The High Moments by Sara Ella-Ozbek has a very striking pop-art Andy Warhol-esque cover that first caught my eye. Reading the blurb about a twenty-something finding their way in the world of fashion, I could recognise what has become quite a popular storyline: the pressures of social media and completely losing your identity in a bid to be popular. You can see this other books such as How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne. This book does cover that, through the lens of trying to carve out a career in fashion and the cut-throat world of modelling.
Scarlett has always wanted to be a fashion designer. Following a row with her difficult mother, she heads to London to find a job. She ends up working as an assistant at a modelling agency, in a bid to get a foot in the door. We follow her in her first year on the job, fully immersed in the glamorous but murky underworld of fashion that we sort of know exists, but which the book sheds light on. There are lots of parties, lots of cocaine, lots of sex and lots of narcissistic behaviour from exceptionally good looking people.
As Scarlett tries to up her game to impress her boss and convince herself that she can cut in in the industry, her motives and reasoning become increasingly dubious. She becomes obsessed with her Instagram followers and showing what a fabulous life she has. The reality is far from true. This is definitely a game of keeping friends close and enemies closer. Lots of the characters are volatile and unstable – fuelled by their enormous coke habits and diva-ish behaviour. Big fashion contracts are at stake, not just for the models but the agents behind them. The day to day work is only ever one small step away from crisis.
I enjoyed reading The High Moments, which I assume to be a play on words. There is the warped sense of the ‘high life’ of popularity and being deemed attractive. But there is also the visceral highs from the mountains of cocaine on the pages. Sara-Ella Ozbek interned at Vogue and was a model agent herself, and you can tell that she knows the industry. I often felt like a fly-on-the-wall in the offices and parties. You also get a sense that the characters are very much drawn from real life. Many of them are unpleasant and messy and behave badly. We witness Scarlett getting caught up in the struggle to separate work from pleasure, and professionalism from friendship and sex.
I would recommend The High Moments for anyone interested in fashion. Unsurprisingly it is being called the latest Devil Wears Prada. If you don’t care much for designer clothes then you may struggle to like the characters and their lifestyles. It’s definitely a case of how the other half live, which won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed plunging into this world.