The SFP Lookbook written by Andrea Kiliany Thatcher is a peek into how designers put together their creative visions into something that is shown to the world and later made available for consumption. Replete with large beautiful images of designs, fabric, garment, sketches you’d taken behind the scenes and are made an observer of the creative process. Thatcher, a prolific fashion writer was moved to create this work after covering fashion week for multiple publications in a span of 10 years (including Papierdoll). We sat down with her to talk about the launch of this book.
PD: You’ve been a prolific writer in fashion circles, what made you want to document this particular fashion season in photos?
Andrea Thatcher: Well The SFP LookBook is a series of books that documents each season of New York Fashion Week that was started in Fall 2013. This edition is the first one that I worked on, and the first one that has such expanded editorial content – interviews, more editorial, street style, backstage. In my opinion, all the juicy stuff!
PD: We’ve seen trend guides in the past, yours is rife with exact images from the shows with a lack of celebrity influences, was that intentional?
Andrea Thatcher: Designers, fashion fans, we all get a ton of inspiration from celebrities, but that’s really not what this book is about. This is about celebrating fashion designers and the creative professionals behind the runway shows we see online or, if we’re lucky, in person. Certainly, since we focus on where designers find their ideas, a certain notion of celebrity can come into play. For instance Bibhu Mohapatra featured Nancy Cunard prominently on his inspiration board and was definitely influenced by her aesthetic and speaks about that in the book. But as far as a modern notion of “celebrity,” we’re not featuring how Rihanna wears these looks, no. It’s just not the topic of this particular trend guide.
PD: Your photos of Bibhu Mohapatra and other designers within their ateliers show a deep approach to the design process what (if anything) did you find remarkable when photographing their approach from concept to final product?
Andrea Thatcher: It was really interesting to see the designers’ workspaces and how they did or did not align with that designer’s aesthetic. I was also surprised to see how hands on each of these designers were, pinning dresses and rolling out fabric and measuring models. I’ve also always had a penchant in my online fashion journalism for showing the reader a garment on the rack backstage, the close up the detail – and then how it looked on the runway. This project allowed me to take this even further back and photograph the swatch of intricately braided leather that inspired a collection, the fabric before it even had a silhouette, the detritus of the design process that eventually informs a look and a collection. It was also really remarkable for me to be working with the Director of Photography Morgan Beye and her talented team of photographers. Having done my own photography for most of my career it was really nice to have a collaborator and such a insprational talent to work with.
PD: You quoted Carmen Marc Valvo as saying the Spring 2015 collection might be his most important one. Do you think the latest collection is always a designer’s most important or do they have particular seasons that they always feel more of a personal connection to versus another season?
Andrea Thatcher: I do think when you’re speaking with a designer, or when that designer is working on a collection, it does feel like the most important one. Isn’t that true of all our creative endeavors? A book you’re reading seems really important at the time but it may fade from your memory, you love a song when it comes out but it doesn’t end up making it into your permanent playlist. But, also, in this specific example of the Carmen Marc Valvo collection – it was his silver anniversary of his line, he was introducing menswear for the first time, which I just loved, and there were a lot of personal milestones happening in his life so I do think this will end up being an important collection in the arc of his career.
PD: A 320 page book like this can be timeless, though you made it specific to Spring 2015, if you had to pick your favorite season, Spring or Fall which one would it be and why?
Andrea Thatcher: I would say my favorite fashion season is fall – and I hope I get to do a book on that too! I love the fabrics and silhouettes of fall, I like layering and combining textures and feel like I dress more creatively in the fall. The spring/summer season has its own advantages though, because just throwing on a sundress comes with a freedom and ease it’s hard to replicate in the colder months.
PD: Did you ever find yourself running out ideas for the 320 pages? It seems like a lot to fill from just one location of fashion?
Andrea Thatcher: Haha, luckily I really didn’t have to come up with the ideas, only report and comment on them! It was a lot to get down, it was a lot of work, and we tried to carefully curate the best content. But it was never a matter of scrambling for ideas, if anything we were cutting things out.
PD: If you had to do the book all over again, what if anything would you change?
Andrea Thatcher: I think I have a better grasp of the amount of work involved and how much time it takes to put together a book versus writing a series of online articles. I think I’d be better prepared for that, and I actually might have included longer sections from the interviews I conducted. As I was putting it all together it felt like I was choosing these long quotes that maybe in an online publication would seem too longform, but seeing them in the book I think I could have added more.
PD: What kind of feedback have you received from the fashion public, and has anything surprised you at all in feedback?
Andrea Thatcher: So far everyone has been very supportive! We’ve heard very good things about the changes we’ve implemented and the expanded content. I’m sure the criticism will come, but so far I haven’t needed any tissues.
PD: You covered New York Fashion Week designers, was there a specific reason you went with New York versus, Milan, London or Paris?
Andrea Thatcher: Well, Schiffer Fashion Press is an imprint of Schiffer Publishing which is an American company. I think we wanted to spotlight our own compatriots. That decision had already been made when I was brought on to write the book. I would love to see us include the other fashion capitals in future projects.
PD: To the average consumer of fashion your book may come off as somewhat for the insider, do you feel that is the case or can it appeal to the masses? Is it even meant to?
Andrea Thatcher: My hope is that this book will be the insiders view FOR the masses, for the people who don’t get to go backstage at fashion week, and for whom the whole spectacle is still a fantasy. For those of us in the industry, it’s very real. It is not fantasy getting up for a 5 a.m. makeup call where you’ll maybe get 5 minutes with the makeup artist and be standing in your heels for hours and working 16 hour days in super close quarters with lots of strangers, running all over the city, for 8 to 10 days in a row. There are a lot of glamorous aspects to fashion week, and even to the things I’ve mentioned, and I’m very cognizant of the rarefied world I’m allowed to peak into twice a year and what an honor it is to have access to these talented designers and artists. But I hope that this book helps show the full gamut of the fashion week experience, from the grubby packed backstage at this obscure venue to the grand runway moment in the tents.
PD: With the ever changing nature of fashion and looking back at this book, do you see any changes or trends that you noticed directly touched on in the book?
Andrea Thatcher: I think the way street style is so rapidly changing trends is reflected in this book. When we call out trends, we show them both on the runway and on the street, and often reference a “moment” when that trend was born. I think street style, bloggers style, instagram style, these are the new horizons of fashion that we really haven’t even begun to see fully realized. We try to have a very robust social media presence during fashion week – as @SchifferFashion on twitter and instagram – because that microreporting is very important to the process these days. I’m also very active on my personal accounts under @ShinyAndrea.
PD: Outside of the big 4 fashion weeks, is there another fashion week that intrigues you?
Andrea Thatcher: I’d love to get to Tokyo Fashion Week or something in the Asian markets because I think those designers are going to be really influential on the global fashion market.
PD: What is your next project?
Andrea Thatcher: Right now it’s hard to see past promoting this book, haha. But we actually have a lot of projects in the pipeline at Schiffer Fashion Press that I’m excited about. I’m looking forward to growing the SFP imprint and bringing authors and creatives to the publisher that can tell more unique stories about the fashion industry.