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Leaving Vogue seems to be in fashion at the moment.
A number of senior figures have exited the magazine in recent weeks amid reports that its new editor is making some staffing changes before he officially begins on 1 August.
Edward Enninful is taking over from Alexandra Shulman, who announced in January that she was leaving after 25 years in charge.
He is the first male editor in the magazine’s history, and is already making a few tweaks (or, removing “posh girls”, as The Times put it) to the senior editorial team.
Since his hiring was announced, Vogue veterans such as Lucinda Chambers and Emily Sheffield have announced their departure as Enninful gears up to bring in his own team.
But it hasn’t been a smooth transition so far.
Chambers, Vogue’s former fashion director, was one of the first major figures to leave.
And she did so in style.
“Lucinda has announced that she is to step down from her position,” the magazine delicately said on its website in May.
Chambers herself had a slightly different take.
“A month and a half ago I was fired,” she said in a candid interview with fashion blog Vestoj, published this week.
“Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years. The clothes are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive.”
“Most fashion magazines leave you totally anxiety-ridden,” she said, adding: “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 to continue buying.”
The comments echo what Shulman herself said earlier this year.
“At the end of the day, very few people have to have another pair of trousers, another skirt, another bomber jacket, so what you are doing as an industry is creating desire,” she said.
Hilary Alexander, editor-at-large for Hello! Fashion Monthly and trustee of Graduate Fashion Week, says there’s an element of truth in Chambers’s comments.
“There’s no doubt there are too many clothes in the world, and the number of collections being pumped out month after month, you could spend the entire year going from one Fashion Week to another,” she says.
“But at the opposite end of the scale, fashion is a huge industry that employs millions of people across the world, it’s worth around £28bn a year in this country alone if you include the retail sector.”
The departure of senior figures like Chambers is to be expected, says Susie Lau, fashion blogger and journalist.
“From an industry point of view, it’s completely normal for someone like Edward Enninful to come in and say he wants a completely new team,” she tells the BBC.
“Especially at the senior level, he would want to have people that he feels can push forward the new editorial direction, and I think it is going to be a very different tone and feel to what Alex did.”
Chambers appeared to be pulling no punches with her rather honest interview, but not long after it was published, it was taken down… and then put back up again.
“Due to the sensitive nature of this article, we took the decision to temporarily remove it from the site,” Vestoj said in a statement.
“In terms of the reasons why it was removed, they are directly related to the industry pressures which Lucinda discusses in her interview.
“As you know, fashion magazines are rarely independent because their existence depends on relationships with powerful institutions and individuals. We created Vestoj to be an antidote to these pressures, but we are not always immune.”
You can see why some figures in the fashion industry may not have been best pleased with the Chambers article.
At one point in the interview, she said: “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.”
But Lau says the close relationship between advertisers and journalists has always been a fixture of the industry.
“[Chambers] has been in fashion for so long, she’s worked for a magazine where the commercial concerns are hugely important, and that’s not anything new,” she said
“Advertisers are of course given precedence, and maybe creative control has to be sometimes compromised – but it was ever thus. That’s part and parcel of working in a print landscape that has undergone so many changes.”
She adds that Chambers’s comments in the interview are understandable given how long she has spent working at Vogue.
“I think when you work in the industry you do become quite jaded. When you’re dealing with the mainstream side of fashion and doing it in a very commercially-minded way, it can get cynical.
“There are wonderful creative and brilliant things happening, but I guess if your day-to-day isn’t about that any more, that can wear you down.”
Vogue’s replenishing continued on Tuesday with reports another senior figure announced she was exiting the publication.
Deputy editor Emily Sheffield, who is also the sister of Samantha Cameron, said she was leaving her role as Vogue’s deputy director “after a very happy decade”.
She might not have updated her Twitter biog yet, but the invitations for her leaving do have gone out so we’re pretty sure it’s only a matter of time.
“Emily Sheffield was suggested as a replacement when Alex’s retirement was announced, so it’s only natural if you’re thinking you might get the top job and someone newer and younger comes in, that you would feel there isn’t really a place for you any more,” Alexander explains.
Both Lau and Alexander are looking forward to seeing what changes are made to the magazine when Enninful officially starts as editor.
“I’m excited because he is a brilliant stylist, I think Vogue will be a lot more diverse, I think we can expect surprises and shocks,” Alexander says.
“Perhaps there will be more focus on younger, newer designers, those who are working in unusual ways. I would welcome that, you don’t want to constantly read about the same old faces.”
Lau adds: “I know some of the people going in there [to Vogue], they haven’t been announced yet but I think it’s going to be a really exciting team.
“It won’t be quite as different as people are painting it, but there will be changes. Vogue is a barometer of our times, and I think it will reflect that.”
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