Even for the most culturally-savvy business types, the world of fashion can be daunting. Everyday, fashion people will mention places, names, books, buildings, restaurants and other references that they assume you must know: Truman Capote. Madeleine Vionnet. Diana Vreeland. Zaha Hadid. The Faena Hotel. Leigh Bowery. Patrick Demarchelier. The Misshapes. Jane Birkin. Matthew Barney. Marcel Breuer. Mies van der Rohe. Steven Meisel.
These cultural references form the basis of evaluating and understanding what is going on in fashion today. So, while you may not need to have curatorial knowledge of Dior's New Look or be able to map out the influence of Oscar Neimeyer's architecture on fashion, it is still important to have some basic understanding of how all of this fits together.
Of course, it's a body of knowledge that will take years to build up, but to get you started, we have discovered what may be the fashion business professional's version of a high-school cheat sheet for cultural credibility.
Nancy MacDonell, the talented editor we work with over at Style.com, has crammed years of her cultural knowledge (and that of other editors and designers we respect like Jason Campbell and Gentry Lane) into a compact book titled In the Know: The Classic Guide to Being Cultured and Cool
This book will not only help you understand the cultural context that influences many of fashion's most talented creatives, it will hopefully also be the start of a journey to explore the ideas and themes that you find most interesting -- which is even more rewarding.
And, next time you're reading the (sometimes incomprehensible) show notes that are left on the seats to entertain you as you wait (and wait) for a fashion show to begin, you may actually begin to decipher those notes to help you to understand where the designer is coming from...as opposed to trying to make sense of it all in a vacuum.