A fun look at the fashion world, March 25, 2015
“Silk for the Feed Dogs”, a novel by Jackie Mallon, follows Irish farmer’s daughter Kat Connelly as she works her way through the fashion world from the “fashion” house of a bottom feeder in London to the top of high fashion in Milan, all the while showing glimpses of this world from an insider’s point of view.
I’m sure a lot of people are currently asking why I read a book about the fashion world. A sense of style that I like drew me into this book that had at least a bit to do with the main character’s sense of style. In my case, I fell in love with Ms. Mallon’s illustrations for the book.
The illustrations are stylized in a way that says “fashion designer”, with some parts vague and others highly detailed, usually utilizing a bit of material for a skirt or other piece of clothing making the illustrations mixed media drawings. These drawings had classic vintage mixed with the modern. But that’s not what caught my eye. The drawings all have life and personality. More than that, there is humor and even a little whimsy. Of course the drawings don’t make the book but they made me curious.
By the time I finished the first chapter, which was set on an Irish farm, I decided I could use the same description for Ms. Mallon’s writing as I could her drawing. Classic yet modern, stylish, highly detailed mixed with vagueness at the perfect percentages, full of life and personality, written with humor and maybe a touch of whimsy.
And the main character, Kat, could be described much the same.
I liked the writing style. It made the novel a pleasant read. As the book went on I think the sense of humor actually grew. I’ll admit I truly laughed out loud, not simply lol, but a true laugh, when I read the description of the first time Kat saw the King at work. There were other places that were just as funny.
Although mostly light hearted, there was substance. Kat was portrayed as a real woman with wants and desires, with good points and bad. Many of the people she met on her journey through fashion-dom were purposefully caricatures, but every so often Ms. Mallon would take out her sharp designer’s pen and add detail to the vaguely drawn caricature and create a living, breathing 3-D character. And Kat stayed true to herself as a “real” person throughout.
I’ll admit I know next to nothing about the fashion world. That didn’t hold me back. I knew enough to understand pretty much everything. I’m sure I missed a higher level of what Ms. Mallon was saying in a few places because I don’t know the exact characteristics of this material or that, but even the limited knowledge of this straight male who has never opened a fashion magazine could catch the points and understand the humor. Even when the joke was deep into some detail of fashion I think I still got it. But most of the humor was about people and situation. The “types” that people Kat’s world transcend industry. OK, I’ve been to Italy twice and have read a lot about it. It’s possible I may have a slightly better understanding of some of what she says about that country and its citizens than someone who has never left middle America. Even so, if you know nothing about fashion, Italy, Milan, etc. this book shouldn’t go over your head, you should be able to “get it”.
So, did you get the sense that I liked the book? I’ve read a handful of excellent books this year, but I do have to say that “Silk for the Feed Dogs” was my favorite so far. It was a fun read and highly recommended.