By Chantal Brocca
As we all hope of turning a new leaf while we stumble into the New Year, spinning from the massive WTF that was 2016, fashion begins to kick in as the quirky stress ball of choice, bringing lighthearted fun to both our wardrobes and minds. The big fashion machine has noticed of course, and apparently Spring/Summer trends have set in with brighter colors, large pop-like prints that jump at your face and so much pink you’d think you were in Baby Spice’s carry on luggage. Not to mention head to toe palettes. Word on the street is we’re all super anxious, so why not indulge in an excess of fashion fun? asks Vogue. Which makes me ask: Seriously? Is that how we’re handling worries about Trump/Brexit/climate change? And: Is Vogue still relevant?
Not just Vogue, of course, but all big fashion magazines. Sure, yes, escapism and all that, but what really irks me is how whilst acknowledging our collective panic about the future, Vogue et al often laud those very same players who are the reason for our anxiety, from CEOs to celebs. Examples include Barbara Amiel, wife of fallen Canadian scion Conrad Black, literally bragging ‘my excess knows no bounds’ in a Vogue interview, just weeks before her husband was jailed for plundering the finances of his Hollinger empire – including depleting his employee’s pension funds. Oops.
Or let’s look at Vogue’s recent love affair with the Kardashians. Ever since their (in)famous Kimye cover, the magazine (and many others) has been loving not only Kim, but Kylie and of course, Kendall – who has been in literally every issue of every magazine I’ve seen for the past few months, in some form or another. Can we just take a moment to reflect on the fact that the Kardashians not only represent all that is excessive and greedy about the world, but also that their K-Dash fashion line is made in sweatshops? Why are we celebrating these people?
Vogue has more recently chosen to feature British Prime Minister Theresa May to be on their cover. Which would be fine, if she had actually done anything of note. But this unelected official (she was put into power when her predecessor, David Cameron, had to step down in shame after badly miscalculating how happy Brits would be to leave the EU) has done very little in her few months in office to warrant such kudos. So why is she there? Vogue claims she really knows how to rock a kitten heel. Oh.
And speaking of covers, Vogue has produced some that are just, well, disgusting. I’m thinking of the one with LeBron James and Gisele, where he was ‘portraying’ King Kong and she, the damsel in distress. Or Vogue France’s Stephanie Seymour cover, where it seemed she was being choked to death by a male model, who was loving it (it was shot by alleged sexual predator Terry Richardson, surprise, surprise). And then there’s the sexy eveningwear shoot that featured cherry red nails, stiletto heels, slinky gold gowns….on a ten year old model. That’s right. Ten. Years. Old. Oh, and shot on a real dead tiger’s skin, just for fun.
But let’s get back to fashion. By definition, fashions do indeed change, but I think all of us are a little tired at this point of the dizzying carousel that is today’s seemingly endless fashion seasons. Still, Vogue and other ‘top’ magazines insist on playing the game. But come on. I think we can all agree that only the most insecure actually follow ‘fashion trends’ anymore – what more of us are concerned about is a) looking good in general and b) not killing the planet or exploiting people while we do it. However, with few exceptions (Eluxe being one of them), mainstream magazines are beholden to their advertisers – which are normally nasty chemical-infused cosmetics labels and highly unethical fashion brands – and those advertisers want us to buy more, more, more of their crap. And Vogue’s job is to push it.
Clearly, fashion marketing dictates what we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ wear – and it’s basically a form of brainwashing. Let’s face it – fashion and the concept of seasonality are just gimmicks designed to perpetuate consumption, and today, these notions are ethically questionable in light of a planet whose resources are in serious decline. But magazines go even further than promoting corporate fashion and beauty interests through advertising and shoots by lauding the same old elites (via interviews) who serve to perpetuate the economic, ethical and environmental messes that we’re all currently in. I’ve even seen advertisements for joining the army (the army!) in some women’s magazines – talk about pushing a war agenda! Additionally, these magazines get away with bombarding us with images that continue to oppress women, children and minority groups by claiming that these are ‘edgy’ and ‘artistic’ – if you protest, clearly you must be some unshaven, un-chic hippy who just doesn’t ‘get it’.
Ha. I think we’re all wising up to the destructive agendas of mainstream fashion magazines – there’s a reason that fashion blogs are on the rise, including sustainable fashion and organic beauty blogs like these – and rather than using Vogue’s admittedly gorgeous, expensively shot images on our mood boards, we’re looking at Instagram feeds and pinning street style shots from Pinterest instead.
In short, the internet has brought on a major change in how we see media – and as any fashion editor can tell you, paper magazine sales are on a steep decline and advertising revenues are falling. In fact, Vogue’s parent company, Conde Nast, is rumoured to be up for sale, which will surely shake up the world of publishing. You know what I say? Viva la revolucón!