Sunday, August 16, 2020

Weekend Review: Champagne Supernovas

Champagne Supernovas / Maureen Callahan
Touchstone, c2004.
288 p.
Another look at a decade in fashion, this time the 90s, with a focus on two designers (Marc Jacobs & Alexander McQueen) and one model, Kate Moss. Coming after the lengthy biography of Lagerfeld and St Laurent of The Beautiful Fall, I found this one a bit disappointing.

Author Callahan is a pop journalist, and the style and appearance of this book both make me think of magazine articles about these people and the style of the 90s. It was interesting but felt more magazine than in-depth investigation. It was still quite interesting, though! 

Just like the Paris scene in the 70s and early 80s, the people in this American/English scene in the 90s were equally messed up. The level of drug use and sexual shenanigans are just unbelievable; it feels tawdry and cheap in this book while somehow less so in Paris in the 70s -- perhaps the extra decades give a bit more distance from it. 

Callahan gives the background of each of the three people she's using as her touchstones, and why they were such a powerful part of the way fashion shifted in the 90s. Each of them was self-destructive and willful, and did things against the ruling ethos. It's why they shifted things in the wider world, but in their personal lives it wasn't so great for them. Drug use, depression, angst, and in McQueen's case, eventually suicide, were results. 

But this isn't a book that is based on extensive interviews and research into the psyches of these three people, rather, it's a look at their biographies insofar as they fuel the way they work in the fashion world. She shares their upbringing and the weaknesses each one had as a result -- each one had the drive to create their own style and way of being (and each one sounds like a nasty person to work for/with, at times). McQueen's attraction to ugliness and violence in his life and his fashion is outlined, and there are images of some of his earlier important shows. And Marc Jacobs' ground-shifting grunge collection (which was panned when it was revealed, which I recall quite well) is discussed and shown too. Kate Moss just seemed to embody the new breath moving through the fashion world with her gaunt, grungey heroin chic appeal. 

Perhaps I didn't enjoy this one quite as much since I don't really like any of the three characters. I always found McQueen's fashion sense ugly and somewhat revolting; the other two are shallow compared to earlier designers & models, and I just don't feel as interested in them. So while this was an interesting look at the state of fashion in the 90s, and I felt that I did learn a few things, the gossipy tone and more surface approach to the theme made it just okay. 


  1. yes! this book sounds right up my alley! i need to get going on biographies of the great designers...i don't know how i haven't started doing that yet!!
    xo eva

    1. I really enjoy reading these biographies and social histories centred around fiction :)


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