Friday, 5 January 2018

it's time for fashion magazines to practice what they preach

British Vogue has received backlash for its latest cover, which features Australian actors Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie for the magazine's Hollywood issue. Whilst its certainly nothing new for the February issue to celebrate a whitewashed version of Hollywood, readers are disappointed that new editor Edward Enninful has, so far, not lived up to the diversity his editorship promised.

It's not all Edward's fault though. The fashion industry isn't going to change over night. I think that a lot of people hoped it would when Edward was announced as the new editor. Vogue is never going to become an entirely new magazine. It still works with the same sponsors, circulates in the same market and is owned by the same publishing company. If you want to read something more edgy or radical, then there are a lot of independent publications to choose from.

If anything, the February cover is just embarrassing. The clothes are unflattering, the text is barely readable, and the posing is weak. Worst of all though is the cover story: "Why we need to talk about race." A number of people have pointed out how jarring it is to feature that headline on a cover with two white models. It could be that Edward is trying to claw back more control, but it just proves that his new Vogue doesn't practice what it preaches.

The content in Edward's Vogue so far has been strong. Features have addressed race, feminism and mental health. Taylor Swift was a safe and boring cover star, but it was her first Reputation era fashion spread which is kind of a big deal anyway. However, this content is still in conflict with fashion's attitudes overall. Magazines publish articles on loving your body whilst only representing one incredibly thin body type. They write think-pieces on diversity then keep disproportionately casting white models. The disparity between what magazines write about and what message they project overall is huge.

To add to the February issue faux pas, Vogue shares the same cover as W Magazine. Vogue has never shared a cover before. It seems lazy. Vogue is supposed to be unique, and if there's one thing people don't want to see, its an Americanised British Vogue. W Magazine has been even more tasteless with its cover line. Love wins is famously an LGBT phrase coined to support marriage equality in the US. Every W cover star for the issue is straight. Surely a line relating to the me too hashtag would be more poignant given that all the recent Hollywood headlines have been about the prevalence of sexual assault in the industry.

If anything has come from this, it is that we should start supporting more independent publications. Vogue and W of course have their place in the fashion industry, but real change has to work from the bottom up. Zines like gal-dem, Polyester and Sunday Girl offer quality fashion content minus the thin whitewashed "ideal" perpetuated by larger publications.

Whilst the outrage sparked by Vogue/W suggests that their audiences want them to be more radical, this outrage has taken place predominantly on Instagram. Social media is often an echo chamber, representing the predominantly younger, more left-wing readership. However, the majority of Vogue's audience are still white, middle class, middle aged women, so only looking at Instagram comments is only representative of the views held by a small portion of the magazine's readership. There is even a vast difference between opinions expressed on Instagram and those expressed on Facebook, as the initial comments on Vogue's 'New Suffragettes' video prove. The video, which shows seven influential women talking about feminism, sparked hateful "feminazi" comments. Not everyone agrees as much as it seems on Instagram.

Younger, fresher publications don't have such a following, but they do have more freedom and they are much more progressive. Let's make 2018 the year we start reading more zines.

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