#new Vogue – new era?
The December 2017 issue of British Vogue magazine was unveiled by the new editor in chief (EIC), Edward Enninful. His appointment as EIC was much anticipated and equally celebrated. Vogue, once at the forefront of fashion consciousness and lifestyle choices, was screaming out for change. It was trying to navigate a space where it no longer felt familiar – a changing, angry, diversifying Britain.
In his Editor’s Letter, Mr Enninful addresses the changes he seeks to make with his new found control over one of Britain’s biggest publications. He highlights the new voices he wishes to introduce into the fashion circle – writers, artists and politicians all make up the myriad of collectiveness in the ‘Great Britain’ themed December issue. He also appoints fashion and supermodel icons Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell as contributing editors. Rather than simply appearing on our pages wearing the clothes we so desire, their contributions to the fashion industry have been harnessed and they have taken a more pivotal behind the scenes approach.
The front cover alone is enough to show the world the approach Enninful is wishing to take. The list of names down the left-hand side are almost a selection box of who’s who in popular British culture – including many faces outside of the fashion world. This is made even more effective when coupled with the striking image of model and activist Adwoa Aboah, a somewhat unconventional choice for a front-cover girl some would argue. She is painted in a vintage-style make-up and her hair is wrapped up in a headscarf. Her photoshoot within the central is also different and mesmerising; she moves through the scene and her clothing is hardly recognisable. Her blurred and fluid images seemingly highlights the difficult space which woman have to occupy and navigate each day. The images are a homage to the great fashion of days gone whilst also setting out the simplistic, powerful message that Enninful wishes to portray – Vogue has a voice and it is willing to use it.
This change in approach has come at an important time within British society. The country is divided when it comes to the issue of Brexit, political leadership and the gap between rich and poor is growing. How can such a seemingly aloof, detached magazine like Vogue stay relevant? Enninful – a black man who grew up in South London himself – can relate to the struggle of the working-class citizen. He got lucky and has made a huge name for himself, but there is a sense in this issue that he recognises the many who don’t. He deploys people like him who share his story – Zadie Smith, Sadiq Khan, Skepta – to discuss their experiences and their relationship to the modern day UK. Within all the interviews in the issue, the celebrities are encouraged to return to their childhood and discuss their route into the world they now inhabit. He takes people back to their home cities – some of which are thankfully outside the London bubble such as Burberry owner Christopher Bailey from Halifax – and we see a better representation of what it means to be British today.
Of course, the new issue isn’t perfect. As a working-class woman, whilst I was thrilled to read something a little more relatable and less high fashion-heavy, it is jarring when placed next to a glossy advert from Marc Jacobs, Dior, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, to name a few. However they need to make money and Vogue is still first and foremost The Fashion Bible. It would also have been nicer to see less of a strong focus on the London community, but again I appreciate that the majority of their readership do reside within the capital city.
It does however mark the path for things to come and I thoroughly hope this isn’t just a first issue publicity stunt. Enninful shows us that a magazine like Vogue is not immune from engaging with socio-economic issues and recognising political debate. It highlights the talent of Britain beyond the fashion community and also how the world of fashion fits in with the larger scope of general society. Perhaps other high-end fashion magazines will soon follow suit and start representing/appealing to the many of the country, rather than the few.
Image by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, courtesy of Industrie Magazine.