GOD, I FEEL INSPIRED.
I woke up with the dawn this morning. At least, I thought it was the dawn. I’ve just bought one of those superintelligent artificial-daylight alarm clocks that wake you up exactly like a natural sunrise. Much better than being woken by a horrible unnatural alarm clock. It does all kinds of clever things with your metabolism, and your brain chemistry, and something called your Arcadian rhythms, and you jump out of bed feeling all calm, and well rested, and ready to face the day ahead.
I must have read the instructions wrong, though. The stupid thing started glowing radioactively at eighteen minutes past two, which only made me feel furious, and sleep deprived, and ready for absolutely nothing. I couldn’t make the horrible orange light fade back down again, so eventually I staggered into the bathroom, dumped it in the bathtub, and covered it with two large bath sheets. I think I must have gone back to sleep somewhere around half past three.
When I woke up again—just now—nice, proper, natural daylight has started streaming through the blinds. I do a couple of energizing yoga-type stretches, which ought to sort out my metabolism and my Arcadian rhythms very nicely, then I head into the kitchen to make my first strong black coffee of the day.
Now that I’m going to be a Top International Fashion Designer, strong black coffee is probably going to form the cornerstone of my diet. It’s very important to start as I mean to go on.
It’s quite difficult to actually enjoy strong black coffee, though. I did try to get into it once before, when I was going to be a bestselling Novelist, but all I ever ended up doing was drinking lovely yummy mochaccinos instead. But this time I’m going to be seriously disciplined. When I’m the public face (and figure) of my own fashion label, I won’t be able to get away with any extra poundage. My ideal customer—I just call her The Woman I Design For—is extremely discerning. Whatever will she think of me if I go about the place looking a little bit on the chunky side simply because I can’t resist the temptation of a delicious, frothy coffee?
I have to say, though, I think The Woman I Design For would be a bit of a cow if she wouldn’t even overlook one little mochaccino a day.
I mean, here I am, thinking of nothing but how I can make her look fashion-forward and fabulous, and she’s getting all uppity about a measly little two hundred calories of caffeine and sugar I need to kick-start my morning.
Actually, only a hundred and eighty-three calories, according to the packet.
You know, I think The Woman I Design For is just going to have to get over it. I’ll go for a jog round Battersea Park this evening. That ought to placate her.
Mug of yummy mochaccino in hand, I head back to the bedroom to get on with the most important part of my day so far: assembling my Signature Look.
I mean, where would Donatella Versace be without the leopard skin and the tango tan? Or Stella McCartney without the snazzy little tailored trouser suits? And look at Vivienne Westwood, with all that punky hair and distressed tartan. If I’m going to make it as a Top International Fashion Designer, the right Signature Look is absolutely vital.
OK. Well, obviously, I don’t own any leopard skin. My wardrobe is pretty thin on snazzy little tailored trouser suits, too. I think I have got a tartan skirt lurking in here somewhere, one that Mum ordered for me from the Boden catalogue several years ago, but it’s not distressed. Though I was pretty distressed when Mum gave it to me, if that counts. I mean, it had “Fun” colored buttons, for heaven’s sake.
Hang on a moment. Maybe Fun Buttons could be my Signature Look?
. . . Stunning Isabel Bookbinder dazzled at her close friend and mentor Valentino’s birthday party, in a black lace gown accessorized with her Signature Fun Buttons . . .
. . . high priestess of style Isabel Bookbinder looked cutting edge as ever at this year’s Glastonbury, working denim hot pants and a vintage Panama trimmed with her Signature Fun Buttons . . .
What I’m really after is something elegant and fabulous. Something that expresses my fashion personality. Something The Woman I Design For would sell her granny to buy. Some classic black trousers, perhaps, and this little stripy T-shirt, for easy Parisian chic? Then some high-heeled loafers, a long string of beads, and, for that final twist of Gallic je ne sais pas, this navy blue beret I picked up from Comptoir des Cotonniers last winter.
But when I turn to look in the mirror, I don’t look chic and Parisian at all. Shove a baguette under one arm and I could be on my way to audition for an ill-advised remake of ’Allo ’Allo! With a bit of white face paint and big black panda eyes colored in with eyeliner, I could be about to begin an ill-advised Marcel Marceau mime routine.
OK. Back to the drawing board. I suppose I could try mixing Designer, Vintage, and High Street. It’s what all the fashion magazines are always saying you should do. I’ll team my Stella McCartney pistachio green silk pleated skirt (the Designer bit) with an off-white Karen Millen blouse (the High Street bit) and this gorgeous rose pink brocade duster coat with bracelet-length sleeves that looks like it’s Vintage but is actually brand new from a mother-of-the-bride shop in Shepton Mallet. Well, if The Woman I Design For is anything like me, she’ll be too scared to go into proper vintage shops, too, so it’s a perfectly valid solution.
I love it. It’s cool, it’s cutting edge, and I’m pretty sure it’s got more fashion personality than you could shake a stick at!
Signature Look cracked, for now at least, I take a few mind-clearing yoga-style breaths, sit down at the writing desk in the corner of the bedroom, and reach for my Mood Book.
You know, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found out the way Top International Fashion Designers work. Only a couple of days after I’d decided I was really going to go for this fashion thing, I found this article about John Galliano in an old copy of InStyle. He went on about his “Process” a lot, and his “Fashion Vision,” but the most useful thing I learned was that he collects all his ideas for his new Collection on what he calls a Mood Board. What he does is, he starts out with a single word that sums up what he wants the Collection to reflect—Cabaret, say, or Tranquillity, or Brothel. Then he just gathers together all the things that inspire him and bungs them up on a piece of corkboard in his airy Parisian studio. Lines of poetry, scraps of fabric, pictures torn out of magazines, that kind of thing.
Well, obviously this is perfect for my Process, too! I’ve got poetry books rattling about the place somewhere. And I’ve got loads of unwanted clothes given me by Mum that I can hack up for scraps of fabric. And I tear things out of magazines all the time. It’s perfect!
I’ve gone one better than John Galliano, though, even though I say so myself. I mean, corkboard is all very well, but it’s not the most exciting thing you can buy. And seeing as I’m not yet in possession of my own airy Parisian studio, or any studio for that matter, I thought I’d need something a little bit more portable.
Smythson doesn’t actually do formal Mood Books—I did check—but they do have these really gorgeous little pocket notebooks that say Fashion Notes, which is perfectly suitable for the time being.
I open up my brand-new pink notebook, which is sitting on the desk in front of me.
Right. So. What one, single word sums up everything I want to say in my debut clothing Collection? I mean, one word is easy-peasy, isn’t it? Not like trying to write a whole novel, or something, where you have to write tons and tons and tons of them.
I pick up my special propelling pencil.
Then I put it down again.
Then I pick it up again.
God, I feel inspired.
I mean, really, really inspired.
Now all I need is a Debut Collection.
IN THIS WEEK’S HIYA! MAGAZINE, TOP
INTERNATIONAL FASHION DESIGNER ISABEL BOOKBINDER SHOWS US AROUND HER STUNNING CHELSEA APARTMENT AND TELLS OF HER EXCITEMENT AT THE LAUNCH OF HER EXCLUSIVE NEW FRAGRANCE.
Stunning Isabel, 27, opens the door to welcome us inside. Clad only in a silk dressing gown that skims her slim skinny size 4 or 6 figure, her long, completely frizz-free hair pulled back in a low-maintenance but chic ponytail, Isabel is only just out of bed after last night’s fabulous launch party for her brand-new perfume, Isabel no. 5 Acqua d’Isabel Isabelissimo. Stocked exclusively at Harvey Nichols in London and Bergdorf Goodman in New York, waiting lists for the Top International Fashion Designer’s first fragrance have already run into the thousands. We settle down with the brunette dynamo in her fabulous living room, where, over strong black coffee, Isabel opens her heart about her fabulously fashionable existence.
HIYA!: So, we hear it was quite a party last night! All your Top International Fashion Designer friends were there to support you—Stella, Marc, Miu Miu Miucer Mrs. Prada, and Valentino, of course. . . .
IB: Dear Val. He’s such a great friend and mentor.
HIYA!: This was all to launch Isabelissimo—a wonderful mix of frangipani and white musk patchouli jasmine flowers and green scents. Tell us, Isabel, where did you get your inspiration for the fragrance?
IB: Well, as always, I found myself truly inspired by The Woman I Design For. I feel like I know her so well—a strong sassy free-spirited independent woman who isn’t afraid to be feminine alluring sexy glamorous.
HIYA!: And who also isn’t a miserable old body fascist.
IB: That too. Absolutely.
HIYA!: Fragrance may be your latest exciting venture, but clothes were where it all began for Isabel Bookbinder. . . .
IB: That’s right. I was just a girl with a portable Mood Book and a dream I don’t think I knew, when I started work on my first-ever Collection that sunny September morning in a one-bedroom flat in South London, just how big my brand would become.
HIYA!: But now your label Isabel B is feted by the fashion cognoscenti and worn by A-listers all over the world, while your newer diffusion line, Izzy B by Isabel Bookbinder, is finding a whole new generation of fans in Harvey Nichols and Selfridges!
IB: Yes, it is quite good, isn’t it?
HIYA!: Could you talk us through a typical day in your glamour-filled life?
IB: As a Top International Fashion Designer, there’s no typical day! I might be auditioning models for my latest catwalk show, meeting an Oscar hopeful to discuss her awards-show gown, pounding the streets of Manhattan to find the perfect Fifth Avenue location for my new boutique. . . . Of course, wherever I go, I’m always thinking about my latest Collection, jotting down a single word here or a single word there in my handy portable Mood Book. That’s a very important part of my Process.
HIYA!: Goodness, it sounds much harder work than we’d thought! Now on to your private life, if we may. . . . We’ve all heard the rumors about you and Daniel Craig. . . .
IB: Daniel and I met when I chose him to be the face and body of my new underpants menswear Collection. We’re just good friends.
HIYA!: So you won’t comment on the photographs of you two breakfasting on his hotel terrace at Cap-Ferrat?
IB: [blushing] I’m afraid not. The paparazzi can be very intrusive, and my Daniel is a very private man.
HIYA!: So, Isabel, what’s next for your luxury-goods empire?
IB: Well, I have three brand-new Emporio Bookbinders opening worldwide later this month, so there are lots of launch parties to arrange. I’m also hard at work coming up with a name for another diffusion line—at the moment, we’re thinking Iz by Isabel Bookbinder for Izzy B by Isabel Bookbinder. And if I have the time, I’ll design the bottle for another new fragrance, which will be an exotic blend of tuberose vanilla lemonbalm and scents.
HIYA!: While still hard at work on your new couture clothing Collection, of course!
IB: Of course. I’ve started assembling a new Mood Book already.
HIYA!: Isabel Bookbinder, thank you for your time.
IB: Thank you. It was a pleasure.
© 2009 Holly McQueen
So learning from the very best, the future’s looking bright for Isabel Bookbinder: Top International Fashion Designer. Within days she’s putting the final touches on her debut collection, has dreamed up a perfume line (Isabelissimo), and is very nearly a friend of John Galliano. Yet nothing ever runs smoothly for Isabel, and fabulously fashionable as her life may be, it soon seems to be spiraling a little out of her control.
With her characteristic humor, charm, and tendency to stumble into sticky situations, Isabel Bookbinder is an irresistible heroine you’re sure to fall in love with.
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Reading Group Guide
Isabel Bookbinder, an aspiring Top International Fashion Designer, has many comedic encounters while pursuing her latest dream job. Initially considered a “failure” with no direction in life, she struggles to gain the respect of her family. Through lying to get her foot in the fashion industry’s door, she is able to get a head start on her career. Isabel uses the support of her friends to get through the hardships related to romantic and professional relationships. After having a rocky beginning, Isabel’s life starts to turn around and come together as she realizes the necessary steps she must take to obtain her dream.
- Throughout the novel Isabel talks about not wanting to become a “Stepford Wife.” How does this direct her decisions within her relationships with Will and Ben? What actions show their perspective on gender roles? Do you think social class plays a role in one’s atti