Books interview: Rosie Findlay

The lecturer in cultural and historical studies and author of Personal Style Blogs on pony tales, reading fashion and fashioning the self

December 14, 2017
Rosie Findlay

What sorts of books inspired you as a child?
I loved fairy tales and folk tales from around the world: Hans Christian Andersen’s The Wild Swans and The Little Mermaid were favourites. And books about horses: My Friend Flicka, The Silver Brumby, anything by Marguerite Henry, Black Beauty…if it was a story about a plucky child and a pony, I was into it.

Which books spurred you to embark on academic research about fashion and fashion media?
I remember discovering fashion theory on the library shelves at the University of Sydney, and what an exciting realisation it was that you could theorise contemporary fashion and fashion media. A key find was Caroline Evans’ sumptuous Fashion at the Edge: Spectacle, Modernity, and Deathliness, which examines these preoccupations in 1990s fashion design. Another was Elizabeth Wilson’s Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity.

Your new book, ‘Personal Style Blogs’, explores the links between fashion, writing and the presen-tation of the self. What books would you recommend about contemporary fashion media?
A great overview is Fashion Media: Past and Present. This edited collection provides a range of critical perspectives on the spectrum of fashion media, from advertisements to fashion plates to glossy magazines to fashion film. 

What books offer the most interesting analyses of blogging’s impact on the style industries and society more generally?
As it is a relatively emerging field, much of the most interesting work on style blogs has been published in journals. That said, two titles that carefully evaluate the influence of social media and new fashion media are Alice Marwick’s Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age and Brooke Erin Duffy’s (Not) Getting Paid To Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work. Both interrogate the entrepreneurial self being fashioned by individuals on social media, and the ways in which capitalist logics, invisible labour and fame weave through this form of self-mediation.

What is the last book you gave as a gift, and to whom?
For his birthday, I gave my father Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems and Vikram Seth’s volume of libretti, The Rivered Earth. I’ve also been pressing Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations with Friends into the hands of anyone who will let me. It’s so smart and frank, and it brilliantly maps the stubbornness involved in loving people who exasperate or disappoint, and how heady, agonising and also prosaic that can be.

What books do you have on your desk waiting to be read?
The stack is always steadily growing as I seemingly can’t pass a bookshop without finding new ones to bring home, but among them are Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, a bilingual edition of poems by Pierre Reverdy (a gift from my dad in response to the O’Hara) and Alicia Drake’s The Beautiful Fall: Fashion, Genius and Glorious Excess in 1970s Paris, which describes the rivalry between designers Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.

Rosie Findlay is lecturer in cultural and historical studies at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London, and the author of Personal Style Blogs: Appearances that Fascinate (Intellect).

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