A more intellectual take on style? Try a fashionable biography; the perfect fusion of fictiony non-fiction and fashion. Plus you’ll find that insights into a designer’s upbringing, background, life and career really give you a new and different view on their approach to creating clothes. These five get our stylish stamp of approval.

Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life

Well no list would be complete without a biography of Chanel, now would it? From renowned fashion journalist and editor Justine Picardie, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life aims to make sense of elusive, enigmatic designer’s life. Chanel famously invented, re-invented and embroidered her own life story; a person who created her narrative as she went along to suit circumstances. Picardie’s meticulously-researched, beautifully-written biography is sure to delight Chanel devotees and amateurs alike.

If you prefer pictures… Try Chanel: Collections and Creations which gives readers a rather special glimpse of the House of Chanel’s exclusive private archive.

Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography

From seasoned design journalist and Cambridge graduate Alice Rawsthorn, Yves Saint Laurent: A Biography is a truly engaging read, tracing the life of one of the world’s greatest designers. Despite his rapid rise to prominence, behind the scenes Saint Laurent was a shy, nervous man ill at ease with his fame, leading him into drug addiction and depression. It’s a gripping, fascinating story, full of twists and turns – not to mention the glamour and decadence of the Paris fashion world.

yves saint laurent


If you prefer pictures… Try Yves Saint Laurent – a personal look at the private life of YSL behind the scenes.

Shocking Life: the Autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli

Never mind a fashion biography, this is an autobiography – written by the Schiap herself. Published in 1954, Shocking Life fizzes with creative energy and humour – it’s a madcap dash through the life and career of the designer that brought us shocking pink, trompe l’oeil, shoulder pads and surrealist style thanks to collaborations with artists including Dali. Self-deprecating humour, brilliant wit and wonderful insider anecdotes, Elsa Schiaparelli was one very fashionable eccentric!

If you prefer pictures… Try Elsa Schiaparelli’s Private Album. By Schiaparelli’ own granddaughter Marisa Berenson, this features many previously unpublished images, from photographers such as Man Ray and Horst.

The Beautiful Fall

It’s not exactly a biography – it’s sort of two biographies for the price of one! Alicia Drake’s The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris charts the careers of two fashion icons: Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. Two very different personalities, each with their own foibles – and both with undoubted exceptional talent. Gossipy, fascinating and completely captivating, it’s an unputdownable read.

The Beautiful Fall Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris

karl lagerfeld Yves saint laurent

If you prefer pictures… Try The World According to Karl. No pictures sorry, but rest assured – thanks to Lagerfeld’s quick-witted quotes – it’s all killer, no filler!


The only non-designer to feature on this list, Diana Vreeland makes the cut simply because she’s just so darned fabulous. Style and substance personified, Diana Vreeland’s D.V. is a memoir packed with glamorous anecdotes, and sparkling with the legendary editor’s marvellous wit and intelligence. Creative and clever, smart and sexy, it’s a book that makes you want to be part of the fashion world!

If you prefer pictures… Try The Eye Has To Travel: a fascinating feature-length documentary about Vreeland.