As a writer and blogger I’m always on the look out to for something in the media that has everybody swimming in one direction precisely so that I can swim in the opposite. Thankfully you never have to wait long for this particular bus to come along.

Over the last two weeks I have watched two one hour episodes that were part of a documentary into the workings of fashion magazine ‘Vogue’ or ‘London Vogue’ to be precise. The programme was entitled ‘Absolutely Fashion’ and was filmed to coincide with the magazine’s centenary. It could easily have been called ‘Absolutely Pointless’ or ‘Absolute Cliché’s’ because they came along quicker and more frequently than a formula 1 racing car. Maybe this explains why the ridiculous Karl Lagerfeld turned up dressed as a cross between Stirling Moss and the Duke of Bavaria.

Anyway. It may have been called ‘Absolutely Fashion’ but I couldn’t help being left with the impression that anybody who sat through it learnt absolutely fuck all about the fashion industry or indeed Vogue’s raison d’etre. The more I think about it the more I cannot believe that the magazine actually allowed the programme to air. At first I had some sympathy with film maker Richard Macer who came up against a wall of guarded responses to his questions. But towards the end of the second instalment I just wanted him to fall under some haute couture bus. The two hour bore fest managed to substantially raise the bar of banality. His questions to Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Shulman were about as hard as marzipan. Indeed during the entire two hours, Shulman never once uttered a single insightful sentence about how she viewed fashion or Vogue’s place within it.

Shulman herself is obviously no slave to couture. She dressed like a head librarian and she came across like that stern auntie who would smack you because your parents wouldn’t. Her office looked like the least fun place to work in London.  Personally I thought having fun was one of fashion’s greatest attractions for young people, but not apparently in the Editor-in Chief’s office. The two staff whom Macer spoke with looked decidedly pensive and in fear of their lives of saying the wrong thing which would have seen them taken to a dark basement and covered head to toe in M&S. The scene had all of the hallmarks of an episode of ‘The Office’. Maybe Shulman is David Brent is real life? But we did find out what a hectic life she leads going from one exhausting fashion show to another watching emaciated teenagers walk up and down, covered in this season must haves.

Another uncomfortable piece of footage was watching Schulman and her gofers sitting around a large office table discussing which of two pictures of Kate Moss should appear on the latest issue of the mag. Macer eventually asked the group which picture they preferred and everyone of them chose the same picture. Shulman, as anybody could have predicted, chose the other which was naturally declared the winner. Vogue doesn’t do democracy. But the telling thing about this scene was that the young group of staff looked suddenly rather uncomfortable. Not because their opinion counted for nothing but because for that fleeting moment none of them actually believed that Shulman knew what she was talking about. It was a telling moment where fashion, as viewed by those young female employees and fashion as viewed by somebody motivated by sales figures collided.  Shulman’s embarrassment was palpable. It was the best moment of the entire programme.

There were other pointless insights. Watching Macer try to interview Kate Moss   Her obvious lack of intellect at least made you happy that she made it as a model which saved her from the inevitable job in McDonalds. Then there was Lucinda Chambers. The magazine’s stylist? The person whose role seemed to consist of little more than having to tell models were to place their hands and feet and fussing over every inconsequential detail that those people who are always seeking to justify their employment have to do. In one scene Lucinda told the photographer that he had a magnificent range? Whether this was a golf range or firing range of the range in his kitchen was never explained but it was all clichéd embarrassment.

The sight of Jennifer Saunders and Joanne Lumley reinforced the sense of the ridiculousness that surrounds the fashion industry and Shulman and her cohorts weren’t exactly at ease with having to laugh at themselves on camera.  However I never for one moment thought that Vogue did a nice line in irony. But how wrong was I when it finally transpired that Kate Middleton, The Duchess of Cambridge no less, had secretly been persuaded to appear on the front cover of the centenary issue of the magazine. It never appeared to dawn upon Shulman or upon Macer to pose the question that Kate Middleton champions everything in fashion that Vogue doesn’t. Indeed, her favourite labels include, Zara, Gap, Monsoon, Topshop and Hobbs. Our Kate wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything that Karl the racing driver had stitched up.


16th September 2016.