THE IDEA BEHIND THE FASHION BOOKOLOGIST

Photo by Louise Dahl Wolfe for the January 1950 issue of Harper’s Bazaar

… I suddenly knew what I was supposed to do.

You see, if you are looking for a recently published book, you are able to leaf through it while you are in a bookstore and decide whether you like it or not and then buy it. This can’t happen with most of out of print, rare books that you don’t find in normal bookstors. You just have to trust the title of the book you probably find in the internet.

What I planned to do no online bookseller wants to do, wishes to invests time in doing it or simply doesn’t have the time to do it. I decided to put on black and white virtual paper what I have been doing in person during my years as a bookseller in a traditional bookstore:

Let’s talk about the book!

But with no “sale” time limit to shut me up. I would go deep, very deep into the contents of the book. This you can do if you actually read the book. Which I can assure you, NOBODY does. Not the bookseller, not the buyer. So I started reading my books from top to bottom like I would read a non-fiction book. If you know about it you can talk about it and you can write about it.

What happend? It happened that beautiful stories, connections, unknown details, relationships, ideas, inspirations revealed themselves to me. In my head, each book was a source for endless posts. And that’s what I am here to do. My biggest mission though is to discover one day that one of my books or my posts inspired a great collection. It happened frequently in the past and I will tell you about it.

MY BIOGRAPHY

My name is Violetta Meroni, a Milanese and evolving former researcher and bookseller who grew up in a family, and as an Italian citizen, surrounded by sublime beauty, art, and history.  For the last three years I’ve been involved in the world of books both as a book seller but mostly as a researcher. Working for the family concept store in the center of Milan, L’arabesque Cult Store, I’ve also been involved in the management of the research department of the costume jewelry and mid-century design division, whose collections are being sold in the store.  More precisely, I researched attributions, descriptions and pricing. To do it well, with my own standards of quality, I needed books. As said, I don’t trust the internet too much. I need authoritative sources.

Those three years have been the most enriching and creative I could ever expect and for which I am very grateful. They gifted me with the opportunity to meet the most representative experts in the field  who generously shared with me their precious experiences and knowledge. And it also offered me the chance of being published on the subject.

In 2018, Alba Cappellieri, professor of Jewelry Design at the Milan Politechnic and Director of the Museum of Jewelry in Vicenza, entrusted the curatorship of the Fashion Room to my mother for the usual two year period: She owns, and sells, of one of the most important collections of vintage fashion jewelry. I was in charge of writing the 11 page catalogue. It was an enormous responsibility, but two mentors helped me through it and I am eternally grateful to them for it. Alba Cappellieri herself and Mrs. Deanna Farneti Cera, the most important costume jewelry historian and writer. Her name is renown all over the world when linked to “vintage” costume and fashion jewlery.

If I were asked to choose what images represent this adventure, two great works by two of my favourite artists come to mind. The first one is an illustration by Georges Lepape that made a 1925 cover of Vogue and the second is a version of a photo by Louise Dahl Wolfe that didn’t make the cover of Harper’s Bazaar in January 1950. When I look at these two images I am inspired by the representation of two adventurous, elegant, determined women. I imagine them as I am, on their own, always moving on to discover new places, unveiled stories, stopping only when the right moment, place, and people ask for it.

During my years in the fashion and design world, I discovered so many extraordinary artists – past and present – met historians and journalists who enlightended me on the best in fashion, design, textiles, jewelry, photography, art that I started asking myself : What makes great designers, artists, craftmen,….great?  I used to think that talent, that special inner gift and call that so few possess, was enough. Plus they built a good team to unveil it. But no, there is so much more behind the success of personalities such as Chanel, Saint Laurent, Vionnet, Schiaparelli, Cardin, Mary Quant, Irene Galitzine, in fashion, the Eames ,the George Nelsons, the Perriands in design, the Aschers, in textile design, Trifari, Boucher, Coro, Miriam Haskell, in costume and fashion jewlery,etc.:

Talent, hard work, luck, education, curiosity, experience,

open mind, open eye, vision, personal cultivation, insight,…. 

IMITATION, INSPIRATION, CREATION

Creativity today has become a really competitive business. Apparently, everything has already been put on the market.. Every possible print, shape, color combination, style, cut, seems as if it has been seen over and over again. The consumer system is believed to expect only the groundbreaking or whatever enables the customer to feel constantly “up-to-date”.  As much as unsustainable it might be, this pressure to be constantly anticipating the future is part of what contemporaneity expects. I believe this is only part of the story.

By researching the works and lives of the great creatives of the past century, a cultivated eye can detect refined elements of the past or from different cultures, extracted from any kind of artistic expression, from nature, from the street and the country, and from the sky.   

In reading all the possible biographies and autobiographies of the most important personalities in their field, I was surprised to learn how much of all successful endeavors was due to investing time in thorough research, in following personal sensibility and curiosity, in developing the ability to extract apparently insignificant details from outside the usual paths, to develop them creatively within a contemporary project. Talent is not enough, creativity needs to be continuously nurtured.

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Yves Saint Laurent in his apartment – Paris – 1977 – ( from YSL- Dreams of the Orient catalogue)

Today the game of innovation must be played on the technological aspect of production. Nonetheless, creativity and artistic creation are and always will be influenced by our experiences, our travels, our tastes, in other words, by elements of the past.  A part of this blog will be dedicated to unveil some of the artists inspirations. From the exotic textiles that inspired Matisse’s liturgic chasubles, to japanese kimonos or the ballets russes that gave birth to extraordinary collections by Yves Saint Laurent.

As said The Fashion Bookologist’s mission is to become one of the references for all those who are involved in the creative processes in the design system (fashion, design, jewelry, textile,graphic design, applied and decorative arts, etc),  by providing relevant out of print, reference and illustrated books that can trigger an idea, a solution. Even maybe help getting someone out of the creative swamp in which sooner or later he or she can find themselves. A second mission is to support whomever is involved in research in these fields – journalists, students, auction houses, ( I think big!) – by providing new stories that are usually hidden in rare, our of print books and are not easily discovered by brousing the internet. And today, small budgets and limited time don’t allow to travel so much to do proper research.

My motto is : “Looking for a solution to a problem is a creative act.  Finding that solution is a creative response.”

My book expeditions and research result in articles with a life of their own but inspired by the books I review and sell. So I named this blog “The Fashion Bookologist” because, like the two imaginary women i mentioned before, I dash towards book expeditions with the enthusiasm of an archeologist ready to discover an artifact that will change man’s vision and knowledge of ancient civilizations. Like an archaeologist, I follow the hidden traces in texts, photos and illustrations that will lead me to new book – and stories – discoveries.

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Charles and Ray Eames home –

The blog evolves around two major themes. Modernism and Japonisme. A special feature of this blog is the section dedicated to japanese culture.  A unique place for those who, like Yves Saint Laurent, and Poiret before him, are passionate about the oriental spirit, taste and influence on western design. Some contemporary, or post-modern designers  will be included because of their connections to modernist orjJapanese styles.

In times of limited traveling, the following quote confirms that “armchair traveling” is of utmost relevance not just for our knowledge of different cultures but as essential starting point for creative insights and revelations.  They are extracted from the preface to the catalogue of the exhibition “Yves Saint Laurent – Dreams of the Orient” held in 2018 at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris: 

“Rather than experiencing it through travel, the couturier dreamed of Asia like an armchair traveler, captured by its spell…As an art lover, collector and reader with an extensive library, Yves was always in search of a revelation, a source of illumination to lead his work towards new horizons. Finding inspiration in the shimmer of its silks, borrowing the weaving techniques that produce the finest muslins, jamdani, renowned around the world, unraveling its golden threads and delicate braids, juxtaposing its colours and fabrics. Yves Saint Laurent did all of those things but he also rewrote the history of these many influences, combining them cleverly to create his own unique lines, deftly drawn and instantly… a piece of Chinese jewelry inspires the sinuous lines of a motif, an embroider recalls a Mongol cloak… “ Charles Ange Ginesy YSL Dreams of the Orient

I hope you will enjoy my discoveries as much as I have.   You can follow them by subscribing to my newsletter  and on Instagram and Facebook.

For enquiries about books, please contact me, I am Violetta Meroni,  at info@thefashionbookologist.com.

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