When I first read this title I thought what……….then I read it was part of a quote from the Fashion Icon, Daphne Guinness, “If I eat, I can’t work. I’ll eat when I’m Dead.”
The story begins with the death of one of the fashion magazine RAGE stylists, Hillary Whitney, who is found dead in a locked conference room of the magazine’s headquarters in New York. It is ruled that she died as a side effect of the pressure of being thin (not the case!) Our protagonist, Catherine (Cat) Ono, Hillary’s best friend and co-worker at RAGE, doesn’t believe this to be true. Like any good mystery in the States or the UK, our heroine becomes “involved” with a detective, in this cases NYPD Detective Mark Hutton. Along with her colleague, Bess Bonner, Cat sets out to find the truth to Hillary’s death. We are taken through the often told tale of the seedy side of the fashion business (I’ll give my opinion on that in a bit), party girls (and guys), sex, drugs and rock and roll. Nothing new here. It gets interesting when we start hearing about drug induced creams and lotions and the billion dollar cosmetic industry and how all this ties together. Of course, as in The Devil Wears Prada, everyone is stunning, tiny, ambitious and extremely well dressed, accessorized, coiffed and made-up in the latest whatevers!!! I’m not going to go into the plot as it does a few turns, nothing terribly mysterious but a fun ride none the less.
Some reviews I have read thought it was a satire, perhaps, but I found it to be exploitive. As you know, I have worked in the fashion industry my entire life, am I saying these things don’t happen, of course not, but what I must say is that with all the models I have worked with (and I have shared many of their stories with you…) they were naturally thin, still are (I was among them, not thin anymore, nor was I a model!!!) and didn’t starve themselves to death (actually one did have anorexia, many years ago, we didn’t know what it was then, and tragically, she did pass away) and I never had any compliments from visiting designers on having models who could not fit the sample clothes. Now let’s talk drugs…yes, I had a couple of models who I knew did drugs, did they do this in front of me, no, of course not, but did talk openly about it and never came “stoned” to a show (or was I being naive!!) A lot of drinking goes on in the novel and a lot of late night parties….of course, that was part of the club scene, but again, not to the point of interfering in their work with me. I find it very frustrating that all novels about the world of fashion always makes it out to be a sleazy business…I would say on the contrary. This one has the young women trying to make it in NYC while the older women are fighting to stay in control, again we have heard this before. Is the industry competitive, yes, is it exciting, yes, is it always looking for the new idea, yes, is it fast paced, yes, do you need ambition, yes…it is all of those things and so much more. Fashion is a huge industry, employing millions and pumps billions into the economy. I’m not wearing blinders and am well aware that there are sweatshops that MUST be eliminated, that wages aren’t equal all over the world, or in the US, again this MUST be stopped, that there are unethical people in the business and, unfortunately, most businesses.
Would I suggest you read it, sure, why not…. In the end, I would say, I expected more from the premise, our author, Barbara Bourland, is already working on a sequel, Maniacs, will I read it, you bet I will!
PS TODAY IS THE ANNIVERSARY OF MY BLOG….8 MONTHS AND COUNTING!!!!!