"What do the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show and a Marc Jacobs fashion show have in common?" Former New Yorker Visuals Editor Elisabeth Biondi poses this question in her essay accompanying photographer Landon Nordeman's new book Out of Fashion. Well, Parker Posey's neurotic Best in Show character had a closet full of caramel colored knits that don't seem dissimilar to Jacobs' fall/winter 14 collection (come to think of it, Meg Swan looks like the season's hair inspiration, too). But Biondi's answer leaves the style merits of Christopher Guest's dog freaks for another day. The dog show and runway show, she says, "are both great spectacles watched by an adoring crowd, and Landon Nordeman has photographed each of them a number of times."
Before Nordeman began shooting the artful and surprising backstage fashion week pictures that make up his new monograph, he was photographing similar zoo-like chaos behind the scenes at the annual dog pageant. "Visually, [Westminster] is packed with qualities that I look for in a photograph: color, gesture, and juxtapositions," he told The New Yorker in 2011. It wasn't until a photo editor suggested Nordeman might find these same qualities on the runway that his surrealist backstage reportage began.
Out of Fashion collects four years of Nordeman's behind-the-scenes photography, chiefly his New York magazine assignments. There are a few familiar faces (Iris Apfel, Lindsey Wixson) and heads of hair (Grace Coddington) in the mix, but Nordeman's outsider perspective leads him mostly to overlooked situations on the sideline rather than predictable fashion fare. Bright, saturated colors and hardcore flash bring drama and vitality to each photograph without sacrificing Nordeman's subtle wit and humor.
The book treats fashion fans to shows they'll recognize — Thom Browne's Japanese schoolgirls, Jacquemus' double face makeup, Raf's final flower-filled Dior outing — but provides entirely new views into what happens behind the curtain. "[Nordeman] truly enjoys the pageantry, the foibles of the style conscious, and the over the top displays of vanity," Biondi writes, "they all make up the spectacle for him."
There's even a dog in Out of Fashion — an Afghan hound striding alongside a model in a lemon yellow gown — a full circle moment if there ever was one.
'Out of Fashion,' published by Damiani, arrives in October. More information here.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Landon Nordeman