Always in Fashion is the autobiography of Bert Geiger – a fashion designer from America. When this biography came to me for review – I had no idea who he is. I picked it up to read because I wanted to see the journey of a fashion designer. I had earlier read the autobiography of Wendell Rodricks who is a Goa-based fashion designer. The world of a fashion designer is as far as it can be from me. Probably, this is the reason that their stories fascinate me. They take me to the back door of the glitzy fashion world.
The author of Always in Fashion, Bert Geiger lived as a young boy in Brooklyn. Grew up dealing with his health problems. He wanted to become a priest. But ends up being a hat designer with help from his mother and later his wife. He presents his life as a series of struggles – mostly financial ones. It seems he never had enough money. And it was money that was dictating most of his ventures and adventures rather than a creative energy.
Even when he is deep in debt, which is persistent, he still manages to take holidays in exotic locations with his wife. Is this the stereotypical American life of those decades where being on debt was never looked down.
I found the story of Bert Geiger’s rendezvous with India – quite interesting. It brought alive the India of the 1980s with its license raj. It is good to know that even in those times many businessmen were running thriving global businesses, even from smaller towns like Ujjain. I also learned that Nehru suits were famous in the 1960s. And even the young Americans aspired to have one.
There are a lot of mistakes in the India section like it says Goa is 100 miles south of Mumbai – a grossly wrong figure. Or that Goa got independence in 1951 – off by good 10 years. These mistakes make me wonder if they are across the book. I could only figure out the ones I know.
Most of the times Bert Geiger is nice about India, and when he complains those complaints are genuine like unhygienic conditions or no sense of time or quality. We still face these issues. However, at one place, I see a hint of racism when he says – these men whose wives wore only Saris, were not educated in quality demand of Euro-American markets. What has the wives wearing Sari has to do with men not adhering to quality standards. At another place, he mentions that flower garlands that he was offered were later distributed to workers of the factory for them to offer to deities in their homes – shows a complete lack of respect for the culture.
Quotes that I liked in this book:
For all have a genius for something, for laughter or dancing or living…
Everyone was hoping that a change in fashion direction would encourage women to buy again – how I wish women knew this ugly truth of the fashion industry.
Language is easy. There are too many details of bank accounts and numbers that kind of alienates you as a reader. I could only understand that life of a designer is dependent on different labels hiring him. He is a puppet in the hands of the label. I wish the author had focussed a bit more on the creative part of his craft. I wish I could learn a bit more about the design angles. How the designs are made for a specific group of people. Having said that, the author does mention that his aim of writing this book was to tell the future designers that it is not easy to be a designer. If you are entering this field for the visible glamor, be aware of what goes behind the scenes.
Take your call.