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When a magazine publishes a brand-extension novelty book, it’s usually light on content and heavy on self-promotion. So I was surprised to discover that The Teen Vogue Handbook: An Insider’s Guide to Careers in Fashion is actually really interesting—and useful, if you’re a teen who wants to break into this daunting field. For a guide to an industry that’s all about beauty, the book’s own design leaves much to be desired; the person who chose the unwieldy trim size, the blindingly yellow section openers, and the garish yearbook-style fonts ought to consider taking a brush-up course. But if you can get beyond the aesthetics, there is actually a wealth of information in these pages.
The bulk of the book consists of first-person accounts from designers, editors, stylists, models, photographers, and beauty professionals, describing how they got started in the industry. I expected fluff, but was surprised to discover detailed, candid, even inspiring narratives from the likes of Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Bruce Weber, and Anna Wintour. Sidebars with briefer accounts from assistants are also helpful, as is the appendix, which includes a guide to design schools. (A glossary of seemingly random terms—Pulitzer Prize, vintage, retail, and Goth, to name a few—should have been cut.) Each section closes with a ”tool kit” of essential items for the line of work at hand. Some tips are useful (baby powder helps tight shoes slip on!), and some are ridiculously obvious (get a BlackBerry!).
Teen Vogue’s fashion biz is a far more benevolent mistress than that of, say, The Devil Wears Prada. The guide plays down catty politics and superficial glamour, and asserts that this is a world in which hard work, ingenuity, and style are rewarded in equal measure. Any teenager trying to break into fashion should find both a practical roadmap and a source of inspiration here.