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Danielle Steel is also novel about fashion

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 8:22 p.m.

Bestselling novelist Danielle Steel, 65, had a passion for fashion even before she got her hands on her first Hermes Kelly bag, a gift from her grandmother, at age 17.

In her latest book, “First Sight” (out Tuesday), the glamorous, semiannual swirl of the ready-to-wear runway shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris is the backdrop for the story of Timmie O'Neill, an L.A.-based fashion designer who runs a hugely successful empire, but has trouble finding love after a devastating loss.

I recently chatted with Steel about her new book.

Q: Why did you want to set your latest novel in the fashion industry?

A: I'm always looking for new industries to write about. And this felt comfortable. I mean honestly, when you've written 129 books like I have . pretty soon these ladies are going to have to be plumbers and electricians!

Q: You have loved fashion all your life and even went to Parsons School of Design when you were younger. Did you have to do any research?

A: There's always stuff you don't know. I've always gone to the couture. But ready-to-wear is far more important in the world today. Used to be, no one went to those shows except people who worked in the industry. Now, you get Chinese movie stars and politicians' wives. I needed to know details like the sequence of shows, the ground rules, how long they last, in what case an American designer would show in France and some of the production details. I have a wonderful researcher whose training is historical. We have worked together since we were both 19.

Q: Did you have any particular designer in mind when you created the lead character in your story, Timmie O'Neill?

A: I had an American female designer in mind, but I won't say who, and it was really only visually. I have to say, I have several heroes in fashion. And my three daughters in fashion are my real heroes. (Three of her nine children have been designer muses, consultants and/or fashion editors — Samantha Traina at C Magazine, Victoria Traina at Proenza Schouler and Vanessa Traina at longtime friend Alexander Wang's Balenciaga.) I'm a great admirer of (International Herald Tribune Fashion Editor) Suzy Menkes. We have wonderful lunches where we get to talk fashion. I've always from a distance had a great fondness for Grace Coddington. I love watching her with her big red hair, and her unfailing sense of style. My children are always telling me my hair is too long, but look at Grace!

Q: What do you wear when you write?

A: I'm always frozen, so layers of cashmere. I like cashmere nighties, but it's not so easy to find them anymore. And one of mine has a black mark down the front, because I fell asleep with a pen in my hand and the ink spilled down the front. It's really so disreputable. But it's easier to work in my nightgown, and I layer on cashmere hoodies because I work late into the night. Occasionally, people ask if they can take a photo of me writing. I say, “Not in this lifetime.”

Q: What was the last thing you bought?

A: I recently bought the red, mink high heels from Celine. I kept looking at them, trying them on at every Celine store. And my daughters would say, “Take those off, they're ridiculous!” It's a nightmare trying to get dressed with the three of them. They tell me, “You can't wear that!” And the next day, I see it walking out the door on one of my daughters. So, I bought the mink shoes anyway.

Q: So you challenge your daughters with their style?

A: I think I'm braver than they are. That comes from being older and having a sense of humor about life. They are very much purists. I'm not afraid to drag something out of the closet that's fun.

Booth Moore is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times.

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