Reviews of the Book

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

“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.”

“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. ”

The Cut: “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 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.”

In W magazine’s’s December Issue: titled 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 film Phantom Thread -now up for six Academy Awards..

“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.