We know that print is dying, and that generally, the big magazine brands are increasingly losing their power and influence. Fashion media’s advertising revenue is down a whopping 75 percent from 20 years ago, and titles are folding in droves. Consumers are consuming elsewhere. Namely, on a more diverse and liberal Instagram. The prevailing thought is that thanks to its democracy and omnipresence, social media killed the fashion magazine. But in reality, this is not the case - the fashion magazine’s demise is its very own. Influencers didn’t end the era of magazines, their own redundant features did. To be clear, the editorial content - not the photography. The quality of the photoshoots is not currently being replicated on social media, and will be missed if obsolete.
As a summary, the sins of fashion magazines would read as: nepotism, classism, derivative content, stagnation, and disingenuous attempts at features of substance. Let’s look at these in closer detail.
The fashion editorial system is no meritocracy. Internships and entry-level jobs barely pay anything, and therefore exclude a great number of talented people with more varied perspectives on fashion. Generally unless you have a safety net or can at least live at home, it is nearly impossible to become a fashion journalist or editor, unless you kill yourself working several jobs at a time to compensate. While I’ve managed to get through the latter, I knew of many skilled writers who after a few years realized that they can’t work in fashion and have a normal quality of life, and as a consequence, left. And so, the affluent people writing are not necessarily the most creative, thorough or insightful content producers.
Not only does one have to be able to afford to work for free, most fashion media companies, Condé Nast in the UK for example, will not give you a chance unless you’ve gone through their lengthy unpaid internship program or know someone there. It doesn’t matter if you’ve sent them incredible work samples. Old-guard editors have been so high off being the gatekeepers of the industry, that they never stopped to consider whether letting new people in would benefit the magazine.
After his hire as Editor-in-Chief in 2017, many hoped that Edward Enninful would be a breath of fresh air at British Vogue, but were then disappointed to learn that he hired his famous friends such as Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell to be “contributing editors”. A different kind of nepotism, but nepotism all the same.
As such, there are very few fresh synergies, talents and ideas moving through most editorial offices. Out-of-house freelancers who have tried pitching their ideas, and even artwork, to magazines always get the same reply about not accepting unsolicited submissions. It is not uncommon for the submitted ideas to be copied without credit. Once, an editor of an online magazine loved one of my ideas for a column, to the point that I was mapping out the first month’s content and thinking that maybe there are some open-minded heads still out there. Of course, a week later, he got back to me to say that one of their internal writers had already had a similar idea, and that he would be crazy not to let her take it on instead.
Instagram simply enables people to have the conversations about fashion that they want to be having. The reason why the big magazines were always the last word in fashion, was because they had the most elevated take on the former discussions at hand, such as trends. The discussions have moved on, and these magazines cannot have the last word, because they aren’t even really attempting to be part of the conversation anymore.
Despite the decline in readership, these magazines are still running the same tired stories, and not cluing-in to a demand for modern content with more depth. British Vogue's newsletter has to be the worst with their circular repertoire. Bags their editors love. Random trends. What to wear after 30. What you can’t wear after 30. How to wear florals. No why. No personal take on fashion. No reflection on how these items make you feel.
Disingenuous Attempts at Substance
Before boarding a train at London Paddington the other day, the latest issue of Porter magazine made me do a double take. I saw ‘Fashion to lift your mood’ and while I was excited to see clothing finally being explored in more depth, naturally, my heart sank a little at the thought of not being a part of it. I bought the magazine to see their take on the psychology of fashion, but was confused after flipping through it several times. The mood-boosting clothes were referenced once, and were simply referred to as ‘mood-boosting clothes’, without any stab at context or explanation as to why these clothes would affect one’s mood.
‘Naomi Campbell Covers The March Issue Of British Vogue’, read this morning’s British Vogue newsletter subject line. Groundbreaking. At this point, I sincerely feel that I’d pay good money not to see Kate or Naomi ever again, but feel it may just be easier to unsubscribe.