Friday, 3 July 2009

Is Vogue still relavent?

The Times recently published an article about the relevance of Vogue Magazine and its editors. Written by Lisa Armstrong (a contributor to Vogue herself) it provided a strong case as to why Vogue remains so powerful, in spite of other magazines fighting to take Vogue's place.

In fact even the cheaper weekly magazines (Look, Now & Grazia) far outsell Vogue; Armstrong argues that this is because:

"With their familiar cast of characters (Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, Angelina Jolie) and rotating plot-lines (Jen finds love, Jen loses love, Posh gains weight, Posh loses weight, Angelina finds child, loses Brad, etc) the weeklies have created a compelling reason to buy them."

Why else would this all star cast constantly appear on the cover of the weeklies? This is because they sell units, the public are genuinely interested in their salacious and constantly changing lives showing little interest in whether said stories are actually true (Depending who you read, Angelina Jolie is either a) splitting up with Brad b) marrying Brad c) getting back together with Billy Bob Thornton).
An interesting dichotomy has developed though; as these weekly magazines vary rarely carry interviews directly from the celebrities instead it inevitably comes from a source 'close to them'. How close? Well the reader will never know, and that seems to be good enough for them.
But it is Vogue that really is that close to them. It was US Vogue that got the quote that Angelina was 'uncool' from Jennifer Aniston, not Grazia magazine. One would imagine this would lead people towards the likes of Vogue but this just isn't the case.

Lisa Armstrong argues that readers of Vogue demand clarity:

"I learnt early on in my career as a fashion journalist that the last thing anyone who is asking about this season’s colours/lengths/trends in breast enhancements wants is a benign, touchy-feely, “these days you can probably wear whatever suits you” response. When it comes to fashion, women don’t want softly, softly condescension. They want fascist dictatorship. It makes shopping so much more linear."

This I think is where Vogue US & UK excel. The team of editors know exactly what trends they are going to push this season, something that some readers really do need. They don't want to look through avant garde French fashion magazines decompiling looks of the season. Vogue has to tell them, and people will follow. Unlike magazines such as Love and Numéro where the readership is very different. They know exactly how they want to dress next season and merely use these magazines as stepping stone, to serve as inspiration not to force a look.

"Collectively, these four editors have been in charge for aeons: 21 years in the cases of Wintour and Sozzani; 17 in Shulman’s. Roitfeld, the risky newcomer, has been in place for eight years. Unlike Bauer Consumer Media (formerly Emap), which spins its editors into new jobs every three or four years, Condé Nast prides itself on the longevity of its appointees. This adds to their aura of inviolability and immutability."

I think the power of longevity in fashion is often under looked, especially within journalism. All the best journalists and editors have really learnt their trade - unlike trends within fashion which continue to be one season wonders - and have had longevity at their respective magazine. Which makes Interview's merry go round of changing editors and creative directors all the more perplexing. In the space of a few months Fabien Baron has unceremoniously left the magazine, taking uber stylist Karl Templer with him, and then returned a few months later to the helm of the magazine. Of course, Fabien Baron is a major asset to any magazine, but it begs the question; why leave in the first place?

Readership is of course always an issue:

"French Vogue’s circulation, at 133,000 a month, is minuscule compared with that of the fortnightly French Elle. American Vogue, at 1.2 million a month, is outsold by the brasher, even breathier and more celebrity encrusted American InStyle (1.7 million)."

Once again however, Vogue transcends the readership=influence motto.

"Ooh, have you seen what OK! (circulation: 508,000) has to say about The Balmain Shoulder?” Whereas in reality no one gives a stuff what OK! says about anything."

The magazine industry has reached a strange stage now, where magazines are folding left right and centre. I-D magazine has halved the amount of issues it's putting out each year and Dazed&Confused are turning more and more towards online content. No one really knows what's next for their favourite niche magazine, but whilst other magazines crumble around them Vogue continues to shine (mainly due to Conde Nast's vast financial wealth) and live in a world that doesn't have a recession or any financial worries.
Vogue US will continue to do their yearly couture feature, a gigantic September issue and continue to draw every celebrity, model, stylist and photographer it so pleases, and doesn't that just speak so much louder than any readership figure ever could?