News & Runway

Fired British Vogue Editor Drags Vogue and the Fashion Industry at Large

UPDATE 7/6/17: Vestoj, the source for this article, has amended its original interview, stating, “Following the original publication of this article, we’ve been contacted by lawyers on behalf of Conde Nast Limited and Edward Enninful OBE and have been requested to amend the interview. This request has now been granted.” The amended portion of the interview includes Lucinda Chambers’ account of the circumstances of her firing. As such, we have removed this portion as well.

Lucinda Chambers is to step down from her position as fashion director of British Vogue. She will depart this summer after a career spanning 36 years at the publication. “Lucinda has been the most wonderful creative collaborator, as well as friend, throughout my whole editorship,” said Alexandra Shulman today. “She has produced many of the most influential and inspiring fashion shoots in the world during her time as fashion director of this magazine as well as a huge number of our most remarkable covers. It is impossible to overstate her vision, commitment, imagination and her ability to bring the best out of teams that work with her.” Read more via the link in bio. Photograph by @garconjon for @britishvogue

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Last Monday, Vestoj, an annual academic journal about fashion, published an interview with former British Vogue fashion director Lucinda Chambers titled, “Will I Get a Ticket? A Conversation About Life After Vogue.” Chambers’ first-person account of her abrupt dismissal from Vogue and her general feelings toward the fashion industry (of which she is a seasoned vet) was, in a word, incendiary. So incendiary, in fact, that within hours the piece had been removed from Vestoj’s site. There was talk of legal action. Nevertheless, Vestoj republished the article yesterday.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the article’s more “sensitive” (aka gripping) points. (Basically, according to Chambers, the fashion world is exactly as The Devil Wears Prada suggests and Vogue is of no use to the modern woman.)

 

On the demonization of failure and advertisers’ undue influence:

Chambers is not afraid to admit her own flaws, though the fashion world has zero tolerance for those who stumble. “You’re not allowed to fail in fashion — especially in this age of social media, when everything is about leading a successful, amazing life. Nobody today is allowed to fail, instead the prospect causes anxiety and terror. But why can’t we celebrate failure? After all, it helps us grow and develop,” she writes, adding, “I’m not ashamed of what happened to me. If my shoots were really crappy … Oh I know they weren’t all good — some were crappy.” Particularly those that were done under advertisers’ thumbs. “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. Ok, whatever. But there were others…There were others that were great.”

Image: Mario Testino

Image: Mario Testino

On the extreme pressure put on designers who work for big conglomerates like LVMH:

“The rise of the high street has put new expectations on big companies like LVMH,” Chambers explains. “Businessmen are trying to get their creatives to behave in a businesslike way; everyone wants more and more, faster and faster. Big companies demand so much more from their designers – we’ve seen the casualties. It’s really hard.” (Here, we’re reminded of the late Alexander McQueen.) The fashion industry, Chambers cautions, can easily “chew you up and spit you out” — particularly if you’re a successful designer. “Those designers are going to have drink [sic] problems, they’re going to have drug problems. They’re going to have nervous breakdowns. It’s too much to ask a designer to do eight, or in some cases sixteen, collections a year. The designers do it, but they do it badly – and then they’re out. They fail in a very public way. How do you then get the confidence to say I will go back in and do it again?”

On why she hasn’t read Vogue in years:

According to Chambers, there are many reason people aren’t paying for Vogue subscriptions anymore (aside from the rise of digital media). “There are very few fashion magazines that make you feel empowered,” she elucidates. “Most leave you totally anxiety-ridden, for not having the right kind of dinner party, setting the table in the right kind of way or meeting the right kind of people. Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years. Maybe I was too close to it after working there for so long, but I never felt I led a Vogue-y kind of life. The clothes are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive. What magazines want today is the latest, the exclusive. It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had. They’ve stopped being useful. In fashion 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 into continue buying.”

Enninful has yet to comment on the interview. Many fashion insiders, among them Pandora Sykes, took to social media to applaud Chambers’ bravery in breaking rank and telling truths.

In an email to the New York Times, Anja Aronowsky Cronberg explained why the article was removed and later republished: “Due to the sensitive nature of this article, we took the decision to temporarily remove it from the site, but have now republished it in its entirety. 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, whether it’s for tickets to shows, access in order to conduct interviews or advertising revenue,” Cronberg added. “We created Vestoj to be an antidote to these pressures, but we are not always immune. We hope Lucinda’s republished interview will spark a discussion which might, in her words, lead to a more ‘empowering and useful’ fashion media.”

Head over to Vestoj to read the full interview.