Pamflet X Twin: February

05.02.2015 | Literature | BY:

It sometimes feels as if London lags a little behind other great cities like New York and Paris when it comes to the way it’s depicted in pop culture – somehow the gritty glamour of our beloved capital doesn’t necessarily translate well to page or screen. But Jason Brooks’ beautiful London Sketchbook (Laurence King, £19.95) is a fitting tribute, something to treasure and leaf through on bleak January afternoons. You will recognise Brooks’ distinctive fashion illustrations from posters and the pages of Vogue and Elle, but with London as his muse he has really let his imagination and talent run riot, creating thoughtful, elegant drawings that truly capture the spirit of the city.

The book is divided into themed chapters such as ‘the street’, ‘London by night’ and ‘fashion’ so you can flip straight to your subject of choice. Brooks mixes collage, speedy, sparse pen and ink sketches, crisp, precise architectural drawings, quotations from the likes of Virginia Woolf and Disraeli and facts and anecdotes to evoke a very personal vision of his city which is by turns moving, witty and educational. If you’re tired of London, this ravishing visual feast will inspire you to put up your brolly and hit the rainy pavements to fall in love with the city all over again.

Josa Young’s second novel, Sail Upon the Land (Keyes Ink, £8.99) is a moving, richly told story about motherhood in all its forms and how this role can encompass earth-shattering love and terrifying ambivalence. Spanning several generations and jumping between the English countryside, London and India, the narrative is complex but satisfying, weaving together different strands from a cast of well-observed characters.

The life of a deb in swinging ‘60s London is vividly brought to life with humour and a sharp eye for detail, but it’s the descriptions of mothers – both biological and otherwise – that are almost painful in their realism. The complicated relationship between daughter and mother is depicted with brutal honesty and from multiple perspectives, as each woman moves from one role to the next. The heroine, Damson, is a sympathetic, complex character who you will find yourself thinking about long after finishing this thoughtful, thought-provoking novel.

Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography by Meryle Secrest (Fig Tree, £25) this new biography tells the story of one of fashion’s true originals whose costumes now hang in galleries rather than wardrobes. In her 1920s and 1930s haute couture heyday, Italian-born French designer Schiap (1890-1973) dressed film stars and socialites and enjoyed a personal life that was almost as dramatic as her impact on the fashions of the time.

Secrest’s biography is wonderfully gossipy and the best sections are where she explains how and why Schiap’s style was so unique and the genius behind her approach to fashion business as well as design. She excelled at creating and perpetuating her own myths, living in gloriously eccentric apartments, appearing at all the most-talked-about parties and surrounding herself with a talented team. She conjured up a kind of magic around her creations and her persona and built up this mystique with the help of a series of dazzling collaborators, including (most famously) Dalí. But although she took her work very seriously, she didn’t mind that her clothes were enthusiastically copied by dressmakers at home – she liked being popular.

And who could resist her madcap style (she even sold a hat called the Mad Cap)? This personal myth-making means that many facts that a biographer might need to tell the full story have been obscured by Schiap’s own efforts over the years, but what is clear is her timeless style legacy. The ‘nonchalant chic’ of her early years – technically impressive sporty garments, wrap dresses, bloomers – inspired by the leisure habits of her fabulous and wealthy milieu continues to influence designers today.

Anna-Marie Fitzgerald and Phoebe Frangoul are the co-editors and co-founders of the London grrrl-zine and literary salon Pamflet. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram @Pamflet. 

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