Hall and at Howick, in Northumberland. Walker has a penchant for distressed stately homes into which he’s been known to import, say, a gigantic, cello-playing insect alongside edgy models such as Stella Tennant cavorting in couture.

The Tim Burton of fashion photography, Walker, who has actually worked with the film director on a bizarre shoot featuring a giant skeleton, believes: “Fashion photography is the dream department of photography.”

There’s certainly a plethora of dreamy images in Coming Into Fashion: A Century of Photography at Condé Nast, by Nathalie Herschdorfer and Sylvia Lécallier (Thames & Hudson, £42), a sort of Vogue’s gallery, with essays on photographers who’ve worked for the glossy, from Edward Steichen in the 1920s to Edinburgh-born Albert Watson and Mario Testino today.

There is, of course, more to the fashion photographer’s art than merely selling clothes, but as Cameron Silver – owner of “the most glamorous boutique in LA” and witty author of Decades: A Century of Fashion (Bloomsbury, £40) – notes: “My goal is that when someone looks at the book and they see a picture, they think, ‘I have to buy that – that looks so modern.’” Indeed, every one of the 150 alluring, often rare photographs he’s assembled is bang on trend.

Each chapter closes with the designer of the decade, including Dior, YSL and Chanel, whose creations are the focus of Jewelry by Chanel by Patrick Mauriès (Thames & Hudson £75), which dazzlingly documents the constellations of stars and comets, camellias and lions – fake and real – she wore in typical ostentatiously austere style. Quoth she: “I love fakes … I find it disgraceful to walk around with millions around your neck just because you’re rich. The point of jewellery isn’t to make a woman look rich but to adorn her: not the same thing.”

There’s adornment aplenty in Olivier Dupon’s The New Jewelers (Thames & Hudson, £24.95), while David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti’s Celebrating Jewellery: Exceptional Jewels of the 19th and 20th Centuries (ACC, £75), featuring fabled pieces such as Cartier’s flamingo jewels for the Duchess of Windsor, and which exudes gorgeousness from all 324 pages.

Some of us, however, might prefer the specs appeal of Fashion Spectacles: Spectacular Fashion (Thames & Hudson, £28). Apparently the aforementioned Beckham is launching a range of eyewear because she “hasn’t found any glasses that suit” her. Clearly she hasn’t seen Simon Murray and Nicky Albrechtsen’s lavishly illustrated book, which is filled with eye-popping designs.

Which brings us to this year’s celebrity fashion volume. Kylie Fashion by Kylie Minogue & William Baker (Thames & Hudson, £28), marks the singer’s silver anniversary by charting her fashion hits – and some misses. Meanwhile, Pop! by Geoffrey Rayner, Richard Chamberlain & Annamarie Stapleton (ACC, £35) is a super-stylish “swinging” tribute to British design, culture and fashion, 1956-1975.

 

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