John Jannuzzi’s page-turning blog, Textbook, muses on the would-be style choices of literary heroes and heroines. From Jay Gatsby to Sweeney Todd to Bella Swan, Jannuzzi playfully dissects characters’ personalities and outfits them in individualized runway garb.
A man of many talents, the digital wiz helped turn Kate Spade into a strong online presence before his now-famous Tumblr caught the eye of the fashion industry. Today, the Connecticut native lends his editorial and style expertise to Lucky Magazine when he’s not busy delighting his many followers with written-word wardrobes.
Below, we sat down to chat with the man behind the books.
Barneys New York: Okay, give us the scoop. What gave you the inspiration to start Textbook?
John Jannuzzi: Whenever I read books or hear stories, I always picture the characters, and this blog gave me a place to share those images. I started the blog in 2009 and the first character was Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye (a bit cliché, but still one of my favorites). From there, it just kept growing and growing.
BNY: Does your job as a professional writer ever conflict with the blog?
JJ: I think my professional writing and the blog complement each other. Since Textbook has me looking at the latest collections nearly every morning, I’m able to know the market out there at any given time. I take pride in being able to spot a designer’s piece from across the room, although if it’s one of those Prada banana print shirts, it’s not really that hard.
BNY: What have been the blog’s high points and low points?
JJ: I think the high point of the blog was when it started getting recognition from the industry. I count myself very fortunate to receive attention from brands and designers. It’s a feeling of validation that you can’t really trade for anything, and makes me think maybe I’m not so crazy for spending the early morning hours photo-shopping images.
The low point was probably when I got my first negative feedback, which wasn’t even that bad. It’s a rite of passage for anybody who decides they want to put content out there for the public.
BNY: Does fashion play a big role in your life?
JJ: I’ve been interested in fashion since I was very, very young. I think my first fashion sketches appeared circa 1989; believe me, they weren’t anything special, but that interest just kept growing.
BNY: How would you describe your style?
JJ: I always struggle with this question but others describe me as kind of an “unkempt preppy” type. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I wear what I wear.
BNY: So if you were accidentally locked in Barneys overnight, what would we find you wearing in the morning?
JJ: Michael Bastian head to toe, most likely with a pair of shoes from the third floor.
BNY: Who are some of your favorite contemporary designers?
JJ: As far as menswear goes, I can’t get enough of Michael Bastian for his truly classic and undeniably quality pieces. I’ve also picked up a few pieces from Patrik Ervell, as I like to go after things that put a twist on the traditional. I’m a slave to the balance of traditional with a bit of humor; perhaps that’s why Barneys‘ motto is “Taste. Luxury. Humor.” It all makes sense now! As for womenswear—Dries Van Noten and a little bit of Erdem never hurt.
BNY: What designer would you love to have lunch with?
JJ: Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler—they seem very carefree and down-to-earth, which isn’t always easy to come by in fashion. I’d like to sit down with them one day at Grey Dog (they have the best grilled cheese in town).
BNY: If you could be any literary character today, who would you be?
JJ: That’s a tough call. I’d like to say Jay Gatsby… back when he was happy with that two-timer Daisy (and before he got shot).
BNY: Your blog started with Holden. If The Catcher and the Rye was written in 2011, what would Holden be wearing?
JJ: Holden strikes me as a Band of Outsiders, Rag & Bone, Ralph Lauren and maybe a little Junya Watanabe kind of guy.
Photos courtesy of John Jannuzzi