We have evolved into impatient creatures dependent on catchy headlines, breaking news, ego-boosting notifications and gratifying pings. We live for the satisfaction of the new, where it is never too soon to hear about the latest scandal or trend. Today, we are all in the know, or at least pretend to be, and no matter if the “know” is real or imagined, what seems to count is our ability to keep up and spread the message further and further, louder and louder. Hence, like a moth to a flame, we are instinctively drawn to sharable content, such as click-bait fashion which conjures up a short-lived laugh and a pang of excitement as we associate ourselves with what is en vogue.
Thanks to social media – or more accurately dubbed, asocial media – we all possess the tools in our hands in acting as fully fledged journalists, editors and critics. Our timelines and feeds have incredible influence on anyone who will listen. However uninformed or unqualified we may be, we possess unprecedented power, shaping the imagery and unfiltered conversation of our greater society. How thrilling it is to read public opinion! What a grand opportunity in catapulting talent up to the stratosphere! Information overload, often without the need to fact check, leads to at worst fake news, at best direct democratic groupthink. But with such easy access to information and inspiration at our fingertips – at zero financial cost or filter- does the print magazine still have a role to play?
Absolutely. Independent magazines are doing better than ever, many propped proudly upon Bauhaus coffee tables all over the world, but what about mainstream fashion glossies (e.g Vogue, Harper’s, GQ etc…) which are becoming more and more dependent on advertising?
Many in the past have argued that print is losing its creative autonomy as in some cases, advertisers require full looks to be featured in the editorial pages. Instead of mixing and matching various pieces from different brands, stylists and photographers are increasingly prescribed entire outfits for photo shoots, meaning a potential demise for stylistic interpretation. Brands dictating full looks are becoming more popular especially when a creative director changes, in order to cement aesthetic changes and the new sartorial direction to a wider audience. The most recent example is Raf Simons for Calvin Klein who’s full-looks can be seen splashed across all mainstream magazines, from top to toe. While the pairings of different brands may become less of a feature, such full looks put a collection into context and strengthen the image of a designer’s vision. Moreover, stylists and photographers are encouraged to channel creativity in terms of storytelling, thus inviting an interesting opportunity. For example, in the December 2017 British Vogue editorial shot by Juergen Teller titled Remain, full Miu Miu looks were worn within an enticing political context.
Even with unwavering demands from advertisers, in order to stand out in a sea of digital images and text, print magazines must justify their worth by emphasising a unique point of view and superior content.
Case and point, the recently revamped British Vogue under the editorial leadership of Edward Enningful. His debut for the iconic title was marked as a celebration of what it means to be British, by spotlighting local world-class talent, candid “Love Letters to Britain, a piece by Zadie Smith on Her Majesty the Queen, an interview between Naomi Campbell and London major Sadiq Khan as well as homegrown imagery staring local communities and British style. Altogether, Enningful proposes a refreshing attitude for the magazine which is now less about the posh and more about thought-provoking text and images, demanding the beholder to soak up each page. With contributors including Kate Moss, Pat McGrath, and Alexa Chung among others, Enningful has elegantly transitioned figures within pop culture to contributing editors. His vision of #NewVogue is authentic, provocative and delicious, reminiscent of his previous work at W and Vogue Italia, and calls for the need to purchase the physical magazine in order to fully appreciate the content. Additionally, “New Vogue” flawlessly links print with digital content where instead of one medium replacing the other, each works together creating a supreme omnichannel experience elevating the potential of print within the digital age.
Be it wishful thinking or naivety, I think we are entering a new golden age of fashion magazines; powerful cultural entities becoming one with product, individual expression, and democratic discourse. Happy Days!