A Century of Style

By: Claudia Mulholland

To celebrate the 100th year of a great Condé Nast publication, the journalist and filmmaker Richard Macer brought to our screens an exclusive look into the world of Vogue magazine- and what a world it is! With perfectly groomed blondes manning the phones, rails brimming with next season’s lines running the length of the corridors, and Conqueror envelopes addressed to A-list celebrities sprawled across the desks, Macer’s documentary is an adventure in to a world that oozes luxury and glamour.

But Macer set out to do far more with this documentary than simply provide a glorious snapshot into the famed magazine that graces the shelves of newsagents across the country. Beneath the whirlwind of front row seats, after parties and private viewings, Macer attempts to shine a brutal light on what he considers to be the everyday reality of life at Vogue. As he destroys the image of Vogue as the sartorial utopia many fashionistas every holds close to their heart, Macer portrays the publication as nothing more than a party of well bred twenty-somethings who can afford to spend their days musing on the virtues of next seasons Lego inspired fabrics, whose wardrobes are large enough to house endless pairs of jeans, and whose fathers are all as famous as Paul McCartney.

To strengthen his demolition of this age old institution, Macer sets upon the magazine’s longest serving editor, Alexandra Shulman, carelessly projecting onto her every high fashion stereotype in the metaphorical book. While it is true that over the course of filming, Shulman does do her fair share of flouncing, knocking down her perpetually terrified entourage as she jets from New York to Paris and onto Milan, she is certainly no Anna Wintour.

No trademark haircut, no oversized sunglasses, and no mid Atlantic accent, Shulman is an everywoman. In fact, in an interview with the BBC’s Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs, Shulman herself proclaimed herself to be not particularly interested in the fashion industry. She brands herself a journalist who just happened to land herself the most mythicized job on the planet at a time when female editors where virtually impossible to come across.

Macer seems disappointed by this. He perhaps expected a little more from the woman who supposedly sets the agenda for the entire British fashion industry. His solution apparently is to create this persona himself, essentially setting out to film a British remake of the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada. Constructing a quasi-dramatic plot line combining rumours of retirement with a feud between Vogue and its American counterpart, his foray into the world of script writing is unconvincing to say the least.

Yes, the Vogue office is home to a sock drawer ‘full of all kinds of weird and wonderful socks /…/ in case someone in the office needs some sartorial help’, and yes there is such a thing as a beauty cupboard, but that does not take away from the fact that Vogue has been, and will remain to be, one of the most influential European bastions of fashion.

In its centenary year the history of the magazine should not be forgotten. From its very conception, Vogue has had a reputation for high quality journalism with no less than three members of the infamous Bloomsbury Group inking articles on its glossy pages, and commissioning photographer Lee Miller to report on the liberation of Paris from the Germans in 1944. Considering this notable heritage it comes as no surprise that Shulman eventually is victorious over Macer. As the trying filmmaker was consumed with his construction of a fashionable monster, Shulman kept from him the biggest story of them all- a future Queen gracing the cover.

Photo credit: Flickr user Pablo Ferreira

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