The concept of the "democratization of fashion" is most often referred to when speaking of diffusion lines and high street brands, but a new tome fits the bill and offers a fresh perspective on the notoriously insular fashion industry from an "outsider" point of view. Photographer Sharon Socol's first fashion photo book, "Plus One: An Outsider’s Photographic Journey into the World of Fashion," documents a decade of New York Fashion Weeks, beginning in 2001. The wife of former Barneys CEO, Socol was on hand at some of the largest and most prestigious industry events, with access to backstage and behind the scenes action, not as a name on the guest list, but as the title suggests, a "plus one." That ten years produced 100 artful images that take the viewer with Socol as she explores the decadent bi-yearly week of runways, presentations and parties — that has its decidedly un-pretty moments as well. Alber Elbaz, creative director of Lanvin, says of Socol: "She photographed real people at real moments. She did not photograph 'fashion.' This is what I love about Sharon and her work. In our world of dreams and fantasy, Sharon captures the moment of truth." Read on for Socol's insights into being a "Plus One" with major photography skills.
Harper’s Bazaar: Did you have a specific perspective that you wanted to give the viewer when you started taking the photographs or did it develop along the way? How would you describe that perspective?
Sharon Socol: As a photographer I use my camera as a way to express my curiosity and observations. When I became my husband's "Plus One" in his world of fashion, I knew instinctively I had an unexpected opportunity to make photographs. I came with no preconception other than to observe and record a world I didn't know. I did not anticipate a book.
HP: Do you think these images show the unglamorous side to fashion?
SS: I would not describe my photos as showing the unglamorous side of fashion. Like a bird flying overhead I tried to see how all the aspects contributed to the landscape.
HP: What does the term "Plus One" mean to you?
SS: Plus One meant I was included in the invite to the shows, parties, and events of the fashion world. I could enjoy the moment and when over slip back into my world.
HP: As your husband's date to events, did you continue to feel like an outsider?
SS: I did become more familiar with each event. My camera remained my shield when needed. I leaned that regardless who someone is or what their passion or expertise I could always find something in common as well a bring something different to them.
HP: How would you describe the world of fashion?
SS: The world of fashion is replete in history, creativity, fun, dedication, and passion. I would have not realized this if I had not been a Plus One to observe beyond the surface.
HP: Do you think fashion is an especially difficult industry to feel "a part of"?
SS: This is a yes and no question. The creative and production side is a hard road to travel. I can not think of any other art (which I believe fashion is) that never has a pause. Writers, artists, musicians, etc. can have down time between each finished project. Fashion has to produce consistently and constantly. There is no down time. The last model walks off the runway and the designer has to begin to create the next season.
On the other hand anyone who wants can follow fashion. They can watch the evolution. They can decide how they they wish to dress each day. They can see how fashion represents the current world, how it references history, how much design and art exist in fashion.
Socol will be the guest of honor at the book’s New York launch event on Tuesday, February 19 at Barneys New York, hosted by Diane von Furstenberg, Narciso Rodriguez and Simon Doonan, all featured in the book. Available now ($60)
Read more: Book Corner: Plus One: An Outsider’s Photographic Journey into the World of Fashion by Sharon Socol - Harper's BAZAAR