07/07/2017
Even Vogue editors don't think it's relevant.

Words by

Bianca O'Neill

We’ve all read countless articles about the death of traditional print magazines, and it’s boring. Just as boring as reading another article about how bloggers are killing fashion. 

BUT, this week, the whole ‘fashion magazines are dying’ sitch got a whole lot more juicy.

As a layperson, you might think it’s as simple as those headlines have been telling you. In short, Internet killed the magazine (star). However, there are so many different factors at play that go beyond that particularly lazy and familiar explanation of ‘the Internet did it’. 

And now a disgruntled ex-Vogue editor has spilled the #detoxtea all over that interpretation, with a brilliant piece of writing that may have, ironically, been the best piece I’ve read in Vogue in years.

Oh wait, it wasn’t in Vogue…

In an essay published on Vestoj.com, outgoing fashion editor Lucinda Chambers details her surprise axing after 25 years at the magazine, along with some pretty damning dirty laundry about what it’s like to work there. It’s an excellent peek into the inner sanctum of women’s fashion magazines, and a glimpse into the more detailed story behind the endless decline in readership for traditional glossies over the years.

Here are the highlights:

#1: Vogue’s fashion editor doesn’t even read Vogue, because she deems it irrelevant... Ironically, that's a word I’ve heard Vogue use a lot in their online editorials about others.

Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years. Maybe I was too close to it after working there for so long, but I never felt I led a Vogue-y kind of life. The clothes are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive. What magazines want today is the latest, the exclusive. It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had. They’ve stopped being useful. 

#2: Even the editorial decisions are about the advertisers... So I guess that whole ‘bloggers as walking advertisements’ thing is an interesting angle to go hard on, hey.

The June cover with Alexa Chung in a stupid Michael Kors T-shirt is crap. He’s a big advertiser so I knew why I had to do it. I knew it was cheesy when I was doing it, and I did it anyway. 

#3: After a discussion about a stylist being hired purely on physical appearance, and despite terrible performance, still not being fired, Chambers points out the Vogue tastemakers are actually just terrified members of anxiety-driven groupthink.

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… But in fashion you can go far if you look fantastic and confident – no one wants to be the one to say ‘… but they’re crap.’ Fashion is full of anxious people. No one wants to be the one missing out. 

None of this is surprising to me. Fashion often thinks they’re celebrating difference (Man Repeller) when they are actually encouraging sameness (tall, thin, privileged, white, straight female who wears designer outfits). 

Fashion magazines like this drive anxiety to drive purchase for their advertisers. Fashion magazines like this make you feel bad – because THEY feel bad. And we’ve all had enough of it, just like Chambers.

Ironically, this is just the kind of refreshing commentary I wish I saw in Vogue… but Chambers had to leave before she could say it out loud. And that doesn’t sound much like female empowerment now, does it?

I recommend reading the whole thing here, but I could never end on a more eloquent set of words explaining the downfall of glossy women’s mags than those from the lady herself. So here you go:

We don’t need any more bags, shirts or shoes. So we cajole, bully or encourage people into continue buying. I know glossy magazines are meant to be aspirational, but why not be both useful and aspirational? 

That’s the kind of fashion magazine I’d like to see.

Follow Bianca’s non-glossy fashion journey over at @_thesecondrow

Illustration by Twylamae.

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