Only a few pages really caught my eye in Fashionable Selby, which I found overall pretty disappointing, much to my surprise given all the extremely positive reviews. The designers and other artisans featured in the book are undoubtedly more interesting than they appear here. The book's presentation of them keeps the details of their work mostly shrouded. For each designer/artisan, we are shown only a few cluttered, murky, hyper-saturated photographs. In the few cases where I found an image visually interesting, I wished the book would give some information about what I was looking at, but none of the images is accompanied by captions or explanations. Each set of images *is* accompanied, however, by a fake-spontaneous, Pollyanna-toned, nearly illegible handwritten/sketched exchange between (presumably) Selby and the artist. These tend to convey a pretentious, "insider"-y attitude that ultimately comes off as empty.
The table of contents, which is done in freehand illustration style, also takes the book's eclectic, hyper-busy M.O. to the point where it is very difficult to read.
Overall, the book takes its jumbled, bohemian, quirky aesthetic--which normally I would really quite like--to such an extreme that it becomes nearly illegible and therefore alienating. It's as if Selby wants to tantalize but ultimately exclude readers, consigning them to remain "outsiders" who can never really glimpse the arcane, esoteric worlds he (just barely) represents. This is probably the point, actually--to remind us of the exclusivity of the fashion world by excluding us even at the level of looking and reading. If the book's aim is to convey the fashion world as a world shrouded in mystery, in this it admirably suceeds. It just doesn't inspire the requisite awe in me.
The two heavier, card stock pages at the front make it very awkward and difficult to skim through the book in a leisurely way, as one might wish with an eye-candy-ish, oversized "coffee-table" style book such as this. I believe these card stock pages are designed to be ripped out--they appear perforated near the gutter--but I didn't attempt to do so, since I knew I would be returning the book.
On the good side, this is a large, attractive hardcover book with a colorful, eye-catching, texturally pleasing matte paper-over-board cover and high-quality paper and color reproductions. This is the sort of book you see featured on the tables at stores like Anthropologie. A lot of those books are very satisfying; this one, not so much.
I am a photographer, illustrator, and art historian and have had a long career in publishing. I love books about artists, artisans, designers, and craftspeople who make unusual, quirky, creative things. So I wanted to--and fully expected to--love this book. As it is, I'm kind of amazed at all the accolades.