From Left Bank Books website: Left Bank Books presents fashion photographer Nigel Barker, in conversation with Debra Bass, fashion editor for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, for his new book, Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion, $40, (Harper Design, February 2015), on Wednesday, March 11, 7 p.m., at the Boo Cat Club (812 Union Blvd., just north of Delmar). The conversation will be followed by a book signing. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and a cash bar with wine, beer, and cocktails will be available courtesy of the Boo Cat Club.
This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. Please RSVP at modelsofinfluence.brownpapertickets.com. Books will be available for purchase at the event.
I felt privileged to have been put on the media list for this event by Lauren Wiser, publicity manger of Left Bank Books. Many thanks to Lauren and to Liz Esman, publicist for HarperCollins Publishers for sending a copy of Models of Influence to review in advance. Little did they know that this is right up my alley. I received my first subscription to Vogue for my 16th birthday, and have loved fashion and everything associated with it ever since.
Models of Influence with its beautiful photographs and accounts of how each of fifty notable models got into the business, covers the period starting with post World War-II, when "fashion and fashion photography were reborn out of the ashes of war." In a subsequent chapter on the sixties, Barker writes about Jean Shrimpton, Veruska, and Penelope Tree ("The Cult of Personalities"). Jerry Hall and Iman are included in "The Beauty Revolution," followed by "Supermodels" Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. In the last chapter, "The Contemporaries," St. Louisan Karlie Kloss, is described as "ebullient, friendly, and intelligent - a combination that is one key to her success."
I emailed several questions to Nigel Barker and received the following responses, which I found extremely interesting, I hope you do too.
Q.: I love that you are using our independent bookstore, Left Bank Books, for organizing the signing at the Boo Cat Club in St. Louis. Is using an independent bookstore for your readings a conscious effort on your part?
A.: Absolutely! The independent bookstores are the best by far. I grew up going to local privately owned bookstores as a child in London and loved the sense of pride and knowledge of the book keepers as a result. The last place you want to feel corporate is in the fantastical world of words and dreams, which is how I feel bookstores can be.
You mention in the book that your mother who is half British, half Sri Lankan, was instrumental in helping you figure out where you fit in by suggesting that you try modeling, where there are many people of different races and cultures. Is it any easier now to break into modeling, if you are a person of color? Do you think the modeling industry is more color-blind now than it used to be?
The industry is far from color blind but that is because we as a society still draw up racially divisive lines in almost everything we do. However the landscape is getting more colorful and ethnic groups who have money to spend are demanding to be seen selling the products they want to buy. From the Far East to here in the US we are all far more receptive to beauty in many shades and sizes but we still have a long way to go. The good news is because of social media we have the power to push the editors and advertisers hands.
Who are the models that defy industry standards, i.e, the older, shorter, and heavier models that are referred to in the press release?
Everybody in the book defies or defied the industry standard until they came along and changed it. From Twiggy at 5 foot 6 inches who epitomized the wave of individualism that epitomized the rebellious youth movement of the Swinging Sixties to Lauren Hutton with a gap between her teeth who is still rocking the modeling world in her seventies. Models like Naomi Sims, Iman, Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek and Joan Smalls, who have completely changed the landscape for models of color, and women like Sophie Dahl and Kate Upton who have proved that having a fuller figure can be far from normal, in fact it can and should be celebrated on the cover of Vogue.
In the book, Barker describes the reach of fashion: "It's not just a multibillion-dollar business, employing people on an international level. It's also a means of self-expression, for designers and models, certainly, but also for everyone who wakes up and gets dressed in the morning."
The book signing will take place at the Boo Cat Club, 812 N. Union, which I photographed at an opening event last fall. The 108-year-old Arts and Crafts building was originally the home of the St. Louis Artists' Guild.
For more information about scheduling events at the Boo Cat Club, 812 N. Euclid, visit the website. And be sure to sign up for Nigel Barker's appearance there Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6. It should be a fun evening, and a wonderful escape from your everyday routine! The event is free, sign up in advance here.
Nigel Barker, Models of Influence: 50 Women Who Reset the Course of Fashion, $40, at Left Bank Books or purchase your copy at the book signing March 11.