Stuffed with diversity... but Vogue’s still missing the point
DESPERATE for a glimpse of December’s Vogue, the first under the helm of Edward Enninful, its first black, male, gay editor, I kept monitoring the website. There at the top was what I thought was a seminal cover from 1971: brows non-existent, lips sticky, a kaftan and a turban. C’mon! Where’s the new one?
Silly me. This is the new one. It’s a homage, featuring mixedrace model Adwoa Aboah: she is not only black and a feminist, she has freckles! Hooray for diversity and openness and flaws, but just a small note of caution: she’s the daughter of Camilla Lowther, a fashion photography super-agent.
I wonder when real diversity – zero-tolerance for nepotism – will arrive at this magazine. But still, it’s an arresting image, given that Enninful’s predecessor, Alex Shulman, failed to put a black solo star on the cover between 2003 and 2014.
Alongside Aboah’s gorgeous face is a list of famous names but I wonder how readers will take to just a roll call.
For a new broom, the line-up – Grace Coddington, Glenda Jackson, Kate Moss – seems dusty. And inside? The theme is Britishness (a shoot has the heading: Remain. Please, stick to baubles). The editor’s letter (apart from the mention of his OBE) is heartfelt, as he talks about being the child of a seamstress who came to the UK from Ghana with her six children.
Some of his ideas are good, too: Victoria Beckham is interviewed in her childhood bedroom. Zadie Smith (I told you freckles are in) writes about the Queen; copy brilliant, but the illustration by Peter Blake is horrendous!
Diversity, diversity, diversity, on every stiff, perfumed page. But what troubles me is that New Vogue’s hirings are still musicians in an orchestra conducted by Louis Vuitton, Gucci, L’Oreal et al. They are therefore playing the same old tune.
For all the talk of a whole new ethos, they are still selling us the same expensive stuff we don’t need.
There is not one word about challenging an industry that oppresses women and children in sweatshops, or promotes thinness. There is not one plumper beauty in the entire issue, unless you count the roast turkey on page 157.
The New Kids On The Block are so desperate to belong – there’s a piece so puffy about PR Matthew Freud it makes me want to hurl – they have sold their souls and are peddling the same aspirations as Shulman and her privileged lot.
And even by the standards of celebrity fawning, describing contributing editor Naomi Campbell, sent to interview London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as a ‘tireless philanthropist’ is frankly hilarious. Try telling that to the underlings on the receiving end of an airborne mobile phone.
NOT every page works hard. There are still teeny cut-outs from the catwalk and a whole page on bows. Finally to beauty, which is always near the back. Is that the end? No, thank the Lord. Ta da! Here at last is the fashion, styled by Enninful himself, if you please. The cover star is in a Nina Ricci feather coat, £3,070; Saint Laurent feathered boots, £4,715; Louis Vuitton lace dress, £8,400; sequined mini, £12,855; and De Beers and Van Cleef diamonds that must cost more than houses.
Still, Aboah looks lovely, which I suppose is the point. It’s certainly preferable to the photo elsewhere of a naked Asian woman aboard a cow, surrounded by blonde aristos.
The reception from Enninful’s beautiful friends has been orgasmic: ‘Framing this masterpiece!’ But these are just people who desperately want to be in it next month.
Shulman and I had our spats, but I always respected the fact she seemed distanced from the farce that is fashion. Enninful is immersed without a snorkel. Advertisers are clearly happy: this issue clocks in at 356 pages. I collected every Vogue from September 1977. Will I collect the next 40 years’ worth? Am I seduced?
Much as I rail against it, I still want to know what Vogue thinks I should be wearing, even though, like most of its readers, I can only dream of a ten-grand frock by D&G.
I suppose if I stop buying it then I will have to admit my old life – the one where I used to dress up, shop at Net A Porter, and do as the beauty pages told me – is over. For all its (new) faults, I’ll still open the magazine and bask in another world where everything is shinier.
It’s an addiction, I suppose, but I still need that hit. And who knows, given time, the new editor may have the courage to feature not just beautiful black people, but maybe the odd person with cellulite.
I can but hope…