The outpouring of love following Alexandra Shulman’s departure from Vogue was truly touching: she was described as ‘unpretentious’ and ‘very British’ (code for overweight and posh) as the UK fashion industry mourned the loss of this affable leader. Though I’m sure she was a very nice lady, there is something quite perverse about celebrating a fashion editor who could barely find time to comb her hair and was too busy glugging wine to look in the mirror before leaving the house. As the UK’s number one representative for fashion it was her responsibility to look presentable and deliver interesting work and she failed to do either. The correct response to mark the end of a reign defined by mediocrity and flip-flops would have been a few fireworks and some cake.
Not only was her appearance unsettling but so was her complete lack of imagination. Kate Moss has been on the cover of Vogue 37 times. Though I appreciate that Kate Moss sells – and that magazines are in the business of selling – surely there comes a point where it’s embarrassing for the whole world to know that there are no new ideas circulating in your empty head. Pair that with the endless rotation of Mario Testino and Patrick Demarchelier and it becomes hard to understand what she’s been doing with her time, which should have been spent discovering new models and new photographic talent.
We can definitely rule out diversity as the preoccupation that stunted her creative growth; her response to questions on why there weren’t more realistic examples of women in Vogue demonstrated why she should be remembered as one of the great idiots of our time. Firstly she denied that anyone would want to see a real woman on the cover of Vogue because if they wanted to see a real woman they could look in the mirror for free. Then, having decided that seeing a real woman should in fact come at a cost, she dedicated a whole issue on the subject and put the movie star Emily Blunt on the cover. Apparently this made sense as Emily Blunt was playing a real woman in her upcoming film. If you take this warped logic to its natural conclusion then Julia Roberts becomes the poster girl for prostitutes everywhere and Russell Crowe is an actual gladiator.
Another subject I imagine resides on her list titled ‘stuff I do not really give a shit about’ is the absence of black faces in the fashion industry. Since 2002 there have been two black models with solo covers on British Vogue. When questioned Shulman released a press statement suggesting that the appearance of Beyoncé and Rihanna left little room for any more black people. Years prior to this she gave an interview to the Daily Mail where she told the paper she ‘does not think fashion is institutionally racist in the slightest’. As evidence, she cited three black models (none of whom she’d ever given a solo cover to) and celebrated stylist Edward Enninful (who has never worked at UK Vogue) as being at the ‘top of the tree’. Meanwhile the trees at UK Vogue are full of of white faces and there’s a wall of 180 covers where only two black models appear alone.
I welcome the end of the Shulman era with glee and pray that the person they put in her place is a very different type of human being. Hopefully, it’ll be someone who pushes the boundaries of creativity and spends more than a minute thinking about issues of diversity – but at the very least they better turn up to work with actual shoes on.