And then the brands discovered how cool it is to read

“This tendency to read novels is a way of stopping time. Everything goes so fast (…) To show that you support reading is to show that you appreciate the moment. It is something we can all do; you don’t have to be a millionaire, we can all read the same book. We can all be part of a reading club’. The (almost) new luxury trend is served

by Massimiliano Viti


It was 1999 when Karl Lagerfeld opened the 7L bookshop at seven Rue de Lille in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. A 700 square metre space that today brings together three activities: the bookshop, the library studio (in the former photographic studio of the Kaiser, reserved for the ‘friends’ of 7L), and the publishing house Éditions 7L. As of 2021, 7L is owned by Chanel and, today, has new services provided to those who take out an annual subscription (€7,164).

For example, a nominative entrance ticket of €3,480 offers exclusive access to ‘intimate monthly readings‘, dance performances, and live music. ‘The bookstore is a living projection of Karl Lagerfeld’s mind,’ Laurence Delamare, global head of 7L, explains to the Financial Times. This bookshop is – also – a metaphor for a new (to a certain extent) passion in fashion and luxury: literary culture. The brands, in short, have discovered how cool it is to read and build exclusive opportunities to do so.

Saint Laurent Babylone

Twenty-five years after Lagerfeld, in the same Parisian arrondissement, Saint Laurent opened a bookstore called Saint Laurent Babylone. The name celebrates Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s historical connection with the Sèvres-Babylone district. More than a normal, traditional bookshop, Saint Laurent Babylone aims to be a destination dedicated to art, culture, and new modes of expression. A cultural meeting place where the book itself is considered an artistic object worthy of its content.

How cool is the luxury of reading

Saint Laurent’s initiative testifies to the growing interest of fashion brands in reading and books. This trend was reinforced by the pandemic when brands were looking for new connections with their communities. Supermarkets, cafés, and designer libraries represented a new way of interacting with the public, who were immediately fascinated by a renewed sense of inclusiveness.

Something that often goes hand in hand with that feeling somewhere between vintage and nostalgic exemplified – for example – by certain recovery and restyling projects of historic newsstands in large metropolises. Thus, in recent years, brands have started to give life to initiatives similar to the establishment of small, super-exclusive cultural centres in which, far from ostentation, they offer sensory and intellectual experiences to their customers.

Literary fashion: sharing an experience

This literary fashion boom is less about flaunting a passion for books and more about celebrating reading as an act that, in turn, allows people to share an experience, in this case, a cultural one. As with art, fashion’s interaction with literature and books is long-standing. The love between fashion and books, in fact, has always been quite visible, especially from a commercial point of view.

Among the most popular bookshops are – in addition to those mentioned – Marc Jacobs‘ open bookshops in London and Paris (2012), Gucci’s in New York (2018) and Louis Vuitton’s in Shanghai (2023). Or Comme des Garçons, which has confirmed that the next Dover Street Market, also in Paris, will include a space dedicated to books called Librairie 1909.

In search of multifaceted experiences

“Fashion loves a good story, so it is no wonder that so many designers and fashion houses look to books for inspiration and as a way to share their ideas,” says Adélia Sabatini, fashion editor-in-chief for publisher Thames & Hudson. “The association between fashion and literature,” says Arieta Mujay, creative marketing communications consultant, “not only enhances the brand narrative but also appeals to an increasingly discerning audience looking for multifaceted experiences.

Appreciating the moment

“This tendency to read novels is a way of stopping time. Everything goes so fast. We are producing more collections and more fashion shows, and the idea of showing that you support reading is to show that you appreciate the moment. It’s very inspiring. It’s something we can all do; you don’t have to be a millionaire; we can all read the same book. We can all be part of a reading club,‘ says Sarah Andelman, who ran the influential Parisian boutique Colette for two decades from 1997 to 2017, selling books alongside fashion accessories.

The Miu Miu Literary Club

Dior has learned its lesson. In homage to its beloved Book Tote, the fashion house has launched a new series celebrating reading. The Dior Book Tote Club sees ‘friends’ of the brand talk about the books that have had the greatest impact on their lives. But there’s more. On 17 and 18 April, Miu Miu pulled off a cultural masterstroke. It organised its first Literary Club. It called it Writing Life, transforming Milan’s Circolo Filologico into a high-fashion literary salon where, for two days, the work of Sibilla Aleramo and Alba De Céspedes (pictured) was read and discussed.

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