Society tends to have a love-hate relationship with fashion and beauty magazines.
Lots of women want to be the “it girl,” or at least dress like her. But many also resent the absurd, unobtainable standards of beauty presented by models. And a few contrarians have wondered how a small piece of torn fabric or a pair of shoes can possibly be worth $25,000.
Of course, it’s far less common to hear the same critiques coming from inside the industry. Your best chance is the classic embittered insider, usually someone who has recently been drummed out of the industry for whatever reason — and has no realistic prospect of landing another big job.
That’s exactly the spectacle fashionistas were treated to this week from Lucinda Chambers. She was recently fired from her longtime post as fashion director of British Vogue and lashed out at the magazine — and by extension, the entire fashion business. Her ire was noted in an unusually frank interview with Vestoj, an online fashion publication.
The interview clearly ruffled a lot of feathers, prompting Vestoj to remove it shortly after it was first published. But thanks to the magic of the internet, her comments were quickly reposted elsewhere and will live forever.
Chambers, who was unexpectedly sacked in May after 36 years working for British Vogue, bluntly criticized the fashion industry and its handmaidens, the fashion mags, for duping women into buying overpriced clothing in an endless quest to be fashionable.
“What magazines want today is the latest, the exclusive. It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had. They’ve stopped being useful. In fashion, we are always trying to make people buy something they don’t need. We don’t need any more bags, shirts or shoes. So we cajole, bully or encourage people,” Chambers said.
She also admitted that she didn’t read her own magazine because it seemed irrelevant. “Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years. Maybe I was too close to it after working there for so long, but I never felt I led a Vogue-y kind of life. The clothes are just irrelevant for most people — so ridiculously expensive.”
The motivation behind the scathing takedown was not hard to discern.
Chambers recalled the peremptory, insensitive way her firing was handled by British Vogue’s new editor, Edward Enniful. “It took them three minutes to do it. No one in the building knew it was going to happen. The management and the editor I’ve worked with for 25 years had no idea. Nor did HR. Even the chairman told me he didn’t know it was going to happen. No one knew, except the man who did it — the new editor.”
In the interview, she also sniped at the famously blurry line between “church and state” in fashion magazines, in which editorial content is often closely aligned with advertisers’ products.
Chambers was happy to rip her own work along the way, although she also expressed pride in some of it. Of British Vogue’s most recent June cover, featuring model Alexa Chung, she admitted: “The June cover with Alexa Chung in a stupid Michael Kors T-shirt is crap. 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.”
I guess British Vogue might have considered a bigger severance package.