Rebel Stylist celebrates the work of the maverick British fashion editor Caroline Baker. It’s subtitle is The Woman Who Invented Street Style. And lest anyone accuse author Iain R. Webb of hyperbole, let’s make it clear from the get go: Never was a truer word spoken—or, for that matter, incorporated into the title of a book, which celebrates someone who should, quite frankly, have legend status. (The book is out now and is published by ACC Art Books.)
The images Baker created across the years and decades for such magazines as Nova, Deluxe, The Face, i-D, Ritz, Cosmopolitan UK, French Elle, You, and a very brief sojourn at British Vogue, and with the likes of Helmut Newton, Sarah Moon, Saul Leiter, Terence Donovan, Hans Feurer, and Harri Peccinotti, et al, are a virtual primer in the art of making clothes speak. Not about all of the usual conventions of the fashion industry—status, wealth, exclusivity—but instead to a creative dialog which was about a rawer, truer, but no less beautiful, vision of real life.
Baker’s work touched on, was inspired by, and also informed, so much that was going on culturally from the ‘60s onwards: feminism, punk, multi-culturalism, disco, vintage, DIY, working out, counter-cultural living, as well as things which were off the fashion radar (athleticwear, utility surplus). She firmly brought all of them center stage with her inimitable styling (not to mention her work with designers like Katharine Hamnett and Vivienne Westwood). She lived it, she wore it, she styled it – and in that particular order. It’s why so many of her images, with their emphasis on fashion as self-expression and not the depiction of mere trends, still stand up and are worth poring over obsessively. (Take it from me: You will. This is a brilliant and utterly compelling book.)
Iain R. Webb, himself a renowned stylist and educator, came to Rebel Stylist because of his huge admiration for his friend’s work, which is vast in its talent and output. (He says at one point he had 950 images to play with.) Initially, says Webb, Baker, never one to seek the spotlight, wanted to do a book about both of their careers, something he managed to dissuade her from. He chatted via Zoom quite recently about why Caroline Baker needs to be a name who’s on everyone’s lips.