“Making things redundant all the time, and making things relevant all the time, in a very superficial way.” — Lucinda Chamber, Fashion Director of Vogue.
Has there ever been a sentence that sums up one business so succinctly? One small sentence that really sheds such a bright light onto one of the biggest scams in recent history and blew apart one of the longest running publications in history. But that’s what we had just a few minutes into Absolutely Fashion, a documentary detailing British Vogue as it barrels towards it’s 100th year, and where it will be going from here on. Instead of having an hour of showing us how important and inspirational the fashion business can be, we had a 60 minute essay looking at how Vogue is failing.
A Fashion Director who doesn’t use Instagram, a Editor In Chief who calls the Internet “the web” like she’s still having to alternate between using a landline or her poor dial up connection, and a Creative Director who’s walked through Condé Nast offices and shown how she’s wrong, made up the cast of sartorial malcontents who showed us what peddling against the tide really looks like.
It’s completely understandable why Shulman et al would worry about every single decision they make, especially when you can download Instagram, or any number of apps and get the same, if not better, content. Content that doesn’t keep thigh gaps relevant, or plus size models hidden away like dirty secrets. Content that is specific to you, and not bogged down with cumbersome adverts about watches that no one could possibly afford, or jeans that are sewn by underpaid workers that blast them with materials that damage their health.
How Vogue has managed to keep this scam going for 100 years is beyond most, but keep it going they have, and have forced their way to be one of the most prestigious publications available. But with that prestige and fame comes an almost 007 approach to what goes on behind closed doors.
Absolutely Fashion showed us a business which is meant to be based on free expression and personal inspiration, but instead keeps things incredibly secretive and insular. Every issue, wrapped up in a Fendi shawl of secrecy, is bundled onto the shelves every month like a brand new pair of Yeezy Boost 350, delighting readers and envious shoppers alike. But is there something more nefarious in their secrecy? Could it be that Vogue is being extra quiet about their plans, even to other versions of Vogue, because if people saw it’s true essence; that of nothingness and self propelling a failing industry, that they might not be as willing to take part in it any more?
Vogue is a stoic and worrisomely reductive publication that doesn’t want to use their power for progressing a different social narrative that wouldn’t have been thought about 100 years ago. The World that Vogue exists in; predominantly male ran, but centred on aspirational white women, shouldn’t exist anymore, and should have evolved since the era of Margaret Thatcher’s power dressing over thirty years ago. Even their best known cover star, Kate Moss, has been on the cover a staggering 36 times; a record that might never be beaten in the publication’s history, shows that Vogue has no intention on showing some of the more exciting and pressing problems that face the fashion industry.
But why is that important? It’s important because fashion is one of the true displays of expression that unites us all. What we wear, and how we dress can unconsciously link us. To have a publication like Vogue reflect an insular and fraudulent community of exclusivity and rich cliques, striding to keep what they have got, and present an unachievable lifestyle that none of us can even hope to get, is inherently dangerous.
Vogue is superficial, exclusive and over it’s 100 years must have printed thousands of pages of lies. Even the inclusion of fashion’s own Darth Vader, Anna Wintour, next week, might do nothing but show how inept Alexandra Shulman actually is, and how the whole fashion press industry needs a major shake up. But seeing as Condé Nast is a multi-billion dollar industry, we won’t be holding our breathes. If you need me, I’ll just be over here wondering how they ever managed to get thigh high boots to be one of the most sought after items this Autumn/Winter.