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'Champagne Supernovas' explores '90s fashion world

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 4, 2014 at 12:08 pm •  Published: September 4, 2014
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Associated Press (AP) — "Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the '90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion" (Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster), by Maureen Callahan

"Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the '90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion" puts readers in the front row and three of the era's biggest names in the catwalk spotlight.

Author Maureen Callahan contends that the waifish, plain models and thrift-shop grunge aesthetic of '90s fashion was an antidote to the "Glamazons" and gold-plated excess of the 1980s. There was a hunger for authenticity, and no one kept it more real than designers McQueen and Jacobs, and their muse, model Kate Moss.

Rising above childhoods marked by insecurity, financial instability and a yearning to escape the conventional, they had an unquestionable and enduring influence on modern fashion.

The book's title has three clever meanings: "champagne supernova" is a lyric from a psychedelic song by the '90s band Oasis and can refer to bubbly in a martini glass rimmed with cocaine. A supernova is when a star gets so bright it explodes, the perfect metaphor for the three profiled in the book, who each flame out at least once, but come back fighting.

The pace is as quick as an H&M runway knockoff. Callahan's prose is tight, and she stitches together momentum and suspense by alternating chapters on the trio. However, it's easy to lose track of the many minor players when the narrative switches focus and the timeline bounces around.

A page turner filled with juicy behind-the-scenes tales of partying and bad behavior, the book describes all three figures as damaged but scrappy. Style-watchers will love the backstage drama, and pop culture fans may gain new appreciation for design as an art form.

A writer and editor for the New York Post, Callahan doesn't sentimentalize, and her style is blunt and detailed. She didn't speak to any of her subjects, relying on print sources and interviews with their friends and colleagues to fill in the blanks.

Callahan likens the industry to a giant chessboard, with fashion houses moving players around, and eager, young designers as pawns in their game. Many ambitious designers, including Isaac Mizrahi, Tom Ford, McQueen and Jacobs, wanted the status of running a line at Perry Ellis, Gucci, Givenchy and Louis Vuitton, but all said they were miserable once in the spot.

The corporations gave them little creative control while demanding a backbreaking productivity rate.

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