Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
One of the biggest highlights in the fashion calendar is reading the most coveted September Issue. September – marking somewhat of the New Year in the industry is the most important month editorially as it debuts the upcoming autumn collections and the sartorial year begins fresh without a crease in sight. As part of my own quirky traditions, I have collected Vogue since the age of 10 – the Vogues of the UK, US, Italy, France, and Germany that is. Growing up internationally, I appreciate the different takes on fashion in a global context (even if the fashion and the trends are the same) and how each country has its own style and perspective representing its readership. For example Vogue Italia headed by Franca Sozzani provides shocking, mystical images (usually by Steven Meisel), Vogue Germany headed by Christiane Arp is more industrial and architectural – often minimalistic and sterile but equally powerful, Vogue US is typically centred on entertainment and celebrity and is by far the most influential, Vogue Paris, especially when under the direction of Carine Roitfeld proved provocative and oozed seduction. While individual styles define each, a Vogue no matter what language represents cutting edge fashion, the standard of excellence, and encourages a running social commentary of the global atmosphere. Although fuelled by the commercial powerhouse which is Condè Nast – Vogue still in my opinion flourishes with creative integrity worthy of capturing the imaginative spirit of the new generation.
Last week was the great reveal of who will grace the cover of September issue – the US edition headed by Anna Wintour in particular. Fashion folk around the world were eager to discover who it may be and the question was finally answered: in my case, in the most mundane way. Scrolling through my mind-numbingly boring Facebook newsfeed in between a vine of Doug the Pug and a sponsored advert for Kayla Itsines’s Bikini body guide (how rude!) a video was posted by Vogue (a page I liked) which on first glance looked like a preview for the next “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” episode. Filmed in the Calabasas house of mother Kris, Kendall Jenner “model of the moment” was flustered that her family forgot to congratulate her on her achievement of landing her big cover. But after a minute of so – plot twist- she receives a text from Ryan (Seacrest) to come to the garden… Oh! She is surprised by her sisters, her mom, and Ryan Seacrest with a party and cheers of how proud they were of her for this milestone. Think John Hughes’s 16 Candles but with the expected Kardashian kringe. Going on her Instagram to see if the cover was actually happening – there it was. Kendall wearing a Gucci brocade suit with pink ribbons, next to the headline of Generation K- the face that launched a billion likes. Cliche 1, witty 0. However, that was my cynicism talking as I am not much of a Kardashian aficionado. Who am I to judge – I don’t know them and they seem like nice enough girls (although I greatly admire Mama Kris- a business role model and no sarcasm here).
At first glance I felt a twinge of disappointment. Is this what the industry has come to? Is being Insta-famous a requirement to “make it”? Is success based on follower count and likes? What about the overwhelming majority of models who are forced to leave home at a too-early age, forced to apartment share with 10 other girls, struggle to be cast in a show to pay rent or to eat, exploited due to their vulnerable position and pretty faces? I can only imagine their frustration they feel when seeing a reality tv star hailed as this generations supermodel in an outstanding 2 years of hard work. What about Anna Ewers, Lindsey Wixon, Binx Walton, Maartje Verhoef, Molly Blair, Mica Arganaraz, Lineisy Montego who are celebrated for their extensive modelling work?
I felt disappointed at the inauthentic tagline “How Kendall Jenner became the breakout model of her generation.” Anyone who has ever watched E! knows the narrative she has been part of since the age of 11. Truly representative of this Gen Y-Z she is not.
But after a few moments of pouting and bewilderment – I even protested and “unliked” Vogue due to the constant feed of KJ moments (I have since “liked” them again)- I rationally thought about the situation and concluded that my approval or disapproval of the Kardashians is completely irrelevant. Anna Wintour and the Vogue team made the right call and as ever, continue to represent the zeitgeist. When Anna first put a celebrity instead of a model on the cover the world was outraged. Fast forward 20 years and it is difficult to find a cover without a celebrity. Anna rebooted the success of a (at the time) struggling magazine and gave her readership exactly what they wanted. This is one of the legacies of Anna and is why she will go down in history as one of the most brilliantly innovative and greatest editor and chiefs.
Don’t be upset at her (smart business) decision- be upset at our times and our own human behaviour. Why are the Kardashians so successful? Why do we spend our days liking, sharing, commenting, tweeting, gramming, snapping, messaging, and GIFing? No one is forcing you to watch, to swipe right, or to forward that meme onto your best friends. This is the new world order and for Vogue not to respond to the realities of our global society would be ignorant, misleading, and naïve. Running a magazine in today’s climate is especially challenging – with a sea of independent magazines and digital influencers and bloggers who have close to the same readership as print magazines. You need to sell to stay afloat, you need to reach flailing demographics who prefer a screen to paper. With the younger generations less inclined to buy magazines, you need to appease them with someone they look up to and relate to and that ladies and gents is Miss Jenner. Like it or not we are living in a Kardashian (Seacrest) world and if any cliche would be relevant here it would be “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
So what’s your next move?