Fashion Legend Charles James Revealed in “Portrait of an Unreasonable Man”

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Images courtesy Rizzoli

Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man | By Michele Gerber Klein; Rizzoli International; $37.50  

Considered one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century, Charles James built quite the resume over the span of his 40-year career, including a series of high profile partnerships and worldwide recognition. The legacy of the late designer (who was born in 1906) continues to impress — both within the world of fashion and beyond. charles james book coverFor example, when the Museum of Modern Art opened its 2014 retrospective exhibition of James’ designs titled Beyond Fashion, it received critical raves. But this sort of acclaim often obscures the hardships he endured in his personal life. James was a bit of a walking contradiction: He was a small man with a big, flashy personality. He was openly gay, yet he fell for, married and started a family with a woman. But whatever personal dichotomies he was seeking to reconcile, James was all the while revolutionizing the fashion industry with ideas that are still capturing the imagination today. For the first time ever, author Michele Gerber Klein provides readers with an intimate glimpse inside the life of “America’s First Couturier” — painting a portrait of the kind of man James truly was through stories from those close to him. What is revealed is a man who could be nurturing and generous when he chose to be, but who also had a big ego, a drug problem, and a short temper — traits that led to both family and public feuds that in turn paved the way for lawsuits and bankruptcies. Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man may be a non-traditional (or, at the very least, non-chronological) biography, but is nevertheless a fitting work to honor an extraordinary life.

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Last modified: June 14, 2018

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