9 Australian fashion designers on the books they loved this summer



Book recommendations from creative minds.

You can tell a lot about a person from their bookshelf. Or bedside table, or desk, or any other place they store books, as many of us live in tiny houses that will not allow for the bookshelf of our dreams (specifically this one). Speaking from personal experience.

Like music taste, book preferences can be wide and far-reaching, like an eager reader who devours whatever’s put in front of them. Their stack of to-reads could also be thoughtful and refined, specific to a genre they just can’t get enough of. Whatever their preference, I’d like to know. If books were music, I’d be reading the Top 40 – and not even in a fun, ‘guilty pleasure’ way.

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To expand my reading tastes, I enlisted the help of the most creative thinkers I know – fashion designers. Scroll on for their top summer book recommendations.

Lucinda Babi, Lucinda Babi


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I recently read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, which was fantastic. It trenchantly describes the restaurant industry and his life as a chef. It’s a specific way of life that has some parallels with the fashion industry, particularly in the relentlessly intense and sometimes brutal way it operates. I especially loved the humour with which he describes his turbulent working relationships and interactions.

I’m currently enjoying Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, a novel about a time-travelling Second World War soldier who becomes a prisoner of war in Germany. It’s darkly funny and there’s a poignant anti-war message that runs throughout the story. I also recently revisited Crush by Richard Siken, a beautiful collection from one of my favourite poets. His work is deeply personal and full of raw emotion. I really love how the composition of each poem adds to the emotive quality of the words.


Nadya Kusumo, Toile Studios


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At the moment I haven’t had time to read any books because of my hectic production schedule, which is so sad! But a book I’ve finished recently is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It’s a sci-fi novel set in 2045 where everyone basically ‘lives’ in a VR game instead of the real world.

I think it’s so relevant to today’s increasingly digital world and concepts like the metaverse, artificial intelligence and NFTs. It’s kind of scary but exciting at the same time. Eerie to think that our lives are basically an episode of Black Mirror (a series I’ve watched 10 times over, btw).


Ashiya Omundsen, Par Moi


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I just finished reading Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid which – full disclosure – I started reading in winter. I like to read, I’m just terrible at making time for it, especially when holidays are non-existent thanks to the Coco (COVID). But please don’t let how long it’s taken me to finish this book speak to its quality; it’s definitely a great read. It delves into tough questions of race, class and privilege, but with a wit and humour that makes it an easy read – even if the subject matter is far from easy. Would recommend!


Kerryn Moscicki, Radical Yes


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This summer, I’ve enjoyed putting all the business books down and losing myself in otherworldly fiction expeditions. Short stories are a particular favourite of mine, and Pakistani author Mira Sethi’s Are You Enjoying? has hit all the reading-as-escaping high notes for me. The writing is so cool in this book and unexpectedly revealing of life in modern-day Pakistan.

With characters both glamorous and strange, the clever twist lies in the way the author seamlessly intertwines elements from each story throughout the book. Ultimately all stories about love, the free-wheeling nature of this book had me hooked to the last page with the characters lingering even longer in my mind.

Honourable summertime mention also goes to The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space, another anthology of short stories by British writer and scientist Pippa Goldschmidt. This book is so clever! Mixing up real-world science happenings – like the theory of relativity and the loss of Albert Einstein’s first child – with engaging made-up characters and situations makes the scope of this IRL fact vs dreamy fiction narrative summertime un-put-downable.


Courtney Holm, A.BCH


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After the past year, where reading was relegated to reports on the fashion industry and academic articles, I needed some literary escapism. I started the new year with Sorrow and Bliss by Australian author Meg Mason. Turns out it’s an immersive and easy read; some heavy themes but all in all, enjoyable.

Next on my list was Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. I loved this book from the moment I started reading, it was just what I needed at the time. The layering of the character storylines and well-constructed elements from past, present and future kept me on my toes and concentrating just a little more than the previous read. I couldn’t put it down and it kept me thinking long after the book ended.

Now I’m onto an audiobook, Consumed, which I’m about a quarter way through listening to. I follow Aja Barber on Instagram and love her, so I’ve been looking forward to reading this. So far, it’s a great beginner’s guide to some massive topics in fashion such as colonialism and well, consumption. It’s a great read for anyone who might be starting to question their consumption habits or want to learn more about sustainable fashion. I’d recommend all three of these for different reasons depending on your mood, head-space and whether you want to escape, focus or learn.


Stephanie Schafer, Sschafer


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I read recently The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke, which is a memoir of her experience growing up as a person of colour in suburban Australia in the ’80s. It depicts micro-aggressions and both subtle and blatant racism so well. It’s a beautiful novel that’s definitely worth a read.

I just started reading Nothing But My Body by Tilly Lawless, who is a queer sex worker and author. I’m not very far in but I’m enjoying it so far and she writes so beautifully! I’m also reading 100 Boyfriends by Brontez Purnell, which is a book of short stories about navigating queerness and blackness as a queer man. It’s taking me a while to read but every emotion is challenged in this novel! It’s funny, sad and lucid all at once.


Tamara Leacock, Remuse Designs


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I’ve been delving into a couple of books this summer – one being Sister, Outsider by Audre Lorde. It’s a collection of speeches and essays I revisit time and time again; it’s an essential read that does not leave my side. The second book is Awakening Fertility by Heng Ou. It’s a book that while grounded in preparing for the physical childbirth experience, is written so you can find applications to the creative process of manifesting just about anything.

Heng writes about navigating the birth preparation process in five stages. They are dreaming, preparing, fortifying, clearing and conception. It’s also filled with recipes and mindfulness exercises that help you navigate through the process of creation. It can be applied to the process of ‘birthing’ just about anything – a concept, a business, a new life or another being. With COVID and the challenges of running my business, I find my choice of books to be less for pleasure and more for practical application – with space for dreaming in between.


Julie Shaw, Maara Collective


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Although I seem to forever have a pile of books on my bedside table I never get around to reading, this summer I devoured House of Gucci: A sensational story of murder, madness, glamour and greed by Sara Gay Forden. I loved it. With a deadline to finish the book before the movie came out in cinemas, this read was such an indulgence over the summer break. And it was everything I hoped it would be! A fascinating chronological account of the family and origins of the Gucci brand.

I’ve now made a start on True Tracks by Indigenous lawyer Terri Janke, whose work focuses on ICIP (Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property). This book is described as a ‘groundbreaking work paving the way for respectful and ethical engagement with Indigenous cultures’. Really looking forward to delving into this important book by the amazing Dr Terri Janke.


Kristy Barber, Kuwaii


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My first book is Clothes Music Boys by Viv Albertine. I love me a music biography and this one’s from Viv Albertine, who was the guitarist from The Slits from ’77 to ’82. It’s wild, rollicking and very fun.

The second is Second Place by Rachel Cusk. It’s beautiful, mesmerising and dark. It’s actually a reworking of a 1932 memoir from an American bohemian socialite. I’m enjoying this.

My third is The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein. It’s more like ‘on the reading wish list’. I’ve been trying to read this book for two years. It sounds amazing; it’s the story of a trans woman’s career as a homicide cleaner. I’m moving it to the top of the pile.

For more summer book recommendations, head here.

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