Evan's Reviews > Influence

Influence by Mary-Kate Olsen
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's review
Aug 04, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: 2009-reads, in-my-collection-formerly-and-sold
Read in August, 2009

My pal Melanie here got me onto this book, and I have to admit, the Olsen's oddly twisted cherubic visages kind of intrigue me, so I thought I'd go to the library and check the thing out. When I learned not one library in the city of Louisville had it, I got obsessed by the idea that I couldn't get it, and, of course, at that point had to have it, come hell or high water. It was no longer an issue of the book being something I wanted to read all that much, but the idea that it was being denied me that motivated me to buy a copy off Amazon for $15 plus shipping.

So, what is this book, exactly?
In a nutshell, each chapter is an interview the twins conducted with their fashion heroes, or people somehow related to the fashion industry: producers, models, journalists, designers, artists, and so on. Most of them come from the prehistoric days of the '60s, '70s and '80s, and, in the worldview of the Olsens, like a lot of kids of their generation, the world formed out of some primordial ooze that congealed and hardened in 1970. There was little history before that.

So who are their heroes, the ones who have "influenced" their "philosophy" and lifestyles? Diane von Furstenberg, Christian Louboutin, Karl Lagerfeld, Bob Colacello, Lauren Hutton, Peter Beard, Alexandre de Betak, and many more.

I have to admit, I don't really give two shits about fashion, although I do wish average people would dress better. So, many of the names in this book are slightly recognizable to me or not at all.

The point is, then, am I learning anything reading this? And the answer is yes. Quite a lot, actually. And no, it's not all the things I thought I would glean, which is that the Olsens are spoiled brats who like to go to fancy restaurants all over the world to interview their fashion heroes and turn it into a vainglorious and largely self-serving, heavily illustrated coffee table book. There are cringe inducing moments in the interviews of ego stroking among these elites, but this is the way these people talk to one another. It's actually kind of insightful to see this in print.

The thing is, as much as I went into this book thinking I was going to pen a snarky pan, I am actually instead struck by the fact that I'm learning a lot about how the fashion world operates and who the people are who pull the strings in it. Whether -- like the Olsens -- you think that fashion is all that important, the twins do know their subject fairly well, do know the personages, and know the right questions to ask. The first, interview, with Peter Beard, does not bode well for the rest of the book; it's a bit trite, but I blame the subject rather than the Olsens, and things do improve after that. The team interview by MK and A with Bob Colacello is actually quite a good job; they take on one of the main journalists who documented the era of Andy Warhol's Factory days and elicit a fascinating and thought-provoking interview that covers far more than fashion, including the changing role of media in society.

So far, I've only read three of the chapters, but however much a vanity project this is, it is pretty informative for a fashion-world neophyte like myself. The Olsens are pretty, but this book seems to to offer evidence that they're no dummies.

reading on....

Well, I forgot to mention that the Olsens are shown in this book modeling a good deal of the weird shit designed by their "influencers." Oddly, they don't look at all comfortable in the stuff most of the time. Everything seems to fit them like loose skin on a shar-pei dog. Anyway, the book is an uber-paean to materialism with some Plato and Walt Whitman thrown in once in awhile to give things a pseudo philosophical justification. The book is about stuff and the people who make it, and the worship of same. For those who fantasize about having the ready cash (and plenty more where that came from) to walk into any store anywhere and buy it out (like the Olsens can, and undoubtedly have) this is a sort of dream book.

I like the girls. I mean they are girls and they like fashion, aesthetics, the feel of material, the fetishism and eroticism of it. Why the fuck not?

FINAL: The book wore me down a bit. I found a lot of these people insufferable, and their art in a lot of cases to be overrated. Still, I learned some things, and the book overall is quite attractive. It's printed on both glossy paper and a very thick non-glossy paper that is very pleasant to touch.

Oh, I managed to re-sell the book, so I came out even-Steven.

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Reading Progress

08/07/2009 page 21
08/23/2009 page 184
67.65% "page 184, Mary Kate interviewed by Ashley: "How would you like to die?" Answer: "In your arms." Fuck yeah, right? I like these girls."
05/30/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Evan long story...

message 2: by Kristin (new)

Kristin Myrtle why?

message 3: by Evan (last edited Aug 10, 2009 06:51PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan too long to tell...
Preliminary review coming presently. Review will explain.

message 4: by Melanie (new)

Melanie I guess that's a keeper and I have to find a copy on my own. ;)

message 5: by Evan (last edited Aug 11, 2009 12:25PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan Hey Mel, Don't worry. My aim is still to send this to you. I just have to learn to let go. The book is kind of a fun oddity.

message 6: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Enjoy! I'm always happy when a man becomes interested in fashion :)

message 7: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Sometimes I wish I was more interested in fashion than I am. My husband usually lets me know when it's time to go clothes shopping. :)

Evan I'm not interested in it, per se, but this book is a good enough intro to many of the major figures in the field. It fills a bit of a gap in my general knowledge of things.

message 9: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Evan, do you consider yourself better dressed than the average man?

message 10: by Evan (new) - rated it 3 stars

Evan only slightly, but I could do a lot better. I probably need a lot of help there.

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