Rizzoli Bookstore: My Literary Mecca

Once I read in Vogue about an equestrian loving socialite who received a new horse as an engagement gift.  I remember thinking that was the most inventive and posh thing I’d ever heard.  Remember in SATC when Carrie preferred a custom closet to Harry Winston carats? Every girl loves and needs a diamond, but these were next level examples of gift giving.  These fancifal exhibits caused me to ponder, if I could have an outlandish and over the top gift that spoke to the essence of Niki-what would it be?  Upon deep examination of my geekish soul, my dream gift would be an unlimited budget at the poshest bookstore, one filled with the most wonderfully photographed luxurious volumes that I could spend the rest of my life reading.  Where, oh where, is my Taj Mahal of coffee table couture?

Nirvana in the form of Rizzoli Bookstore just reopened their New York flagship store.  Located at 1133 Broadway @26th Street, the new building is located in the historic St. James Building in the NoMad district.  The 5,000-square foot store features 18-foot ceilings, cherry bookcases and the original brass and iron chandeliers from the original location. Completing the old world elegance is wallpaper designed specifically for the new store by Fornasetti Milano. As the illustrious Liz Lemon always says “I must go to there”.

In celebration, and I do realize that I may be the only one in Florida celebrating this NYC event, I’ve made a list of my favorite Rizzoli  books.  Rizzoli’s catalogue of great books is large and eclectic.  From the 50 year history of Nutella to Snoop Dog‘s journey to become Snoop Lion and of course, the recently uber-hyped Kim Kardashian selfie book, Rizzoli publishers continually show they offer a wide selection to feed your every minute obsession. My literary love list could go on forever, but I will keep it short so you have plenty of time to shop on your own.

1. Tom Ford

You can’t look at any stylish person or fashionista’s bookcase and NOT see this book.  It’s like a prerequisite in a class on fashion devotion.  Released in 2008, it is still the #1 bestseller in Fashion Photography on amazon.com  Published to correspond with Tom’s (we’re on a first name basis-in my mind) departure from Gucci, it shows the world he designed during his tenure with Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent from 1994 to 2004.  The master of 21st century glamour, many still consider his glossy aesthetic the epitome of sensual feminine dress.

2. Valentino:  Themes and Variations

If you’re a fan of old world fashion and style, you must have this book.  Published as a celebration of his final couture collection, this book spans Valentino’s 45 year career.  The only fashion designer allowed couture status outside of Paris, Pamela Golbin shows the up close details of his exquisite work.  It is a joy ride for anyone that has a love for the iconic designer and his designs, but it is a must have for fashion students.  The photographs are so amazing, you will think you are ingesting the sweetest confections, produced in the most sumptuous fabrics.

3. C.Z. Guest:  An American Style Icon

The WASP lifestyle of Lucy Douglas Cochrane remains a touch point for current designers.  One of the old guard C.Z. remained a touchstone of grace and style throughout her entire life.  From a young lady dressed by Mainbocher in the patrician manner to her days at Studio 54, she managed to be totally modern while keeping her foundation firmly unfussy and All American. She was, in my favorite Auntie Mame vernacular, “top drawer”.

4. The Journey of a Dress

There are so many wonderful books that celebrate the inspirational career and thoughts of the woman Diane Von Furstenberg, but this book is all about that wonderful jersey dress. Always a part of my lust list, that dress symbolizes so much about the history of women.  An alternative to the boxy masculine suits offered to working women of the 1970s, it started a revolution that corresponded with women’s rights, female equality, women’s sexual freedom and a new empire, run by a ballsy woman named Diane.   In my best DVF accent: Be a woman, wear a dress!

5. The Vanderbilt Homes

Much is made about the size of mansions built by dot com magnets and Hollywood power players.  They have nothing on the Vanderbilt family.  From tony New York townhouses that span city blocks to Newport summer mansions, their homes are over the top, extravagant and historically relevant exhibits of American architecture and design.  If you want to experience an open house like no other, buy this book.  Published more than 25 years ago, it’s a magnificent, often gilded, stain-glassed window into the gilded age.

6. 5 Beautiful Women

If you are like me and grew up reading Vogue, you remember those ads for Estee Lauder featuring Paulina Porizkova’s angular Eastern European beauty and the cool sophistication of Karen Graham.  At the time I didn’t know their names, but I knew I loved the photos. These filtered images by Victor Skrebneski cosmetics were the essence of what we know as the beauty shot.   From 1962 to 1993, all Estee ads were the result of Skrebneski’s expertise and he became a legend of fashion photography.  For a history in great fashion and celebrity photography, this book shows his technique of not just pointing his camera at his subject, but allowing his lens to capture each person’s individual casual elegance.

This is just the top of my list, I could talk into infinity about the books I love housed within those newly vaulted ceilings. If you are in New York, I hope you make a stop and enjoy this new landmark, maybe tag me in the photo if you are geeky enough to photograph yourself in front of a bookstore (which I totally am). The next time I’m in the Empire State, I plan to complete my pilgrimage.  I can’t guarantee an unlimited budget, but I know I would love my book haul as much as any blue box tied with a Tiffany bow.