Leading the Way

The Changing Role of Fashion Magazines

Since its emergence in the early eighteenth century, the magazine has changed dramatically over the years. Initially aimed at the aristocratic society, it provided a record of desirable fashions, indicating changes of style and taste.

A turning point in its evolution took place in the late 1950s and 1960s, when the Parisian salon and the landscape of uptown Manhattan were replaced by a quirky London scene, with an irreverent disdain for traditional expectations and seething with sexual possibilities.

This marked the emergence of a tendency towards a sexual objectification of the body, magnified in the 1970s and 1980s with the work of renowned photographers such as Helmut Newton and Steven Meisel.

During these two decades, magazines started to go beyond home and family life, to focus on independent and career-oriented women, favouring personal growth and self-improvement. It’s interesting to note this style remains relevant to this day.

“Flip through a few magazines and you’ll see the phrase “how to” over and over again. A great many magazines are marketed by persuading the reader that they will make you better at something - healthier, happier, richer, better at a skill or a relationship, or simply better informed.” Moira Anderson Allen in How to Write for Magazines

Another decisive moment is led by British street-style magazines, which brought a fresh viewpoint and bold attitude into the magazine publishing world. I remember how exciting i-D was, after my initial contact with classic French fashion magazines.

“The intervening energies of punk fanzines fed into the hybrid concern with music, film, politics, dance, and fashion that characterised influential titles like The Face, Blitz and i-D, all of which were founded around 1980.” Christopher Breward in Fashion

I had the honour of having Breward as my Fashion History and Theory teacher at The London College of Fashion. His encyclopaedic knowledge and enthusiasm about fashion were fascinating!

My MA project was actually a magazine aimed at the metropolitan consumer - not gender specific - and with a focus on different creative areas. To be honest, I always had a problem with fashion magazines with a distinctive women’s club feel, it’s highly restrictive and often home to narrowing stereotypes.

It’s impossible to write about fashion magazines without mentioning Vogue. It is a style reference to this day. Much like Chanel, Vogue is so deeply imbued with fashion and it has such a strong heritage, that it seems to inhabit our collective aesthetic sense.

Nonetheless, the magazine remained somehow attached to the past. Fantasy, glamour and an aspirational lifestyle are still as popular as ever, as proven by the meteoric rise of fashion influencers. But the world is rapidly changing and a reconfiguration was very much needed.

“Vogue existed before I came, and it will still exist when I leave, but I knew that I had to go in there and do what I really believed in. It’s our responsibility as storytellers or image makers to try to disrupt the status quo.” Edward Enninful

Edward Enninful, the Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, is definitely leading the way in the reconfiguration of the fashion magazine with his uncompromising vision. He is not only inclusive but also unafraid to be political and make a stand.

This bold shift has been highly acclaimed and he has just appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. You may remember him from The September Issue, when he was working with Anna Wintour in New York for American Vogue.

He has definitely come a long way since starting his career in fashion. There’s a general perception of people who love fashion as frivolous and superficial, and when someone like him clearly communicates the heart of fashion, as a reflection of the world around us, it’s not only beautiful to watch but also inspiring!

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