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Life Imitates Fashion

NEW YORK — There was a time when fashion designers concerned themselves simply with dressing people, a notion that seems quaint by today’s standards. Now, any designer worth his sketchbook aspires to create a complete environment, with...

Vanessa Beecroft’s 2001 performance, “Ponti Sister,” was inspired by a striped office designed for an Italian executive by Gio Ponti.

Vanessa Beecroft’s 2001 performance, “Ponti Sister,” was inspired by a striped office designed for an Italian executive by Gio Ponti.

WWD Staff

NEW YORK — There was a time when fashion designers concerned themselves simply with dressing people, a notion that seems quaint by today’s standards. Now, any designer worth his sketchbook aspires to create a complete environment, with everything from furniture and dishes to makeup and skin care products.

In other words, designers not only want to influence head-to-toe style, they want to direct the way we live.

That’s the thesis behind “Total Living,” a coffee-table tome that traces the interconnectedness between architecture, art, stores and fashion.

“More and more, we are influenced by different designers, ideologies and aesthetics,” says Stefano Tonchi, the creative director of Esquire magazine and one of the book’s editors. “Each designer has a strong point of view and is creating a real system. We kind of used the film ‘The Truman Show’ as a parallel. Truman lives in this perfect world where everything has been coordinated and designed for him. Each one of these fashion universes is a little bit of a Truman show.”

While fashion has always been about change, Tonchi says the most successful brands have established styles that transcend mere trends. “What Tom Ford has done for Gucci is create a style and a thematic universe,” Tonchi said. “It doesn’t matter if skirts are long or short. It’s very important for a company to come up with its own DNA.”

Tonchi admits that designers may have too much power. Indeed, one might feel like a style prisoner trapped within the trappings of a single brand. Of course, all but the most stridently brand-loyal jump from lifestyle to lifestyle.

Tonchi and his two co-editors, Maria Luisa Frisa, an art critic and consultant to Giorgio Armani, and her husband, Mario Lupano, a professor of architecture, found historical and pop culture references for each designer’s style. The book compares Versace’s 2000 ad campaign, in which models look like trophy wives, with Liberace’s over-the-top living room. “Total Living” makes the connection between Calvin Klein, Donald Judd and John Pawson. But, Tonchi is quick to explain: “We’re not saying Calvin Klein is copying Donald Judd. It’s a process of appropriation.”

NEW YORK — There was a time when fashion designers concerned themselves simply with dressing people, a notion that seems quaint by today’s standards. Now, any designer worth his sketchbook aspires to create a complete environment, with everything from furniture and dishes to makeup and skin care products.

In other words, designers not only want to influence head-to-toe style, they want to direct the way we live.

That’s the thesis behind “Total Living,” a coffee-table tome that traces the interconnectedness between architecture, art, stores and fashion.

“More and more, we are influenced by different designers, ideologies and aesthetics,” says Stefano Tonchi, the creative director of Esquire magazine and one of the book’s editors. “Each designer has a strong point of view and is creating a real system. We kind of used the film ‘The Truman Show’ as a parallel. Truman lives in this perfect world where everything has been coordinated and designed for him. Each one of these fashion universes is a little bit of a Truman show.”

While fashion has always been about change, Tonchi says the most successful brands have established styles that transcend mere trends. “What Tom Ford has done for Gucci is create a style and a thematic universe,” Tonchi said. “It doesn’t matter if skirts are long or short. It’s very important for a company to come up with its own DNA.”

Tonchi admits that designers may have too much power. Indeed, one might feel like a style prisoner trapped within the trappings of a single brand. Of course, all but the most stridently brand-loyal jump from lifestyle to lifestyle.

Tonchi and his two co-editors, Maria Luisa Frisa, an art critic and consultant to Giorgio Armani, and her husband, Mario Lupano, a professor of architecture, found historical and pop culture references for each designer’s style. The book compares Versace’s 2000 ad campaign, in which models look like trophy wives, with Liberace’s over-the-top living room. “Total Living” makes the connection between Calvin Klein, Donald Judd and John Pawson. But, Tonchi is quick to explain: “We’re not saying Calvin Klein is copying Donald Judd. It’s a process of appropriation.”