I like books, and I like to look at beautiful clothes, and I especially like it when two of the things I like collide. Literature to me seems like a limitless wealth of inspiration for any kind of visual art and design, and there’s a long list of books I think could inspire some pretty cool fashion collections – On the Road, Cold Comfort Farm, The Secret History, Wuthering Heights, even like American Psycho. But also, these ones that have actually happened are pretty cool too…
For his 2012 Fall/Winter collection, Honduran designer Carlos Campos presented a line inspired by Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s classic, excruciating story of unrequited love. With flourishes of fiery red (“the colour of love, passion and blood,” Campos says) against earthy tones of camel, terracotta and sand, the vibrant colour palette instantly evokes the exotic flavour of Latin America, recalling all the relentless passion and intensity so often associated with its culture, and particularly symbolised in Florentino Ariza. The bold block colours and clean-cut lines of the garments contrast against the luxurious softness of the cashmere, silks and wools reflecting something of the tension between intensity and delicacy that romance naturally evokes.
Clearly a lover of devastatingly romantic literature, for Fall/Winter 2011 Carlos Campos presented a collection that pays homage to Pablo Neruda and his love poems. Thoughtful, nostalgic and quietly romantic, it’s a sort of vintage urban look, all newsboy caps and leather bomber jackets. In the words of the designer, it was inspired by everything about Neruda, “from the way he tilted his hat to how he wore his coat.” The rusty, subdued colour palette recalls the green ink Neruda wrote with, and the fabrics were sourced from places Neruda had lived or worked – particularly, Uruguay, Peru and Italy.
Miss Havisham is one of the best characters in literary history – or at least, one of the most visually captivating. The image of an elegant, skeletal, heartbroken old woman sitting for years in her disintegrating wedding dress, with withered flowers and rotting wedding cake all around her is the first my mind conjures when I think of Charles Dickens, and it always sets of little sparklets of inspiration.
Prabal Gurung presumably feels that way too. For his Fall/Winter 2011 collection, the Nepalese designer used Miss Havisham as his muse, creating a romantic and theatrical line of garments that captures this wonderfully gothic sense of endless grief and languished beauty. A rich red dress of gathered silk, belted at the waist with worn-looking leather, is at once luxurious and melancholy, with one sleeve falling off the shoulder in glamorous disarray. Throughout the collection, luxurious materials are treated to look weathered, and Victorian references like exposed bodices and flouncy skirts build on this feeling of age and nostalgia.
The short novels of Marguerite Duras just make me ache, because there’s something so beautiful and brilliant about them and I can’t quite put my finger on how I can replicate that. Gaby Basora tapped into that dreamy quality for her label Tucker, presenting a spirited, feminine collection of draped blouses, silky printed dresses and culottes, and knits in deep plums and browns, taking inspiration from the strong and effortlessly chic heroines in Duras’s oevre. “I want the clothes to feel mysteriously familiar, like a resurfacing memory you never want to forget,” Basora says, and the effect is similar to the way I feel reading The Lover. In fact, I’d evenlove to see something more literally inspired by The Lover – like that unforgettable image of Marguerite as a young girl on the ferry crossing the Mekong, dressed in a tattered silk slip, a man’s hat and high heels.
I know H&M isn’t exactly cool, but the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo collection kind of is. Admittedly, it was inspired by the film adaptation rather than the book itself, and also, I haven’t actually read the books OR seen the movie, but I still kind of love the grungy vibe of the clothes. Designed by Trish Summerville, who also designed the costumes for the movie, the collection is full of spikes and studs and worn-in-looking pieces, with skinny jeans, leather pants, slouchy vests, ripped t-shirts and cool accessories. It’s edgy, but there’s still a kind of chic polish about it, and I’d probably wear almost all of it.