Was 2015 a good year for diversity in fashion magazines? Is it ever? The needle moves ever so sluggishly toward progression each year, but this wasn’t the best in terms of inclusion. Which is why Vogue insists that it’s on a mission to push forward.
Historically, in terms of fashion publications, Vogue has been the whitest of them all, and one of the slowest to diversify its editorials, its covers and its general point of view. That non-evolution is well documented.
Things appear to be changing with the January 2016 issue, which features Swedish actress Alicia Vikander on the cover and finds Anna Wintour vowing to improve the mag’s inclusionary practices. The venerable fashion overlord writes in her editorial:
“All of the many progressive societal changes that we have experienced recently are pointing us to a place of far greater inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity... So instead of our typical January portfolio defining the new season’s direction, we decided to do something completely different this year, something that reflects not only the spring 2016 runways but the shifting times we live in.”
Yes! After 123 years, Vogue is ready to move forward now that diversity is ~sexy~ and fashionable in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fifteen—or more accurately, the theoretical idea of diversity, not the practical execution of it. Guess we should be grateful.
To that end, this top-of-the-year issue features a spread titled “Be Yourself” that celebrates a plethora of creatives and athletes across the world. According to Mashable:
You’ll find a wider range of body shapes and sizes, for instance, with Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard. The spread also includes transgender model Hari Nef, who is transitioning to actress via her role in Transparent.
Regarding its progressive direction, Vogue’s fashion news director Mark Holgate tells Mashable, “It’s January, the start of a new year and start of 2016, an election year. It’s also coming off of seeing the spring 2016 collections. The strong message that came from them was that designers were embracing individuality and diversity with a strong point of view.”
Cool, cool. So after seeing the world embrace this novel idea of difference, Vogue put its finger to its chin while nodding. “Beyond that, Vogue fashion is not divorced to the reality of life,” Holgate adds. “We’re in a moment of real change, and it’s real progressive change. We want to have a progressive idea to shape our lives. Whoever we photograph in the first story of the spring 2016 season, it has to reflect that.”
Right. We’ll see how well Vogue executes his and Wintour’s statement with its subsequent 2016 issues, because this year’s narrative was much of the same.
Mashable erroneously reports that “the year 2015 was probably one of the most inclusive years in fashion in a long time.” And: “Though it’s far from flawless, Vogue prides itself on moving diversity forward. One only look at the book’s historic moment in 1974 when it utilized Beverly Johnson as its first black cover model.”
And Vogue did so well afterward... Beyoncé’s no-interview cover this year was only the third time a black woman has covered the mag’s September issue. Surely, Vogue has made gradual strides (the September issue also featured the Empire cast). Still, the numbers don’t add up.
In its 2015 analysis of fashion glossies, Fashionista reports that “overall, cover diversity on the major U.S. publications was almost exactly the same this year as last year.” For Vogue:
It’s not shocking at all that a Vogue editor would sound so archaic, as if just discovering a brave new land, when talking about that buzzword diversity. “Social media... kind of gets rid of this idea that fashion can be worn by one body type and beauty,” says Holgate. “All sorts of beauty and body types and age groups can. It’s great.”
It is great. The delusion continues:
Holgate explains that high fashion is hardly embracing this for the first time. Vogue, he says, has a history of accepting “intriguing and transformative” ideas of diversity. “If you look at the magazine in the last decade, it’s what we’ve always done,” he says. “Historically, we wanted more representation.”
The editor says it’s just the beginning: “We have another 11 issues, and I think this is progress,” he says.
So things are changing yet remain the same for Vogue and, also, Vogue has totally been into the idea of diverse representation forever. Congrats, Vogue, on continuing to do what you’ve always been doing while also progressing.
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Images via Vogue