Vogue Paris Becomes Vogue France: How Fashion Print’s Newest Change Reflects Industry Trends

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French philosopher Michael Focoult has famously said, “where there is power there is resistance,” and in the fashion editorial industry, Vogue reigns supreme. Helming the most famous fashion magazine in the world, Anna Wintour, Vogue US Editor in Chief/Conde Nast Global Chief Content Officer, has the ability to dictate how we dress with one blacked-out. Sunglass-covered glare. The coveted front row center seat reserved exclusively for her presence acts as her throne that quite literally signifies her position of power. In a pivotal New York Times piece by Edmund Lee, published December 2020, titled “The White Issue: Has Anna Wintour’s Diversity Push Come Too Late,” Lee details the history of racism and lack of inclusivity at Vogue fostered by Wintour following Vogue’s September “Hope” issue featuring a majority of Black artists, models, and photographers with the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Lee quotes a former Black staff member from Vogue who stated, “Fashion is bitchy. It’s hard. This is the way it’s supposed to be. But at Vogue, when we’d evaluate a shoot or a look, we’d say, ‘That’s Vogue,’ or, ‘That’s not Vogue,’ and what that really meant was ‘thin, rich and white.’ How do you work in that environment?” It is abundantly clear that whiteness and high social class has been entwined tightly with “Vogue” by the strings of Wintour’s pearl necklace. The way in which Wintour has attempted to unravel this multi-decade knot has several implications for the current state and future of fashion print publishing as a whole.

Fashion Reverie has covered Anna Wintour’s recent decision to change “Vogue Paris” to “Vogue France” in our fashion news section. In a Vogue piece written by Eugénie Trochu, Editorial Content Head at Vogue France, she justifies the name change by stating, “creativity, culture, art and fashion are everywhere. They are the greatest vectors of inclusiveness and diversity. Our identity is not born from a single place and Vogue represents the best of emerging talents and voices. We’ll build on a hundred years of defining cultural history but meet the moment we’re in now and most importantly, reflect the France we live in today.” Again, where there is power, there is resistance, and many took issue with this move. Most notably, Le Figaro, the French daily morning newspaper, argued that the decision reflects Anna Wintour’s pushing American “woke” values onto other countries, writing “The colossal losses of the publisher Condé Nast in recent years against a backdrop of digital transformation in the sector have led it to a new strategy of ‘sharing of content’ for all its newspapers international. In summary, each title is now coordinated by a single head linked to a country, under the leadership of the indestructible Anna Wintour.”

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 It is certainly true that consolidation in fashion print publishing is a recent trend; notably, on November 2, Lady Gaga graced the covers of both Vogue Italia and British Vogue, and Adele covered British and American Vogue in October. Outside of Vogue, musician The Weeknd appeared on almost all covers of GQ globally and Glamour released a Camila Cabello cover story across eight markers, according to Chantal Fernandez for The Business of Fashion. While shared content could put Vogue France at risk of losing a much-loved identity, it is very controversial for Le Figaro to refer to a push for inclusivity and diversity as a distinctly American cultural agenda.

It is important to note that Paris as a city has without a doubt impacted fashion in a plethora of beautiful ways. It is a completely valid point to argue that there is so much rich history attached to Vogue Paris, so a name change seems like an erasure. However, it is just as important to note an element of Vogue Paris that has long been tied to a certain identity that excludes others. In a piece for The Guardian, Jess Cartner-Morley writes of Vogue Paris’ identity at its 95th anniversary at the time; “All manner of diverse, inclusive body shapes and aesthetics are celebrated. Jokes. The look is: very thin, very hot, wearing a lot of eyeliner and not much else, lying in a hotel bed having shagged someone famous and probably married.” Vogue Paris has not been known for its inclusivity during much of its existence and is often celebrated for an image that actively excludes and denies others a seat at fashion’s front row. Equating diversity and inclusion to American culture is a poor attempt to position France away from principles that should be celebrated and enforced across an entire brand’s portfolio. Le Figaro’s statement in a sense seems to be an admission that Vogue Paris’ identity was tied to a lack of diversity. More important than a simple name change is action to promote inclusivity to foster a renewed French narrative which had been promised starting with the first Vogue France edition.

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To understand a perspective of a professional close to the topic, Fashion Reverie spoke with Angelika Pokovba, journalist who has lived in Paris and has written for Vogue Mexico, L’Officiel, Essential Homme, and Coveteur among others, about her recent writing for Frenchly entitled “Vogue Paris Survived WWII, But Not 2021.” She tells us, “Encompassing all of France into the name is indeed a politically correct decision that will hopefully elicit social change in the industry, but it is a stretch to equate a name change to a social movement that the magazine should have been implementing all along anyway. Like Shakespeare said, ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ Vogue, the French edition, will continue being just that, the media helm of the fashion world (even with another name.)” Pokovba goes on to comment on the name change being viewed as a distinctly American action pushed by Wintour as she states, “I think it would have been more French to accept the discrepancy between Paris and France but keep the name as part of history and a namesake that has quite a lot of value.” So, while Pokovba hopes for change, she agrees that the name change should not be the center of debate, rather the industry should be focusing on whether we see actual change in upcoming issues.

The first Vogue France edition came out on November 4, 2021, and features Aya Nakamura, a French-Malian singer. Vogue France wrote on Instagram, “This very first issue pays tribute to and celebrates individuality. Vogue France creates an access to more talents, more voices, more singularity and a collective creativity which resonates internationally.” While Le Figaro is right that Vogue’s goal, along with many other magazines, is to streamline publications internationally, the first Vogue France issue does not seem to eliminate a uniquely French identity, it just creates a fresh narrative focused on representing France in its entirety. Vogue Paris, before becoming Vogue France, recently celebrated its centennial anniversary through an archive centric issue “100 ans.” The issue states that “The cover, an April 1979 Guy Bourdin photograph featuring a bold red heart with Vogue Paris and ‘100 ans’ in gold foil, was chosen as an echo of the issue’s central idea that ‘archives [are] the heart of a magazine, its spine, its words that remain for eternity. They are its voice, its confidences, its deep secrets that they share with you.” Vogue Paris lives on through archives, which may hold even more value now that it is no longer circulated. A name change then, is not really an erasure, it is an attempt at redefining what is meant by “Vogue” from a lens that is not just white, thin, rich or all of the above.

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Like “100 Ans,” many fashion print publishers are creating higher quality issues that function as editorial books that showcase the publication’s identity and influence on fashion in a way that glorifies archives. This trend aligns with the current vintage craze in fashion, particularly among Gen Z. The turn towards higher quality print publishing has also grown in recent years, particularly during the pandemic. According to Pierre De Villiers for upmpaper, “Magazines born during [COVID} offer just that [diversions from reality], not just with its escapist content, but through its high production values. With covers becoming thicker and paper quality improving, new titles feel like luxury items and it’s an indulgence many are happy to pay a bit more for.” Publications, like Marie Claire, have also recently announced a decision to focus on growing a digital presence while releasing special, more high quality, issues irregularly. Essentially, fashion print publications are consolidating and sharing content to grow their digital strategies, while print content is becoming more luxurious, rare, and archive focused to attract younger, wider audiences through legacy branding.

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In a growing digital landscape, consolidation and inclusivity is simply progression that reflects globalization and the need to reach a wider audience. Fashion magazine lines are being blurred because borders are being blurred. As for the future of fashion print publishing, many magazines will likely also glorify archives to retain a unique culture that is becoming more blurred in a digital landscape. Special print issues will likely become more niche, higher quality, rare, and luxurious. In these editions, identity, culture, and luxury will thrive, yet a digital backing is needed and will likely continue to be accompanied by shared cover stars and consolidation. Pokovba, when asked what she believes to be the future of fashion print publishing, told us “Fashion is a niche that touches just about every area of life and I do think that it has a significant social and cultural impact. I think the future of glossy fashion magazines is a socially righteous one, on a fashionable basis.” Fashion Reverie certainly hopes so!

—Tessa Swantek

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