The 1MOQ Syllabus

10 Books Every Fashion Person Should Read

Key Takeaways

  1. This is 1MOQ's very own syllabus: a list in non-hierarchical order of books related to fashion in any possible way, selected for you by yours truly, the editor of 1MOQ.
  2. You can judge a book by its cover! And you can judge a book by its style. After all, what it matters is: not every "fashion book" must be about fashion. Style is everywhere in literature, and you can learn from it.
  3. Buy books, read books, keep books, re-read books—and again! This is what fashion education means.

Welcome to the first iteration of the 1MOQ Syllabus, a list in non-hierarchical order of books related to fashion in any possible way, selected for you by yours truly, the editor of 1MOQ. This list doesn’t aim at being over-encompassing, neither it claims to be exactly right. These are titles that are fashion-adjacent, rather than fashion-centered—a quality that I have always appreciated in literature. Whether you are a designer, a stylist, an editor, or a buyer, if you wish to succeed in the fashion business, you need to learn things the hard way: reading. So let’s get to it, and be ready to DM your trusted bookshop to find any of these amazing suggestions. Thank me later!

Glenn O’Brien, Intelligence for Dummies
Glenn O’Brien was the most visionary cultural critic operating across politics, society, fashion, and art. Irreverent, razor-sharp, and magnetic, his cultural analysis has influenced an insanely vast array of writers including this one. In this recently-published volume, essays spanning from the 1980s up to the 2010s provide a generous overview of O’Brien’s oeuvre—a magnificent dive within the social fabric where art, music, and fashion are woven together through sleek, crystalline prose. First-person narration and opinionated criticism might make O’Brien an anti-journalist, although his digressions on costume, style, and branding will make every fashionista day-dream about the long-gone NYC underground scene, Warholian glam, and fashion-week parties around the world.

Natasha Stagg, Sleeveless
I have read this book a couple of times and I keep coming back to it whenever I feel I need to be reminded of the definition of “2010s cool.” In her collection of essays, published by French-theory fortress Semiotext(e), Natasha Stagg dissects the themes of fashion, media, and art with extreme ease—the author holds, and has held, professional roles among this spectrum, which makes it all more intriguing. Are you in your twenties? Do you have a brand? Read this book.

William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
This book has everything: plot, action, sci-fi, and most importantly, style. Cayce Pollard, the 32-year-old trend forecaster flying from New York to London and Tokyo in-loop, is perhaps the most stylish character ever created in fiction. Her staple, a black MA-1 bomber jacket, has since obsessed fashion people to the point that the manufacturers have started making the jacket in black—a colorway invented by Gibson in the novel, which was not present on the market before the book release. If you don’t think that’s enough to read this book, I don’t know what it will be.

Douglas Coupland, Generation X
The term “Generation X” existed under the form of a book title before it went on to be used as the definition of an actual demographic cohort following the baby boomers and preceding the millennials. In the book, Douglas Coupland’s style has a syncopated rhythm, filled with name-drops, brand mentions, and neologisms that serve to build the social architecture around three creative-class castaways.

Philipp Ekardt, Benjamin on Fashion
This one is for the theory-heads, but it wouldn’t hurt to read it though! How brilliant is this book, I cannot recommend it further. As a social discipline, fashion acts through a code that’s both visual and historical, and if you design, sell, promote, or write about garments you can no longer ignore this book. In the volume, the author reconstructs Walter Benjamin’s complex, fragmentary, yet influential ideas about fashion, outlining the German philosopher’s theory of fashion as a sociological field.

Roland Barthes, The Fashion System
Another one that you might want to have on your bookshelf, this *definitive* book on fashion semiotics is the key to access maximum-level knowhow on image circulation in the fashion industry. Brought to you by the legendary theorist and creator of the “signifier/signified” paradigm, The Fashion System is no easy read, yet a necessary tool for deep critical analysis in the fashion realm. Educate the youth!

Naomi Klein, No Logo
Are you into branding? Are you into brands? No matter what, Naomi Klein’s No Logo is the bible to understand the political power of brands. Split into four parts—"No Space", "No Choice", "No Jobs", and "No Logo"—the book dissects the negative effects of brand-oriented corporate activity, while discussing various methods people have taken in order to fight back.

Bret Easton Ellis, Glamorama
Is this possibly the best book ever? Posed this as a question because I keep asking myself—not rhetorically—whether Glamorama is the book to decode contemporary glamour and celebrity. Of course it is, and that’s why you shouldn’t wait any longer to read it. With a kind of E! Entertainment-on-crack vibe, this novel is a masterpiece of satire against celebrity culture and fandom-capitalism. You cannot say you get fashion until you understand where it proliferates—high-luxury society. Do it! 

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
Luckily, Giovanni’s Room is not a fashion book, in the sense of talking about fashion. Although, this brilliant novel by James Baldwin decodes masculinity in clamorous detail and accomplishes a sublime subversion of the accepted stereotypes of virility. Although not a “fashion book” in the strictest form, it doesn’t take much to understand how this title has influenced—and continues to do so—such a great range of experimenters in the fashion industry taking risks, and pushing the boundaries of gender identity.

Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp
Well, the 2019 MET Gala was built around this book so I cannot see why not reading it. The 64-page little volume deciphers a whole aesthetic sensibility: bad taste as an artistic choice. “Camp is artificial, passionate, serious,” Sontag writes—something that’s so off and too-much that becomes legit, if done intentionally. In a pure Donatella Versace-style, you should read this classic and not be afraid of extreme artifice and over-the-topness.