VOGUE & The Problem With Fashion

There is something to be said in making a graceful exit and it comes from knowing when its time to leave the party.

Lucinda Chambers was fired from VOGUE UK where she served for thirty-six years, twenty-five of those as its Fashion Director, amongst other positions she held. She didn’t see it coming and the process took all of three minutes. It must’ve been unpleasant; for your entire career to be reduced to three minutes. She was fired by newly appointed VOGUE UK Editor Edward Enninful who replaces Alexander Shulman who exited the magazine after twenty-five years as its Editor-In-Chief. Post firing she went on to give an interview about the whole deal.

I suppose this is what we do now, this is a thing?

VOGUE. When you trace fashion’s many problems, most can be laid at the Louboutin clad, pardon the cliché, foot of VOGUE; from its cliques to its continued lack of diversity, cultural density, lack of awareness… the list goes on. Not all roads lead to VOGUE, but most roads often start from there, take a look at the recent mess with the Gigi Hadid and whatshisname on the cover of VOGUE US, with their ill conceived Gender fluidity theme. They got it wrong. SO DAMN WRONG and as is par for the course have issued a lacklustre apology only after being called out by all of social media- with the vast resources in its arsenal, one has to wonder how and why a magazine that prides itself on being at the forefront of all relevance can make such a misstep. Not the first either.

In her interview, where she takes well aimed shots at the industry and its key players, Ms Chambers talks about this fantasy publication which is meant to inspire not bully its readers into acquiring irrelevant, expensive and often times nonsensical stuff, as VOGUE and most other magazines are akin to doing. Fashion, she acknowledges, will “chew you up and spit you out” tell us something the Hills and the City didn’t already make us aware of. Or Gossip Girl, there is no newness in this nugget, but I can appreciate the candour. Sometimes fashion can feel like the death of creativity because most “creativity” is only as relative as the amount of bang you have for your buck as a stylist, a designer, an editor or whatever your position on the food chain. In addition, the handcuff between the magazines and their advertisers, only hinders any growth and uniqueness. This is not helped by the power plays enabled by contacts in chic Smythson’s diaries residing in Chanel 2.55 purses; who you know to get in the door. Enter one Ms Anna Wintour, Fashion’s high priestess. Advertisers are enthralled by Anna Wintour and with her as one of those contacts, your level of play is elevated to a higher frequency, one where talent is secondary, Ms Chambers alludes.

But on the flip side, failure is not an option-

You’re not allowed to fail in fashion – especially in this age of social media, when everything is about leading a successful, amazing life. Nobody today is allowed to fail, instead the prospect causes anxiety and terror.

Fashion sails on the idea of perfection, therefore there is no room for the alternative, it is not about selling the idea that you might suck at something it is about pressuring you into doing the “right thing” for the season; wear that silly dress that looks like it was sewn in the dark because we say its cool, wear those shoes that would likely see you topple over but what the hell its McQueen… everything in fashion is of the moment because one has to be in the know, nothing ostracises quite like fashion can with its expectations to be a part of something. From the fashion shows to the parties and all the carnival in between, there is an increased desire to be in this world that looks like the ultimate fairytale from the outside looking in and “a million girls would die” to make the cut. But then no one takes into account the toll on those who are in the eye of this vortex, the designers, creatives. A great onus is placed on designers to make magic happen for a fashion house, hence it is little suprise at the rapid changes brands like YSL, Calvin, Jil Sanders, to name a few have gone through recently in order to keep up with the demands of their investors. From the overly extravagant shows, to sales, consumer reaction, digital footprints, campaigns etc. A lot is asked of these designers but not a lot of thought is given to how this affects their psyche. She hits the nail on the head when she makes this point and I for one couldn’t agree more.

But back to VOGUE, the problem with VOGUE, and there are many, but the single and most defining problem with VOGUE, is its absolute disrespect for its readers. Fashion, an industry where talent often times loses out to influence, it is this attitude, belief, that allows magazines to peddle shit to its readers. A disrespect that has led to a disconnect between the publication and its audience. There was a time when VOGUE embodied its status as a “fashion bible” but those days are long gone, now it leaves you feeling empty, you read an issue and come away thinking what the fuck was that? It makes little impression upon you, there is no voice of authority, it has become a follower of the masses, no authenticity, no empowerment. Which is why I suppose VOGUE editors will always have a problem with the rise of bloggers and influencers because they are the alternative. Blogging has democratised fashion in a  way that has publications like VOGUE doubting their game. Thanks to the rise of these influencers, we can look elsewhere for our news, their sources are more viable, spaces are more fun and inclusive and there is a mutual relationship built here. Websites like Fashionista, The Cut, GoFugYourself, BoF… there is something for everyone, we no longer need to rely on the glossy pages of magazines who have since lost footing on their influence.

BRITISH VOGUE. Its no secret, this is my most loathed of VOGUEs. I often find myself irrationally irritated at the publication, chief amongst my many reasons is its absolute, lack of imagination. The last British VOGUE I bought was the Jourdan Dunn issue in February of 2015, which I couldn’t bring myself to read because of the bullshit content. VOGUE UK is always one step behind its flagship, and has remained firmly in its shadow, like its unsure of itself or would like to be careful not to offend. Don’t even get me started on its diversity problem: for twelve years it did not have a Black woman on the cover, and when it did, it made her look anything but. Fashion magazines like VOGUE perpetuate a density that not only undermines the intelligence of its readers but also undercuts its influence in the long run, it loses its right to empower when it finds it hard to elevate a conversation, influence a moment, be culturally astute. These are interesting times we live in yet VOGUE is several steps behind the curve, in my opinion. Teen Vogue has become a moral compass of our time because it recognises the way of this new world and understands that its readers, now more than ever, need more than clothes which we don’t need to buy, shoes and handbags… it respects the intelligence of its readers and has adopted a balanced approached in its content. That balance, that intelligence, that authoritative tone of voice, is lacking in VOGUE’s flagship publications. And that silly Breton tee shirt on the cover was an abomination but “Michael Kors is a big advertiser”. But of all the pieces, of all the Michael Kors garment in the world, that piece was what was chosen for the front cover…

I’ve said it too many times and will say it again; VOGUE has become increasingly redundant, as a brand and as a magazine, its influence is on the wane which is why it continues to battle with bloggers and influencers, editors and their reductive and borderline bitchy comments about their place in the fashion world. VOGUE is no longer the voice of fashion it once was and British VOGUE, never really was, let’s be honest, it hardly resonates with its readers, doesn’t have that influence like its American counterpart, although that too is not without its set of issues, but it has Anna Wintour at the helm. Unfair it might be to judge the influence of both magazines as they differ in demographics and pander to a completely different audience but a magazine should get you, sip deep into your soul and connect with you on a personal level, because anything worth its influence should do so, but British VOGUE, lacks. With every issue, every tired cover, every one of its pedestrian content, it falls flat, and using the same formula for however many years, it wasn’t going to come up or be dragged up.  So something had to give, the old guard has to make way for new. And that Michael Kors tee-shirt was really the A-ha! moment. In addition to the fact that Ms Chambers admits not having read the magazine in a long time which about sums it all up.

A rebirth. One is needed in British VOGUE, to make it relevant again and give it some ground to stand on. Anything, anything is better than what it is today; a roaster for socialites and the Sloane set. Enninful as the new Editor obviously has a different vision for the magazine, it might work, it might not work, but it is moving the post forward some, in his vision, which no longer involves looking back.