A couple of years ago a wonderful series was broadcast in the UK, dramatising the beginnings of both David Bailey, and Jean Shrimpton’s careers (he discovered her, and together they brought down the fashion establishment of the day – his photo shoot in New York has become famous). Last night, while half-watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the inner workings of Vogue Magazine, I couldn’t help wondering if it’s time somebody else set fire to the foundations of the fashion industry.
For the most part the documentary had been interesting – giving as much insight as the editorial directors of Vogue magazine would allow into the inner workings of the organisation. The film-maker tiptoed a knife-edge between fawning over the various parties involved, and privately questioning their motivations. Watching as an impartial observer with little or no interest in “fashion” per se, it became increasingly obvious that the fashion publishing industry is just an extended marketing arm for clothes designers. The designers and manufacturers court the magazines, and the magazines court readership. I found myself wondering who on earth their readership is any more though?
I almost stopped watching after the narrator engaged in a chance interview with one of the girls working in the Vogue office. He asked her about her favourite piece of clothing in her own wardrobe. Without a hint of a smile, and suddenly looking very serious indeed, she described a red Prada coat with big pockets.
“Of course, it was very, very expensive”
“About the same as a second hand Mini Cooper”
Not a flicker of a smile. Her intonation implied that the cost equated to worth, and that we should agree with her.
On a similar vein, the narrator then asked another editor about her personal walk-in wardrobe at home, which she seemed incredibly proud of – making mention of various shoes she liked to wear “all the time” (it was obvious they had never been worn – it was mostly an exercise in name-dropping the designers). She then described – in a ridiculous attempt at self-validation – how her ever-day wardrobe was generally a shirt, and jeans.
“How many pairs of jeans do you own?”
Backtracking to red Prada coat girl, the subject of cost came up with her too – in particular a pair of jeans she liked.
“They cost £700. You instantly know them when you see them though, because he does a thing with the material, and the asymetric cut…”
Unsurpisingly I didn’t watch to the end. I switched the television off, and wandered off to finish washing up while my other half put the children to bed.
I will freely admit that the cold, detached personalities of the people interviewed genuinely frightened me. While we have all read books and watched movies and TV shows such as “The Devil Wears Prada”, “Ugly Betty”, and so on, it’s pretty terrifying to discover that the world they poke fun at really does exist – and it’s far darker than I had ever imagined.