July 7, 2017 // career· etc.· fashion· life
It was the firing heard ’round the fashion world: former British Vogue Fashion Director Lucinda Chambers was unceremoniously relieved of her position in three short minutes. This might not have been that big of a deal, actually. You see, Edward Enninful, OBE, will formally become British Vogue’s new Editor in Chief on August 1, and new editors often bring personnel changes. It was really Lucinda’s unusually candid interview with fashion website Vestoj that made massive waves across the industry.
The interview is unusually candid for both the fashion industry and for, well, humans generally. Who ever wants to cop to being fired? Let go, sure, there’s no shame in that. But fired’s a different story. A friend of Lucinda told her to stop telling people. Admitting it meant the firing became the story, overshadowing her successful career of thirty years. “Don’t muck up the story,” the friend warned her.
“But I don’t want to be that person,” Lucinda muses. “I don’t want to be the person who…tells everyone, ‘Oh, I decided to leave the company,’ when everyone knows you were really fired. There’s too much smoke and mirrors in the industry as it is. And anyway, I didn’t leave. I was fired.”
Which brings us, of course, to the fashion industry. The inner workings and schemings of major publications — is it really all just The Devil Wears Prada, come to life?
Well, no, it’s not, but The Devil Wears Prada is a great movie that you should probably watch again if you haven’t recently. Also, Man Repeller interviewed a bunch of fashion industry insiders LITERALLY days before the Lucinda Chambers interview hit Vestoj, which offers a refreshing — but still honest — take on the fashion industry, specifically print magazines.
Lucinda’s interview is so unusually frank, in fact, that it’s been taken down, re-posted, and finally, re-posted with edits requested by Condé Nast and Edward Enninful, OBE. (Fun fact: my aunt is also an OBE, and a lawyer, which is tangentially related to this story). It appears that the edited section has to do with details of Lucinda’s dismissal, per WWD.
But anyway! While the whole interview is very much worth reading in full, there’s one takeaway that’s really stuck with me. From Fashionista:
She also admitted she hasn’t read Vogue in years, adding that she didn’t feel she lead a “Vogue-y kind of life.” To Chambers, most fashion magazines have stopped being useful or empowering, with “ridiculously expensive” clothes and an stressful sense of exclusivity. “Most leave you totally anxiety-ridden, for not having the right kind of dinner party, setting the table in the right kind of way or meeting the right kind of people,” she said. Unafraid of turning the mirror on herself, Chambers noted that some of her own work was “really crappy” — and influenced by the advertiser-focused pressures that many major publications face. “The June cover with Alexa Chung in a stupid Michael Kors T-shirt is crap,” she said. “He’s a big advertiser so I knew why I had to do it. I knew it was cheesy when I was doing it, and I did it anyway.
But isn’t this sort of true across ALL fashion/lifestyle content platforms? I don’t think it’s exclusive to the print industry — you see this with sponsored influencer posts pretty frequently. And certainly, there are influencers who instill that same sense of anxiety in their followers. Which begs the question: at what point does “aspirational” begin to have a negative connotation?
I don’t have the answer. It’s definitely a balance I’ve tried to strike myself. I like expensive things, and I joke about having champagne taste on a tap water budget (a play on the “beer budget” joke). But it’s not about pushing product disguised as a “lifestyle” blog. I like nice stuff, yes, and for me, that’s part of living a stylish life. But I don’t think you have to be exclusive and cliquey to be stylish. God, I hope you don’t.
I do think there’s a balance, and I also think it’s achievable. In fact, for every influencer who creates a sense of stress and FOMO, I think there’s another working to provide content that is aspirational, inspirational and attainable. In fact, I believe that’s one area where online content creators are actually doing a better job than the old guard of print magazines. As Lucinda herself put it:
It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had. They’ve stopped being useful. I know glossy magazines are meant to be aspirational, but why not be both useful and aspirational? That’s the kind of fashion magazine I’d like to see.
I think it’s possible. I’m just not sure if it will happen in print.