V&A Publishing has been working on revamping (and expanding) a series of books that weaves together a number of strands of the Museum’s work. Although we have published the autobiographies of some of the most famous designers working in fashion for a long time – including Christian Dior, Barbara Hulanicki, Paul Poiret, Mary Quant and Elsa Schiaparelli – we wanted to add more, particularly titles that are normally hard to find.
One of the most wonderful resources available to us in V&A Publishing is the National Art Library (internally pretty much always called ‘the en-ay-el’). Its reading rooms are beautiful – and accessible to everyone.
The collection has many books written by fashion insiders, some long out of print. These are compelling as primary sources, written by people working in the industry – often primarily for others working in the industry. Some of these names are well known, often designers and models, or journalists and magazine editors, but there are also teachers, tailors, assistants and anonymous commentators.
These books in the NAL should be more available to more people, but at the same time we want to build a collection that presents entertaining stories and fascinating lives. We now have a small list, with more titles to come, that includes writing by Vogue editor Bettina Ballard, Dior model and World War Two codebreaker Jean Dawnay (later Princess George Galitzine) and Harpers Bazaar editor Carmel Snow. These are being selected and developed by Karen Fick here in V&A Publishing.
Some of these books are available initially as ebooks, but we also felt that we could do more with the titles we already had in print in terms of presentation. At that point editor Sophie Sheldrake got to spend some time thinking about new covers and typographic designs for the books – always a nice job. Her proposal was to work with an illustrator to bring a strong, vibrant series identity to the books … and fortunately the Museum runs an illustration award. The winner of the 2017 Student Illustrator of the Year Award was Beatriz Lostalé Seijo – you can see visitors looking at her imagining of Homer’s Odyssey here:
It was a privilege to be able to commission a V&A Illustration Awards winner to work with us.
So, we have an archive of primary sources, digital distribution, an illustration prize and some incredible life stories all wrapped up together. Thank you to Beatriz for the designs and illustration, Sophie for the books and Karen for the ebooks.
The first titles in the revised print series will be available in the Summer. The ebook series is available from your favourite online retailer now.