When it was confirmed model/TV personality Alexa Chung was releasing a book on fashion and the alluring appeal of women deemed “it” (such as herself), I didn’t outwardly roll my eyes, but offered a shrug. Of course Chung was. Though her daytime MTV show, It’s On with Alexa Chung, only lasted two seasons in 2009 , it was enough to gain notice with American girls and labels.
Since its cancelling, she’s had capsule collections with Madewell, AG Jeans, Longchamp, and makeup brand Ciate. Former Topshop co-workers of mine also adored her. This one Sales Associate, following the wrap of a Teen Vogue sponsored event at the first flagship location, in Soho, where we worked, asked if she could have the blow-up poster of Chung’s 2011 cover. Days later, it was confirmed to be hanging proudly in the living room/kitchen of her Brooklyn abode.
Chung’s IT was published in 2013. I saw IT stacked amongst meme books about grumpy cats and how to steal art like a pro when I worked at Urban Outfitters that year. I still wasn’t mad at the obvious capitalization of her fashion icon status. Four years later, I’ve decided to check out the book. Considering the girls at Topshop, that have since gone on to careers and jobs in New York’s draconian landscape of fashion editorial, commerce, and show rooms, this review’s for them.
Chung delved into what she felt was “it” to her. Which was a cool, cute way of examining the popularized, sometimes elusive term that’s been applied like “good work!” stickers to Hollywood starlets since the 1927 silent film that starred Clara Bow. (Also, of course, titled It).
Through a Google search, the closest thing to a definition came from Wikipedia (we meet again) and an “it girl” was (originally) viewed as a woman with sex appeal but wasn’t gratuitous about (And the term was largely first recorded earlier in the 20th century).
That changed by the 1980s, where while good girls on TV like Alyssa Milano‘s character Samantha on Who’s The Boss were “it”, so were sultry gals of the decade like Vanity and maybe the original claim to be fame as a video model Tawny Kitaen. The “it girls” of my era, the 1990s, were of the sugar and spice complex too such as Brandy, Winona Ryder, Alicia Silverstone, and Drew Barrymore to name just a few. Chung didn’t bother to offer any historical context to her stance on “it”, the women and girls with that inexplicable je nai sai quoi. She strictly kept it to her own timeline of memorable moments.
The layout of the book is pretty and is compiled as a glorified journal with photos framed with borders and various quirky illustrations.
I did appreciate the easy, peasy, breeziness of the book. There’s no pressure to be a sponge about anything Chung wrote and there’s certainly no vital information here anyway. Completely packages to be read in a day, IT was presented amongst the lines of “Well, if you are that curious about me, keep on reading.” Clearly, despite myself, I was.
She is sincere in what interests her. She laughed at herself at still wanting to learn how to skateboard and acknowledged her shameless, insatiable echoing of Kate Moss’ or Diane Keaton’s, in Annie Hall, style (but aren’t we all?)
While this is a review, I’m not going to rag on Chung’s influences, but I will still pinpoint standouts. A lot of her idols are waif White girls of the mod era, 70s and 80s punk and European film stars. I wasn’t all too surprised by this (though she’s certainly more Jane Birkin than Wendy O. Williams whenever I’ve seen her on a red carpet), yet u however wishes that IT contained a bit more of what she liked, learned, and incorporated into her style from her Chinese heritage (Chung is half-Chinese because of her father).
I’ve always found this attribute about her awesome as in a sea of white bread models, as pretty as some of them may be, Chung likely stood out at casting calls and photo shoots. And they’re aren’t enough Asian models in the fashion business to begin, biracial or “full-blooded.” Chung admitted that at times her last name was excluded on her model cards to exude ambiguity or assimilation. (Her early model pics from go-sees are quietly stunning).
Maybe it’s unfair to place this type of expectation or hope on her as I wouldn’t ask of this from Gisele Bundchen as a light-skin Brazilian or Selena Gomez as a half-Mexicana with the largest Instagram following on record (over 80 million). However, I stand that I would’ve liked to have seen this element included in IT. I think it could’ve offered some deeper substance from the average model/actress/whatever book that’s on the market.
Generally, her thoughts translated as comic book thought bubbles. Oh, here’s another thought on how to create bed head. Or what to wear to a mud filled field music festival. Gym clothes. And what to do on the random occasion you might be sat next to Anna Wintour. Her fan base are largely young White women. It wouldn’t hurt to them to be put on about China’s or Asian-based cultural touchstones. But again, Chung was just being honest. She loves her some Charlotte Rampling and Twiggy.
IT began and ended with the mentioning of dinosaurs and with the last photograph featuring a written in the sand, clear as day message of: “Fuck you.”
It’s a safe book that if you were to get anything out of it was to celebrate your influences and use them to further express who you are.
But to receive a deeper context of Chung as she is not as two dimensional, watch an interview of hers, as she is currently a British Vogue correspondent, with a on-going series for the magazine on YouTube.