Ellie Dyson reviews Gill Stark’s new book.
A new must-have book has arrived in the form of Gill Stark’s inspiring guide from Bloomsbury Visual Arts Publishing, entitled ‘The Fashion Show’. Stark’s recipe for success offers just over 200 pages of valuable industry insights, abundantly illustrated with glossy images. Perfect for upcoming fashion designers, this new addition is an absolute must if you want to gain more insight into the industry. Available to purchase on 26th July 2018, it covers the history, theory and practice of the fashion show in an easy-to-understand language. Stark, the Assistant Dean and Head of the School of Creative and Liberal Arts at Regents University, London, is an expert in the fashion show field, having also produced fashion shows and worked as a designer herself.
The contents page promises six chapters that delve deep into industry secrets, starting with an overview of the evolution of the fashion show, moving steadily through the decades until we get to some contemporary context. This then leads in to an extensive guide of every detail needed to create a catwalk. Something I really appreciated was that the guide didn’t stop there, but instead goes one step further to provide guidance on what to do after a show, which demonstrates the consideration Stark genuinely feels for her readers.
The style of writing that Stark has chosen is informal. It is well written, but is doesn’t assume you know the specialist jargon so much that it loses the easy-to-read factor. It keeps things clear without overwhelming the reader with information. It was pleasant to read a book that didn’t involve flicking forward through the pages to find something relevant – instead, every sentence was needed, and every paragraph was an interesting read.
‘The Fashion Show’ is not just perfect for budding designers, but for people who want to get involved in many aspects of fashion. Shows, as states the book, ‘are such a powerful marketing tool’ (p.83), so it makes sense that one must know about the show to truly understand the industry. There is an extensive range of job roles within fashion – PR, designers, photographers, set sound and lighting, social media, and journalists – and anyone wanting to pursue a career down these routes would benefit from reading this book.
Throughout the book there are informative captions next to each photo, so that by the end of the book, not only do you have a comprehensive knowledge of how to pull off a fashion show, but also a background grasp of the entire history of the catwalk. The potential for education is boosted even more using plenty of diagrams and charts to demonstrate key points. Written from the point of view of someone with a lot of experience in the industry, the book doesn’t try to force any opinion on the reader, but it is wholly a helpful book from an insider’s point of view. To further engage the readers, Stark has created activity pages at the end of each chapter, encouraging the reader to add to their knowledge by suggesting particular topics to be researched into more deeply.
The book recognises that fashion can’t be condensed into one document. Links to online imagery, interviews and other sources crop up like gems throughout the paragraphs. Interviews with industry experts, entitled ‘Industry Insights’, appear periodically, which segments the chapters and keeps it fresh.
After first laying out the evolution of the catwalk, the second chapter brings it closer to home by focusing on current issues within fashion. In keeping with the ‘trend’ (whilst ‘saving the earth’ is still fashionable) of sustainable fashion, Stark has her eye on the impact that the future of fashion will have on the environment, but not in the usual way of using vegan leather. The author makes the point that it would be better to have more digital shows and focus on getting local models, press and photographers involved, because of the carbon footprint caused by instead flying all the international guests around the world to the events over the course of the annual fashion calendar. A digital revolution would be for the better.
Stark provides invaluable knowledge on all the behind the scenes, show-in-the-making aspects which need to happen, explaining them in easy-to-remember ways like the seven P’s (which we won’t elaborate on – no spoilers!) and times when designers carried out these tasks in spectacular ways. These examples are boosts of encouragement towards new designers, showing them what they should be aiming for.
The words ’emotional experience’ often appear, but for good reason. A fashion show, almost like watching a film trailer, shows the most exciting and emotional parts of a collection, and makes the audience think “yes! I want to be a part of this. I want to be able to say I bought into this.”
Everything written is only a suggestion of course. It frequently mentions instances where graduate designers or brands with little money organised something out of the ordinary so they could showcase their work.
The book is cleverly structured in a way which creates an anticipation for the latter chapters, which detail the actual day of the show, including in-depth schedules and important factors to consider. It ends on a brief outro about where shows will go in the future. The main theme is that the use of technology in the form of online streaming and the use of fashion film will develop, ‘but typically for the fashion industry, there is excitement for the new’ (pg. 204).
‘The Fashion Show’ is a necessary read for upcoming designers, and for those who want to join the fashion field in roles such as marketers, managers and PRs. The book went above and beyond what it proposed it would do, and the exclusive interviews of industry experts and generous illustration topped off what was an already great read. The book was informative and genuinely interesting, with juicy titbits about previous fashion shows, and it would especially be a valuable addition to any fashion-based university library.
You can see more of Ellie’s work on Instagram by following @elliejdyson.