Inspired by the discovery of long-overlooked interviews conducted just before his death, this is the first biography of the visionary fashion designer Charles James.
Christian Dior described him as the inspiration for the “New Look.” Salvador Dalí called his work “soft sculpture,” and Virginia Woolf exclaimed, “He is a genius.”
As George Bernard Shaw tells us, only unreasonable men change the world. This portrait of the life and times of Charles James—winner of two Coty awards, and the subject of a 2014 Metropolitan Museum of Art show—draws on the glamour of Europe in the 1930s, and the dazzle of New York City from the ’40s through the ’70s as it travels with James from his birth to privilege in England in 1906 and follows his career through his complex and turbulent relationships with exceptional women such as Elsa Schiaparelli and Eleanor Lambert, ending with his penurious death in New York’s fabled Chelsea Hotel.
As engrossing as a novel, as dramatic as grand opera, James’s story provokes, rivets, and inspires.
“A luscious exposé of a game-changing designer who revolutionized the fashion industry...Interestingly, Klein pushes the biographical genre by writing about her subject through the stories of those who surrounded him.“ — Kirkus Reviews
"I loved this book, and could not help but admire the man’s exquisite if sometimes detrimental resistance to compromise, right to the end."
— Denis Ferrara, New York Social Diary
"James seems to have met, befriended, loved, or reviled most of the 20th century's great fashion and style makers, from Paul Poiret to Antonio Lopez, and this book is a who's who of those glittering, fascinating characters. The impossible Mr. James emerges as one of the most compelling of them all."
— Hamish Bowles, Vogue
"Peppered with society drama, his patrician connections, and the financial and personal pitfalls that haunted him, she also memorializes the remarkable women that inspired the creative genius of James. The author draws on close to 40 hours of interviews—filmed by Anton Perich, with R. Couri Hay and James in 1977—shortly before his death."
— Jeena Sharma, Interview Magazine
“A luscious exposé of a game-changing designer who revolutionized the fashion industry” and also says “Klein pushes the biographical genre by writing about her subject through the stories of those who surrounded him. Refreshingly, the result is neither a chronological nor traditional biography.“
“James seems to have met, befriended, loved, or reviled most of the 20th century’s great fashion and style makers, from Paul Poiret to Antonio Lopez, and this book is a who’s who of those glittering, fascinating characters. The impossible Mr. James emerges as one of the most compelling of them all.”
“Klein’s James…faithfully parallels the real man both inside and outside of the atelier, as she meticulously documents the period that became his legacy. Peppered with society drama, his patrician connections, and the financial and personal pitfalls that haunted him, she also memorializes the remarkable women that inspired the creative genius of James.
This talented British couturier, pioneer of the spiral-cut dress and the puffer jacket, is often overlooked today. This uproarious biography rectifies that, introducing us to the ne plus ultra of queeny fashion designers, while taking us on a gossipy tour of transatlantic high society."
“As this very readable account makes clear, James was admired by all as the world’s greatest fashion creator. Everybody who was anybody, from Paul Poiret to Antonio Lopez, who at some time crossed Charles James’ path, all have vivid memories of him, which is why this book is such a page-turner."
“Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man […] presents a riveting look at the infamous designer whose legacy has been informing fashion for decades.”
“The book […] is a perfect description of Charles James’s life and work through his own and other people’s eyes, it gives you an unbiased perception of how much his revolutionary designs had influenced fashion throughout the 1920’s to the 1970’s…”
“This reader was actually rationing his reading time so that the enjoyment would be prolonged as long as possible.”
… the book focuses “on his relationships with industry insiders and socialites, such as Anne Armstrong-Jones and Dominique de Menil, both of whom served as James’s muses, Klein shows how James “set the standard for style in the Western World” for mid-20th-century haute couture. ” It also states that “James spent his last years writing letters to his former friends and associates—a handful of which are excerpted here. The result is a juicy account of the influence of an often-overlooked figure in the history of fashion.”
[Charles James was also] “very influential to artists of the 30s, 40s, 50s, and even Andy Warhol” … “He was an artist who was making clothes.” … “He put dresses in museums.”
In W magazine’s “Simply the Best” Editor-in-Chief, Stefano Tonchi added Portrait of an Unreasonable Man to his wish list, naming Charles James the "spirit" behind the Daniel Day Lewis character in the Academy Award-winning film Phantom Thread.
Michèle was interviewed as part of thier "Conversations at the Heart of the Matter" series.
Charles James' creations were fêted by Dalí, painted by Matisse and worn by Virgina Wolfe. A new biography explores his audacious, groundbreaking vision.
Anton Perich Presents The Charles James Story with R. Coury Hay