International Reviews

Reviews for Michele Gerber Klein’s new book Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art:

THE BOOK FORUM April/May 2019 Feature:  Inherent Vice the colorful genius of Charles James  ” Michele Gerber Klein’s 2018 page turner Charles James  Portrait of an Unreasonable Man  follows the arc of the couturier’s life across his relationships with the women who were closest to him” –Jennifer Krasinski 

Christian Dior called him “the greatest talent of my generation”; Salvador Dalí described his work as “soft sculpture”; even Virginia Woolf thought Charles James was a “genius”. Yet this talented British couturier, pioneer of the spiral-cut dress and the puffer jacket, is often overlooked today. This uproarious biography rectifies that, introducing us to the ne plus ultra of queeny fashion designers, while taking us on a gossipy tour of transatlantic high society. – Horatia Harrod, November 24 in the Best Books of 2018.

“Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man […] presents a riveting look at the infamous designer whose legacy has been informing fashion for decades.” – Joseph Pastrana

“James seems to have met, befriended, loved, or reviled most of the 20th century’s great fashion and style makers, from Paul Poiret to Antonio Lopez, and this book is a who’s who of those glittering, fascinating characters. The impossible Mr. James emerges as one of the most compelling of them all.” – Hamish Bowels


Book of the Week, “… there is no doubt that this visionary designer was a legend in his time. Now, following the discovery of long-overlooked interviews, author Michèle Gerber Klein has woven together his story.”

The Telegraph

“If you think Karl Lagerfeld gives spikily good quote, make room on your bookshelves for a new biography of Charles James, the mid-20th-century British-born maestro of American ball gowns and tailoring.” – Lisa Armstrong

British Vogue

“Klein dedicates each chapter to one of the couturier’s muses, from his heiress mother Louise Brega to friends like Elsa Schiaparelli and Elizabeth Arden, and finally his wife Nancy James.” -Radhika Seth

Business of Fashion

“As this very readable account makes clear, James was admired by all as the world’s greatest fashion creator. Everybody who was anybody, from Paul Poiret to Antonio Lopez, who at some time crossed Charles James’ path, all have vivid memories of him, which is why this book is such a page-turner. – Colin McDowell

Harper's Bazaar

…”the piece that so captured [Mary Hutchinson’s] imagination was a wrap dress, which was first dreamt up by James in 1929. As ubiquitous as it is now, back then it was bold and radical – ‘symmetrical, diabolical and geometrically perfect’ – a promise of liberation and freedom, expressed in cloth.” (August Harper’s, print issue only)  – Catriona Gray

Andy Warhol's Interview

“Klein’s James…faithfully parallels the real man both inside and outside of the atelier, as she meticulously documents the period that became his legacy. Peppered with society drama, his patrician connections, and the financial and personal pitfalls that haunted him, she also memorializes the remarkable women that inspired the creative genius of James. The author draws on close to 40 hours of interviews—filmed by Anton Perich, with R. Couri Hay and James in 1977—shortly before his death. “

Women's Wear Daily

: Charles James: Portrait of an ‘Unreasonable’ Designer
Michèle Gerber Klein’s new biography looks at the designer who influenced generations of others, among them Christian Dior, Halston, Schiaparelli and Yves Saint Laurent. – Lorna Koski

“He was one of 20th-century fashion’s most brilliant couturiers and one of its most notorious enfants terribles.” – Michael Callahan

Vogue Portugal

O retrato de Charles James – “À época. foi um visionário e, hoje, ainda é relembrado. ” – Rui Matos

“Michele Gerber Klein’s biography is empathetic but also get’s down to detail so you have no illusions…(it) gives you a true story about a man who in his way, despite himself, succeed into legend” – David Partick Columbia
also from the same publication: “… I wouldn’t recognize a Charles James if I collided with a mannequin got up in one of his designs, but I loved this book…” – Dennis Ferrara


Metrosource: “Charles James Portrait of an Unreasonable Man may be a non-traditional (or at the very least a non-chronological) biography but it is nevertheless a fitting work to honor an extraordinary life.”

The Cut logo

“Michèle Gerber Klein examines the brutal, brilliant perfectionism of Charles James, known as ‘the grand master of American fashion.’”

The New York Review of Books: “This reader was actually rationing his reading time so that the enjoyment would be prolonged as long as possible.”

Publishers Weekly review:   … the book focuses “on his relationships with industry insiders and socialites, such as Anne Armstrong-Jones and Dominique de Menil, both of whom served as James’s muses, Klein shows how James “set the standard for style in the Western World” for mid-20th-century haute couture. ” It also states that “James spent his last years writing letters to his former friends and associates—a handful of which are excerpted here. The result is a juicy account of the influence of an often-overlooked figure in the history of fashion.”

The Kirkus review:   “A luscious exposé of a game-changing designer who revolutionized the fashion industry” and also says “Klein pushes the biographical genre by writing about her subject through the stories of those who surrounded him. Refreshingly, the result is neither a chronological nor traditional biography. “

Review from Beyond Fashion Magazine: “The book […] is a perfect description of Charles James’s life and work through his own and other people’s eyes, it gives you an unbiased perception of how much his revolutionary designs had influenced fashion throughout the 1920’s to the 1970’s…”

Praise for Portrait

In W magazine’s’s “Simply the Best” – Editor in-chief, Stefano Tonchi named Portrait of an Unreasonable Man his number one gift choice. It’s the true story behind the gorgeously eccentric character (played by Daniel Day Lewis) who’s the hero of the Academy Award winning film Phantom Thread. lists Portrait in its article 5 Best New Fashion Designer Biography Books To Read In 2018, Mar 19, 2018: “Inspired by the discovery of long-overlooked interviews conducted just before his death, this is the first biography of the visionary designer Charles James […] As engrossing as a novel, as dramatic as grand opera, James’s story will provoke, rivet, and inspire.”

Christopher Mason said on instagram: “The irresistible allure of Brigitte Bardot’s lips beckon on the steps of Halston’s iconic #townhouse, the #dazzling setting #lastnight to #celebrate the #publication of Portrait of Charles James: An Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art by #michelegerberklein published by @rizzolibooks”

“Charles James was a great master of fashion and a pioneer of glamour. As often is the case, the beauty and drama of his creations were matched with a dramatic and dark reality, through different points in his life. A couturier, an artist, and an engineer. Charles’ drama was extended into his work, process and into his life creating some of the most iconic pieces of our time, all documented in this great biography.”
Zac Posen

“The genius of Charles James is evident in the extraordinary garments he created — such as the Abstract ballgown, the Eiderdown evening jacket, and the Pagoda suit. According to Cristobal Balenciaga, James was the only couturier who raised fashion “from an applied art form to a pure art form.”  Michele Gerber Klein has written the first biography of Charles James, tracing the years of creativity and chaos, and focusing on the importance of his relationships with clients such as Austine Hearst and Millicent Rogers.”
Dr. Valerie Steele, Director. The Museum at FIT

“Charles James is the grand master of American fashion. It’s about time to have a good book to honor him.”
Diane von Furstenberg

“Christian Dior described him as the inspiration for the “New Look.” Inspired by the discovery of long-overlooked interviews conducted just before his death, this is the first biography of the visionary fashion designer Charles James. ” from Refreshing Reads at the Society Diaries.

Lorna Koski recently wrote a charming article about Charles James, the subject of Michèle’s book, for Woman’s Wear Daily. She explained how Michèle came to be his biographer. “Klein, who lives in a beautiful art-filled apartment on Park Avenue with her dachshund Wicket, took up James because she wanted to write a book, and two friends of hers, R. Couri Hay and Roger Webster, had recorded some interviews with the designer, whom they had befriended toward the end of his life. They thought that she would be a good fit as a biographer because of her background in fashion.” She goes on to discuss Michèle’s planned next book about a Bryn Mawr classmate, Holly Maddux, infamously murdered by boyfriend, political activist, Ira Einhorn, who staged Earth Day and ran for yuppy Mayor of Philadelphia.

Halston House Celebration of the Book Release

Christopher Mason said on instagram: “The irresistible allure of Brigitte Bardot’s lips beckon on the steps of Halston’s iconic #townhouse, the #dazzling setting #lastnight to #celebrate the #publication of Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art by #michelegerberklein published by @rizzolibooks”

The New York Rag: “A new definitive Charles James biography by Michèle Gerber Klein was celebrated on May 10th at The Halston House. Fashionistas and socialites alike gathered to purchase the first signed copies of Charles James: Portrait of an Unreasonable Man: Fame, Fashion, Art.”

New York Gossip Gal: “Gerber Klein signed copies of her book which discusses the the relationship between James and Halston, a long and complicated one, and in the words of one attendee a “rivalry”. James was grand and under his mentor’s influence Halston became even grander.” “… Many remembered their own experiences in the house years before. All marveled at the Paul Rudolph’s famous staircases and the fireplace into which Elas Peretti famously, (in a fit of pique) flung the fur coat Halston gave her. The house was decorated with white orchids that were a Halston trademark—, another of the habits he assumed from Charles James.”

New York Social Diary