Ah, Vogue. Once recognized as the fashion bible for all style disciples, and for good reason of course. Vogue created iconic, memorable moments for the fashion industry and was used as inspiration for many notable figures. Being on the cover, or even inside, a Vogue issue means something; or did, which bring us to the topic of this essay.
Vogue is dying. The once devoted costumers have ended their subscription, sales have gone down drastically, and I haven’t heard anyone refer to Vogue as the fashion bible since 2009. I tried figuring out the reason for the decline as unbiased as I could. I’m just stating facts or opinions from other sources and discussing with facts whether or not it could be true. With that being said, don’t shoot the messenger.
Let’s start from the very beginning, how did Vogue even get it’s starts? Well, to answer that very daunting question, I did what any respectable wannabe journalist would– I checked Wikipedia. Vogue was founded by Arthur Baldwin Turnure, an American businessman, in 1892 as a weekly newspaper in the United States. It was sponsored by Kristoffer Wright and the first issue was published on December 17th, 1892. A couple of decades later, the 1980’s to be exact, Vogue had made a name for itself and it was just about to meet the woman who was going to change things for the company forever, Anna Wintour.
Anna Wintour was born on November 3rd, 1949. Wintour is the daughter of Charles Wintour, an editor for the London Evening Standard, which having those connections young certainly did help when Wintour started to become interested in fashion as a teenager. In 1988, Wintour became American Vogue’s Chief Editor. During this period, Wintour shaped Vogue into a more Lifestyle focused magazine for the remainder of the 80’s and bits of the early 90’s until transferring to a more fashion related magazine from the 90’s to early 10’s, and then finally deciding on a celebrity-based and lifestyle fashion magazine, which is where we are now.
Vogue used to be untouchable, every celebrity would be beyond flattered to be on the cover, it created trends, ended trends, and most importantly it was respected by its readers and all of the fashion community. Now? I don’t hear anyone who genuinely respects and takes Vogue as seriously as someone would ten years ago. I tried to find a common reason for this decline in respect and all of it added up to Vogue’s extreme endorsement of celebrities, specifically the Kardashian/Jenner family. I’ll use them as the main example but they aren’t the only celebrities who have a special relationship with Wintour. They are just the most popular example.
The Kardashian Effect.
Anna Wintour and her affinity for the Kardashian, specifically Kim, Kanye, and Kendall, started late 2015/early 2016. Surprisingly, it started with a bitter taste in Wintour’s mouth. Around this time, reports of Wintour’s dislike for the Kardashians started to surface constantly. Just a couple of examples are Kim taking a selfie on the Met Gala red carpet, which was against Wintour’s wishes, after just being unbanned and Wintour stating that Kim and Kanye’s April 2014 cover was “distasteful”. After this ambush of reports surrounding Vogue, Anna Wintour, and Kim Kardashian started to create a lot of publicity for both parties, they suddenly made up and the Kardashian clan were suddenly besties with Wintour and almost always had an article on Vogue written about them. What a coincidence! I’m not saying it was a PR stunt, but you can.
Either way, the Kardashians have always been disliked by the majority of the fashion community. So, this newfound friendship wasn’t exactly approved by the longtime readers of Vogue or people who viewed Vogue in a serious, or sophisticated light. Personally, I think it was just an easy way to keep people’s attention, specifically a young audience’s attention. It seems to be working too, considering Vogue mentions someone in the Kardashian/Jenner family at least twice a day. Once again, I’m not saying they are using the Kardashian/Jenner clan to get media attention, but the facts are right there.
Regardless if you like Kim and Kanye or not, it’s irrelevant. The facts are that they are known for having a habit of doing anything they can to grab people’s attention. Is it that far off to Wintour didn’t take some inspiration from them?
Sam Shahid, the founder of branding, advertising, and design agency Shadid & Company, even told the New York Post in August that “[talking about the September issue] Now they are all doing the same thing. There’s no imagination there. It’s just pure product, it’s pleasing the advertiser”. Shahid also said that due to the lack of funds, from the decline of print circulation, and revenue led to Vogue and all magazines trying to attract any kind of buzz or revenue. In his own words, “Celebrities are controlling fashion.” Which is a very true and honest statement about the state fashion print magazines are in, but that conversation also leads us to discuss the social media effect on Vogue.
The Social Media Effect
Social Media has had a silent attack on Vogue and all print magazines. When discussing the decline of Vogue, almost nobody ever mentions this factor in detail. Maybe it’s because it’s a ‘duh’ type of moment or because we don’t like to talk about how we kind of killed Vogue ourself by putting them in a position where they have to be desperate for ad revenue. With fashion inspiration that is more specific and diverse, and faster online coverage easily available, who could blame us! Vogue can because they dropped 10.4% in sales.
When I say this, I do not mean to turn off your internet connection and go to your closest grocery store to buy an issue of Vogue. I’m saying that we have to acknowledge that our social media use did affect this company and how they want to market to us. Condé Nast, an American mass media company that owns Vogue, had laid off 80 workers last year, close printing for many of its magazines, and lose $120 million to go through with their plans to make their magazines more internet based. That’s how badly our new use of fashion-related media has changed their business.
While Vogue may have interesting and disappointing advertising methods, it doesn’t change Vogue’s legendary legacy. I want to make it very clear, I have so much respect for Anna Wintour and everyone who has ever worked at Vogue.
Anna, please don’t murder me. I just think the decline in quality and the increase in overly eager marketing is just something to make a point of when discussing Vogue’s obvious decrease in sales. I also want to make it very clear that I’m not blaming the Kardashian’s for Vogue’s decline. I’m just using them as an example of how much Vogue is prioritizing celebrity impact over their own reputation.
Regardless of my personal feelings about the company, Vogue is an iconic magazine and I can’t imagine a world without a new issue of Vogue every month. Vogue will always have an impact on the fashion industry. Let’s just hope it remains positive.