Fashion Book List

Despite Winter Quarter being the busiest quarter of my entire 4 year college career, I’ve taken a step to flourish my leisure reading as a de-stress mechanism. Also, partly due to the fact that I recently started an online course with Parsons, I thought it may be a good cue to expand my knowledge in fashion history/business/people etc.

This is a list of my all time favorite and recently acquired infatuations of fashion books. Some had given me a very throughough understanding of fashion concepts, others are just good for a laugh. Better still, they all shaped me into the person I am today.

  1. Man Repeller: Seeking Love. Finding Overalls. — Leandra Medine

Founder and editor in chief of the Man Repeller site: a humorous site for serious fashion, Medine reveals hilarious life episodes and her passions for fashion in this autobiography. Having read and followed MR for a few years, I really grew to appreciate Medine’s mix of humor and culture with fashion. In her book, she reveals that Man Repeller stemmed from a shopping trip with her friend after a bad break up, where they found items in a Forever 21 that will instinctively shun the opposite sex. From then on, Medine launched her site and encouraged women to embrace their true selves, to follow their love for fashion despite all.

Medine also highlighted her relationship status from middle school till marriage. Her bad break up with the love of her life to casual dating to finally marrying the same guy that had broken her heart.

This was an excellent read when you are feeling dull with life. Medine’s self-deprecating and brutally honest humor never fails to make me burst out laughing on the bus.

2. Fashion Design research — Ezinma Mbonu

This was a great resource for me prior to my study abroad at Central Saint Martins. Inspired by my fellow classmate from a draping class in Shanghai a few summers ago, I started to explore fashion research. At that time, I couldn’t really comprehend what it meant to do creative research. From a scientific standpoint, (I was well versed in researching peer-review articles through my psychology training) does that mean I find everything I can and read about them?

So yes, without much clue about creative research, I bought this book from Amazon. Here, CSM graduate Ezinma Mbonu, introduced an array of research methods: from primary research to color palette to fabric research to collaging methods. It was truly a gateway for me to initially understand research in the fashion context.

Then of course came CSM, and everything just fell into place.

3. The Teen Vogue Handbook

This is basically my textbook. As required reading material for my online Parsons course, it introduces the different sectors of the fashion industry.

Featuring designers, photographers, the Teen Vogue team, digital pioneers, the Handbook is an essential guide of how to make it. Though every one has different paths and experiences, one thing is certain: it is not always glamorous, and talent is nothing compared to years of hard work, dedication and underrating positivity.

My favorite part of the book was from Karl Lagerfeld’s interview:

“Be informed, not only about fashion but also about art, history, and music. […] In the days of the internet, it is easy to be informed. Also, speak other languages. Show that you are interested in things, that you want to learn. And never look bored. It can be boring sometimes in the world of fashion.”

I guess my love of ‘different things’ is putting me on the right track.

4. Girl Boss — Sophia Amoruso

Founder and former CEO of the online fashion retailer, Nasty Gal, Amoruso is not your typical boss. In this biography, she shares her journey to success from being a penniless, high school grad with no formal experience in business.

Tired of her receptionist job at the Art Institute in Cali, she started scouring vintage stores and reselling items on eBay, launching the Nasty Gal brand. Today, the brand carries new clothing, shoes, accessories under their original label along with a couple other designers.

Amoruso’s book was a powerful message to all girls: You can be your own boss if you work very very very hard.

 

This is it for now. The list is ought to grow! Stay tuned.

 

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As Asians

Before coming to America, I didn’t have too much thought about what it means to be ‘Asian’. Born in Hong Kong, studying in Beijing under a westernized curriculum, I was still identifying completely as Asian. I had a number of mixed races friends, who we call ‘halfies’, and they seem to be identifying themselves as they like.

My best friend, who possesses the heritage of British and Tibetan blood, has lived in Beijing since age 2. Although she embraces both cultures and in addition the American pop culture, she agrees that large parts of her are very ‘Asian’. She speaks perfect Mandarin, Spanish and American-accented English.

Now immersed in the Seattle community, I understand that such ‘Asian Identification’ can be very complicated outside our ‘international school bubble’. And that in America, identifying as Asian American/Asian/halfies, may have different connotations depending on your location.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a university event hosted by the Asian Student Association on campus. I went light-heartedly simply because my besties are hosting and there was free food (Hong Kong style pork buns, Vietnamese Spring rolls and Cupcakes from Royal).

One guest speaker touched upon identifying themselves using percentages. 70% Chinese, 30% Orange County or 50% Vietnamese 50% Seattle. For her it is not a portion of culture. For her, it is 100% of all heritage. Such identification is not exclusively defined by the languages you speak, your blood, your environment and most certainly not the parameters of the society. But ultimately what you believe in, what you process based on your own experience. It is your take.

What if he is a 2nd generation Japanese American who doesn’t speak Japanese? Who are we to judge?

What if she is a Chinese American who was raised in Sichuan and doesn’t speak American-accented English? Who are we to call her ‘Fresh off the boat’?

It is interesting. Most of the time, people can’t guess where I am from. The most frequent guess is the U.S. since I do have a heavy American accent, but I’ve also received guesses of Japan, China, Korea, South Africa, Taiwan, U.K, and of all places, Russia. And when asked where I identify the most, I often stumble.

My introduction usually goes like this:

“Hi, I’m Coco. I’m from Hong Kong, but I was raised in Beijing. No, I wasn’t born in the States. My dad is Malaysian but I don’t speak Malay. My grandma is Taiwanese but I didn’t grow up there. I speak Japanese because I like it. And I have a Dutch ancestor, that’s why I have freckles. Yes, they are natural.”

Just kidding, I usually stop after the Beijing part.

After years of trying, I gave up on identifying to one place. Yes, judging from heritage and appearances, I am from Hong Kong, but I can’t throw away all the cultural pieces that make me who I am. So my rule of thumb is introducing where I’m born and where I studied, all details come after I have a couple glasses of wine.

Bookstore Nostalgia

As an avid reader, I’m always guilty of buying too many books and not finishing them in years. I think I definitely got this trait from my mom. We will browse bookstores and just get lost in between the shelves while my dad and brother sit nearby playing iPads.

In honor of rectifying my love of books, I wish to introduce some of my favorite bookstores on Earth!

1.Eslite Bookstore —– Taiwan, Hong Kong, Suzhou

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Taipei Dunan Store. Photo: GuidetoTaipei.com
This store is probably my ultimate favorite. The Eslite Bookstores feature books mainly in traditional Chinese but also some sections of English. Besides the large volumes, these stores are famous for supporting emerging brands and young innovators in Taiwan. All stores have stalls of emerging fashion designers, accessories, stationaries and sometimes gallery auctions. The bookstore also include a large array of restaurants and cafes, well designed to contemplate the modern aesthetic.

Every time my mom and I fly over to Taiwan, Eslite is always our must-go destination. We will easily spend an entire day in the store, shopping from clothes to books to music.

Eslite has also opened stores in Hong Kong and Suzhou China. I’ve been to all three locations and still prefer the ones in Taiwan since they feature more emerging designer products along with books.

2. PageOne —– Hong Kong

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Harbour City HK store. Photo: Hongkonghustle.com
Pageone is my childhood. As a English as a second language learner, this is where it sparked my initial love for reading English! Living in Beijing during middle school (2007), there were not as many English books available in the city. Even if there were, the selection were limited and expensive. And mind that online shopping wasn’t that big of a hit yet.

So on holidays back in Hong Kong, I will always go to Pageone and shop for English books. I will roam around the Young adult section, this 3 aisles in the very back of the store, and pick up anything I find remotely interesting. I will choose at least 12 books and narrow them down to about 5 -6 since I simply don’t have the physical means to carry so many back to Beijing. All the while I tend to this extremely important book selecting ritual, my dad will be browsing hifi magazines in a nearby corner.

I remember first buying my copy of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli at this very store. And also buying my entire set of A Series of Unfortunate Events trip by trip. Every time I will be so excited to read the next volume that I will start reading on the bus ride back to my grandmother’s house for dinner.

Those were memorable times.

Besides the Young adult novel section, I also indulged in the array of design book collections in the store. Pageone is a very strong advocate of design in every aspect and featured some original published books of their own. So it is fair to say that my love for fashion was partly instigated by fashion brand volumes and photography books I flipped through during my formative years.

Unfortunately, the particular Pageone store that served my childhood has recently closed down. But the chain is still active in Beijing and its original location in Singapore.

3. Kinokuniya —– Seattle

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Photo: raketsuban.wordpress.com
Since moving to college, my reading time has significantly truncated. Nevertheless, I still try to indulge in a novel every so often and always go and buy my monthly need of ViVi magazine, my ultimate favorite Japanese fashion magazine on the planet.

Kinokuniya is a Japanese chain bookstore with many locations in the US, Japan and around the world. The Seattle store features a good selection of Japanese, Chinese and English novels as well as a fascinating array of anime products and manga, a much much needed form of relaxation in college. Kinokuniya also has the best Japanese magazine selection in Seattle thus far (well, actually I have not seen any other locations), featuring Vivi, Nylon, Popteen, Seventeen among others.

This is definitely one of my favorite spot in Seattle.

4. Elliot Bay Bookstore —– Seattle

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Photo: Joe Mabel, Wikipedia
Located in Capitol Hill, Elliot Bay Bookstore is filled with the most relaxed and friendliest atmosphere. Usually roaming with sunlight due to the window panes, the wood-decor store is a to-go place for many college students, art enthusiasts and tinder dates.

I always love to wonder around the fashion and photography sections and pick a seat at the nearby wooden tables. After some browsing, I might order a refillable lemonade at the Oddfellows Cafe + Bar and work on creative research.

So tell me, where are your favorite bookstores?