This is not (only) a fashion newspaper

Shortly before her death in 1942, Condé Montrose Nast asked Audrey Withers what she thought was the role of a magazine like Vogue. Withers had become editor in chief of British Vogue in 1940, when the then director had been stranded overseas for the escalation of the world conflict. Once in charge, he had carried on the newspaper in unimaginable narrowness: editing it from air-raid shelters (gas masks in hand), challenging curfews, paper rationing, even overcoming the bombing of his offices (the staff had arrived the next morning with broom and scoop, and that month Vogue he had gone out only one day late). Above all, Withers (whose story is beautifully told in recent times Dressed For War by Julie Summers) had brilliantly guided the newspaper in a previously unexplored territory: war, current affairs and politics. And, with hostilities ceased, she had refused to abandon such hard-earned ground and credibility.

British Vogue October 1945, James De Holden Stone

© James de Holden Stone

When in 1946 the powerful director of Vogue Edna Woolman Chase renews Nast’s question, Withers replies with a memo that is almost a manifesto, and says more or less this: Vogue it can never be a simple fashion magazine again. It has a moral duty to cover everything that happens and that affects the lives of the women to whom it is addressed. Fashion, of course, will always remain in the foreground, but the magazine must be openly progressive and committed. For a simple fact: saying nothing is a political gesture that is equivalent to accepting the status quo. And this is certainly not Vogue.

Vogue Magazine March 1945

Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld / Conde Nast via Getty Images

© Erwin Blumenfeld

The pages you are browsing today are the result of a very long history and many battles, from the bloody ones fought on the front, to the cultural ones, less dramatic, but only in appearance. If fashion reflects its time, the same goes for the magazines that tell it. A simple principle, also the basis of our newspaper: from Meisel’s editorials to this issue, set up in just over a week while in Italy and in the world a pandemic is raging that will probably change many balances that we took for granted, and will change forever our way of life, therefore to tell about fashion and consume it. And if someone still turns up their noses at the idea that current events are among the interests of a fashion magazine, perhaps it is worth going to the roots of this story, which are distant, and very deep.

Vogue Magazine Cover – June 1945 by Eric (Photo by Carl Oscar August Erickson / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Carl Oscar August Erickson

The flourishing of a more open fashion journalism, which fulfills practical and propaganda tasks, but in the meantime tells how the role of women in society changes, dates back to the First World War. Reality begins to work its way up Vogue: the address book Smart Fashion for Limited Incomes becomes in 17 Fashions On A War Income, and a few years later he will find an even different meaning during the crisis of ’29 (where Nast almost completely loses his luck). It is no coincidence that speaking of the collapse of the world market in 2008, Suzy Menkes wondered why Wall Street had not kept an eye on the latest fashion shows – according to a well-known saying, the edges of the skirts go up and down together with the bag. After ’29, the lamé dresses of the Roaring Years gave way to skirts at the ankles, and moreover almost always in shades of white – a color chosen to express purity in the present, and hope for the future. Vogue in May 1930 he put on the cover an immaculate drawing by Lepepe and a screech that advertises, in fact, the most chic tips for limited portfolios, while in ’38 – when the cosmopolitanism of the previous decade gave way to a defense of the borders that soon it will also be physical – inaugurates the first “Americana Issue”, a hymn to indigenous production and style, inconceivable until just before. This reactivity to the present continues to dictate the editorial line of fashion magazines to the present day: the trauma of September 11, Vogue he reacts by putting on the cover the new girlfriend of America, Britney Spears, smiling in front of a stars and stripes flag, while Vogue Italia over the years he has published editorials on post-Twin Police police violence, the war in Iraq, the environmental disaster of British Petroleum and the devastating high water in Venice.

Vogue Magazine Cover, May 1930 (Photo by Georges Lepape / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Georges Lepape

But it is in the Second World War that the genetic code of Vogue changes, and allows the editors of the various editions to widen their gaze. If in 1939 Edna Woolman Chase was still convinced that to secure the role of Vogue as in the previous war, the need for taste and beauty would have been also (and above all) in a devastated world, Withers will demonstrate that the importance of the newspaper went far beyond its ability to distribute pure escapism.

Vogue Cover, February 1945 (Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld / Condé Nast via Getty Images)

© Erwin Blumenfeld

In occupied Paris the Nazis, unable to move – as Hitler would have liked, and especially Goebbels – the Couture to Berlin (Lucien Lelong, representative of the couturier, it had been very clear: “Either Paris, or nothing”), they had attempted to take control of the fashion industry through the press. Vogue Paris however, she had refused to obey the demands of the Nazi propaganda, and had been forced to close. It matters little. How would he tell about British Vogue Carmel Benito, the French had not let themselves be overwhelmed, resisting in their own way, that is, with huge hats and just as much imagination: “We were ready to run out of food, fuel, soap, […] but we would never have been seen neglected or shabby: after all, we were still Parisian “.

Vogue Magazine Cover, November 1917 (Photo by Georges Lepape / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Georges Lepape

The last bulwark in occupied Europe would remain the Vogue printed in London which, even during the Blitz, continued to come out. And not only that, he had become a leading interlocutor of the Ministry of Information. Established in 1939, the MoI he had initially struggled to keep up with the Nazi counterpart, but in 1941 it had been placed in the hands of Brendan Bracken – look a bit, a newspaper and magazine editor. One of the things that Bracken had immediately understood was that to communicate with the female public (“the soldiers without a gun”) you had to use fashion magazines, and above all the most authoritative and widespread: Vogue.

Vogue Magazine Cover, March 1949 (Photo by Eduardo Garcia Benito / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Eduardo Garcia Benito

The ministry’s requests were, of course, propaganda: push domestic consumption, make short cuts chic to decrease accidents at work due to the refusal to wear the horrible protective caps, or even to accept the rationing of clothes. In one of the most iconic shots commissioned by Withers, Cecil Beaton had photographed one of the first BBC announcers, very elegant, in front of a building reduced to rubble by bombing. The caption read: “Someone thinks that fashion is over.[…] But fashion is indestructible … Style cannot be rationed “.

Vogue Magazine Cover, June 1918

(Photo by Alice de Warenne Little / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Alice de Warenne Little

But with Forers, fighting wasn’t just about helping propaganda: it was letting British women understand what war really was. And to do so, she would have chosen an immense photographer who had been, before the war, also a model: Lee Miller. Robert Capa worked on his own streets, to name just one, but among the images of the war, those of Miller – the rubble of Saint Malo, the skeletons of Buchenwald, the bodies of the suicidal Nazis, in their bourgeois interiors – are among those that still remain today. Their mixture of elegance and ferocity found in Vogue the most effective chamber of echoes: and by publishing them, the magazine would be transformed into something different and new.

Vogue Magazine Cover, February 1938 (Photo by Victor Bobritsky / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Victor Bobritsky

Magazines have to do with the immediate, the here and now. For Audrey Withers, it meant knowing how to tell beauty and war and devastation with the same credibility. As Beaton wrote, recounting a London that resisted bombing with yet another English invention, the Blitz spirit: “Despite Hitler and against Hitler, gardening catalogs still arrive. And we don’t just order beans, potatoes, spinach, cabbage and the hives that now thrive in English gardens, but also the bulbs of hyacinths, which will brighten our darkest days by blooming. ” Of course, those hyacinths were not essential for survival. But if you think about it, yes.

Vogue Magazine Cover, December 1945

(Photo by Erwin Blumenfeld / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Erwin Blumenfeld

Italian Version:

Shortly before his death in 1942, Condé Montrose Nast asked Audrey Withers what she thought the role of a magazine like Vogue should be. Withers had become editor-in-chief of British Vogue in 1940, when the escalating world war prevented the return of her predecessor from the States. Withers took charge and found herself having to produce the magazine in unimaginable conditions: working out of air-raid shelters (gas masks at the ready), defying curfews, negotiating paper rationing, even surviving the bombardment of the offices (the staff arrived the next morning with brooms and dustpans, and that month’s issue of Vogue came out only one day late). Above all, Withers (whose story is beautifully told in Julie Summers’ recent Dressed for War) brilliantly led the newspaper into the previously unexplored territories of war, current affairs and politics. After hostilities had ceased, she refused to abandon such hard-won terrain and credibility. When in 1946 the very powerful editor-in-chief of Vogue Edna Woolman Chase repeated Mr. Nast’s question, Withers responded with a memo that was almost a manifesto, saying more or less this: Vogue could never again be merely a fashion magazine. It has a moral duty to cover everything that happens and that impacts the lives of the women to whom it is addressed. Fashion, of course, will always remain in the foreground, but the magazine must be openly progressive and socially committed. For one simple reason: saying nothing is nevertheless a political gesture, one that is tantamount to accepting the status quo. And this is certainly not Vogue.

Vogue Magazine Cover, May 1931 (Photo by Georges Lepape / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Georges Lepape

The pages you are leafing through today are the result of a very long history and many battles, from the bloody clashes fought on the front to the ongoing cultural battles, less dramatic but only apparently. If fashion reflects its own time, the same goes for the magazines that recount it. A simple principle that is the foundation of our magazine: from Meisel’s editorials to this issue, cobbled together in little more than a week while in Italy and around the world rages a pandemic that will probably upend many of the assumptions we took for granted, forever changing our way of life and therefore the way we talk about and consume fashion. And if there’s anyone out there who still turns a blind eye to the idea that current events are within the purview of a fashion magazine, perhaps it’s worth going to the roots of this story, which are distant and very deep. With the First World War, there flourished a more open fashion journalism which performed not only its practical and propagandistic tasks, but also talked about how the role of women in society was changing. Reality began to make its way into Vogue as well: in 1917, the regular column “Smart Fashion for Limited Incomes” became “Fashions on a War Income”, and a few years later it found a different meaning during the crisis of ’29 (where Nast lost almost all his fortune) .

Vogue Magazine Cover May 1918 (Photo by Porter Woodruff / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Porter Woodruff

It’s no coincidence that, at the time of the collapse of the global economy in 2008, Suzy Menkes wondered why Wall Street hadn’t kept an eye on the latest fashion shows – according to popular wisdom, skirt hems go up and down with the stock market. After the crash, the lamé cocktail dresses of the Roaring Twenties gave way to ankle-length skirts, and what’s more, they were almost always in shades of white – a color intended to express purity in the present and hope for the future. In May of 1930, Vogue put an immaculate Lepape drawing on the cover, along with a headline announcing the most chic tips for limited wallets, while in ’38 – when the cosmopolitanism of the previous decade gave way to a defense of the border that would soon become physical – inaugurated the first “Americana Issue”, an ode to indigenous production and style, inconceivable until that point.

Vogue Paris 1945 Hiver

© Nerebriarova / Vogue Paris.

This reactivity to the present continued to dictate the editorial direction of fashion magazines up to the present day: Vogue responded to the trauma of 9/11 with a cover featuring Britney Spears, America’s new sweetheart, smiling in front of the stars and stripes, while Vogue Italia over the years published editorials on police violence after the Twin Towers, the war in Iraq, the BP oil spill and the devastating high water in Venice. But it was with the Second World War that the genetic code of Vogue changed, allowing the editors of the various editions to broaden their field of vision. If in 1939 Edna Woolman Chase was still convinced that the role of the magazine would be, as in the previous war, to satisfy the need for taste and beauty even (and above all) in a devastated world, Withers would demonstrate that the importance of Vogue went far beyond its ability to disseminate pure and simple escapism.

Vogue Magazine Cover, May 1918 (Photo by Helen Dryden / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Helen Dryden

In occupied Paris, the Nazis, unable to move the couture industry to Berlin, as Hitler and especially Goebbels wished (Lucien Lelong, representative of the couturiers, was very clear: “It is in Paris or it is nowhere”), tried to take control of the fashion industry through the press. Vogue Paris, however, refused toe the Nazi propaganda line and was forced to close down. It didn’t matter. As Carmel Benito would recount in British Vogue, the French didn’t allow themselves to be overwhelmed, resisting in their own way, with enormous hats and irrepressible imagination: “We were prepared to do without food, fuel, light, soap […] but we wouldn’t look shabby and worn out. After all, we were Parisiennes “. The last bastion in occupied Europe would be the Vogue printed in London, which, even during the Blitz, continued to come out. And not only that, it had become a leading vehicle of the Ministry of Information. Established in 1939, the MoI had initially struggled to keep up with its Nazi counterpart, but by 1941 it had been put into the hands of Brendan Bracken, not accidentally a newspaper and magazine publisher. One of the things Bracken immediately understood was that to communicate with the female public (“soldiers without guns”), one had to use fashion magazines, and above all the most authoritative and widely read: Vogue.

Vogue Magazine Cover, April 1918 (Photo by Dorothy Edinger / Conde Nast via Getty Images)

© Dorothy Edinger

The Ministry’s demands were, of course, propagandistic: to push domestic consumption, to make short hair chic to reduce accidents at work due to the refusal to wear those horrible protective caps, even to get people to accept the idea of ​​clothes rationing. In one of the most iconic shots commissioned by Withers, Cecil Beaton had photographed one of the first BBC announcers in front of a building reduced to rubble by bombing. The caption read: “It is now said that fashion’s goose is properly done in, for want of the best butter. But fashion is indestructible and will survive even margarine coupons. You cannot ration a sense of style “. [In the beginning clothes and margarine coupons were the same]

But for Withers, helping the war effort wasn’t just about propaganda. It was about making English women understand what war really was. And to do that, she turned to a great female photographer who had also been a model before the war: Lee Miller. Miller worked in the same milieu as Robert Capa, to name just one, but her images of the war – the rubble of Saint-Malo, the skeletons of Buchenwald, the bodies of the Nazi suicides in their bourgeois interiors – are among the ones that remain. Their mixture of elegance and ferocity found in Vogue the most effective echo chamber, and by publishing them, the magazine was transformed into something different, and new. Magazines are about the immediate, the here and now. For Audrey Withers that meant being able to talk as much about beauty as war and devastation, with the same credibility. As Beaton wrote, describing a London that resisted constant bombardment with yet another English invention, the Blitz Spirit: “To spite hitler and in spite of him, the garden catalogs arrive, and we order not only the beans and the potatoes and the spinach and the cabbages and beehives that thrive so well in London gardens, but the fiber and the bulbs of hyacinths that will enliven the darkest day at home. ” Of course, those hyacinths were not essential for survival. But on second thought, actually, they were.

Source link

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: