The much-anticipated December issue of Vogue under the captaincy of Edward Enninful hit the newsstands today. If nothing else, the amount of media – both print and social – generated by the issue has given glossies a shot in the arm. I was enchanted by the cover star Adwoa Aboah with her maximum make-up, killer diamond chandelier drops and Stephen Jones psychedelic turban.
Aboah is fashion royal family being the daughter of Camilla Lowther and also ticks the boxes as a mixed-race beauty who has been vocal about her mental health issues. The accompanying Steven Meisel shoot styled by Mr Enninful reaches back to Bea Miller’s Vogue in the 1970s and features joyous fine jewellery of which the new editor is a great supporter.
I haven’t enjoyed British Vogue since the departure of the late, great Liz Tilberis. It was she who delivered a string of covergirl pearls in the early 1990s that fed my love of fashion. Every issue it was a new Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Claudia Schiffer or Naomi Campbell painted for the gods and dressed in fashions for Olympus. Who can forget Linda in Chanel couture shot by Patrick Demarchelier wearing a towering birdcage hat designed by a young Philip Treacy?
Don’t you think fashion has rather got above itself of late and forgotten that a magazine’s content should be about fun, frivolity, excess and eye candy rather than arty/ugly edge? I’ve never understood the Venetia Scott/Juergen Teller aesthetic so don’t see the point of a fashion spread featuring three women in ballgowns staring at a nude woman riding a cow. If I were Mr Enninful I would spare the readers shoots that make their noses bleed with perplexity.
Neither an I terribly taken by child star Millie Bobby Brown tootsed-up in Gucci and Giambattista Valli looking like a Wednesday Adams Lolita. Child stars are rather unnerving and her combination of knowingness and youth is not a comfortable fit in Vogue. Still, you can’t help falling in love with Joe McKenna’s shoot with Bruce Weber inspired by Mona Bismarck gardening in Balenciaga couture. It’s a barminess that Vogue lacked under former editor Alexandra Shulman.
I do think Mr Enninful missed a trick by not deploying the great Grace Coddington to shoot a fashion portfolio for his debut issue. Instead, Grace ‘styled’ illustrations by Michael Roberts of a gorilla called Gingernutz in the season’s couture looks. How was it? Pointless. Imagine what glories could have been achieved had Grace and Michael styled a fashion story? I recall one of Michael’s Tatler shoots with Tina Turner and Eton schoolboys titled Don’t Thigh For Me Ardent Tina. It was magical.
Race is clearly important to Mr Enninful. One hopes Vogue doesn’t look like a 1980s Benetton advert going forward. Naomi Campbell has scored many a Vogue cover in her career so I think it unfair to say that the magazine was too white and too posh. There’s still a bit of posh in there with features on Annabel’s and Matthew Freud. Zadie Smith writes a pointless essay about HM The Queen that is patronising, pert and bordering on intellectual snobbery.
There are flashes of genius in the new Vogue not least Pat McGrath’s balls-deep make-up story. The advertising department needs shooting for breaking-up Pat’s fabulous story with ads for Aussie shampoo and Gillette Venus razors. How low rent! Vogue should have taken a leaf out of Elle’s book and cleaned-up the crappy ads at the back of the magazine as a declaration of intent.
Most disappointing for me was how textbook the flow of features was throughout the book. I want to see those glorious fashion stories way ahead of the last quarter of the magazine. I can do without the bitty little nothings at the front of book with cut-out pictures and rather old-fashioned copy. Vogue can afford the best fashion writers so can we please be spared little shopping features titled Pigment Politics, Night Shades and (ugh!) Bow Wow. There are also far too many Vogue Partnerships (read advertorials).
Of course it is far easier to criticise than to praise. Much was expected of Mr Enninful and I suspect his nerves of not being a words man got the better of him. He scored Glenda Jackson for a feature but why not make her a model in a strong fashion portfolio to show that as well as racial diversity, Vogue loves women of all ages? The ‘back to their roots’ feature could have been better focusing only on J W Anderson and not Galliano, Christopher Bailey and Victoria Beckham.
I am very unsure about Vogue’s new contributing editors. Did Kate Moss giving her recipe for cheese on toast add anything to the national debate? As for Naomi Campbell’s ‘brilliant’ interview with Sadiq Khan, it was hardly groundbreaking. Whatever next? Cara Delevingne grills Kim Jong Un? Lily Cole deconstructs Brexit with Jean Claude Junker?
Looking at the Adwoa cover again it strikes me that the photograph could just as easily have been of Rupaul. Now that would have been a revolutionary cover for a fashion magazine.