Vogue Fest Second

After the inaugural Vogue Festival organised by British Vogue had ended last year, people were already asking when the dates for the next one had been set, such was the success of that first fesival, which I reviewed here.  It has been a year for Cond√© Nast to expand their scope beyond publishing magazines – a ¬£20m investment in FarFetch.com, a fully fledged Cond√© Nast College that is offering Vogue Fashion diplomas and certificates (yes, my eyebrows did shoot up when I saw the tuition fees figures… will investigate further…) – and now a second Vogue Festival has just come to an end.  In essence the structure was similar to last year – a series of talks and discussions with a stellar line-up of speakers, a Cover Shoot set-up where everyone gets to play with the latest bits of S/S 13 Chanel (lots of hula-hoop and lego bag action) and get a faux-Vogue cover, beauty and hair stations, a Vogue Shop with plenty of merch (this time it was the humble grey sweatshirt that got the Vogue treatment and they were flying off the shelves) and one-to-one time with Vogue staffers and industry figures on topics of styling, writing and modelling.  Except everything was greatly amplified by the new venue of South Bank Centre, with its much larger capacity, with over 9,000 tickets sold this year (most talks sold out within an hour of going on sale despite each talk costing ¬£45 a ticket) compared to the 2,000 last year.  Vogue's editorial images wrapping around the foyer windows contrasted beautifully with the brutalist architecture of Queen Elizabeth Hall and the attached Purcell Room.  There was more merch than before with coffee cup holders, Versace tees, Coach clutches and like I said, a Gap grey sweatshirt, doing brisk business.    

The mood was more serious too.  Last year, it felt like there were many lighthearted fashion enthusiasts present who simply wanted to pick up a goodie bag, get a free makeover and maybe drop into a talk or two.  They were many of that type of Vogue festival-goer here this year too but I noticed a lot more networking, business-card swapping and "industry" led questioning in the talks that gave the weekend more of a professional vibe.  There were times when Vogue Festival could also be called Vogue Careers Fair because of the abundance of students and those starting out in the industry, who really were after solid advice, The number of "How do I start my own business?" questions in the talks seemed to reflect an entrepeneurial spirit of the times – if companies aren't hiring, then perhaps we need to take matters into our own hands.  Personally, I had had many people come up to me with quite indepth fashion career dilemmas in equal measure to those that just wanted a selfie photo taken (note to self: say NO to selfies – you SUCK at them!)  

InstaroundInstagram photos found under #voguefestival











What of the talks though?  First up, thanks to everyone who bought tickets to see me, Anna dello Russo and Garance Dore basically have a good old natter up on stage because we have known each for a long time.  The topic was supposed to be about street style but it rather veered off course to blogging and the digital sphere in general.  Deputy editor of Vogue Emily Sheffield was doing all the questioning and it was good to cover some bases – why street style felt like this whole new language from the perspective of Anna, who has been in the industry for a long time, why blogs became popular, how it's changing now with both Garance and myself musing about feeling the need to stay excited about what we do.  Alas, with an hour's worth of chit-chat and questioning, it's never going to be super in-depth.  I could bang on and on for hours on the subject with the risk of it boring those that aren't bloggers or in digital media but Vogue Festival isn't really the correct platform for that sort of discussion.  It will be interesting whether Vogue adds more specific topics regarding digital to next year's line-up.  


Mega highlight of the day was getting our portrait taken by *gasp* David Bailey, who hates Twitter, doesn't understand how bloggers make a living and thinks I look a little bit like Penelope Tree.  Cue a lot of "Fuck this", "Fuck that" banter, which was highly amusing.  To Bailey, we were "Italy" (Anna), "America" (Garance – she kept explaining she was French but lived in NY but all the same…) and "China" (Me) and we were jigging around to Sixto Rodriguez's I Wonder for Bailey to nail the shot.   

From Anna Dello Russo's Instagram

It was once again an impressive group of speakers on a wide range of topics, which sadly may not have hit the nitty gritty of the weighty subject matter at hand.  Issues such as sustainability, body dysmorphia in fashion and how to be a fashion designer are almost too broad to cover off effectively in an hour.  Similarly the designer profile talks were also never going to wade too deep although some speakers were better than others at warming up the audience and getting positive reactions.  As a journalist or someone within the industry, you might not have learnt anything that was particularly new from the talks but for students, those starting out in the industry and enthusiasts, there were definitely heaps of key points to take away to then plant further seeds about their careers and their own particular interest in fashion.  The one-to-one seminars with the likes of Francesca Burns and Jaime Perlman from Vogue, Erin O'Connor and model bookers were also a brilliant addition to the talks, as you could get advice in a less intimidating setting compared with say standing up with a mic and voicing your question in a big theatre.  Here are my personal take-away points from the talks that I did go and see.  

So You Think You Want to be a Designer? (with J.W. Anderson, Erdem, Mary Katrantzou and Jonathan Saunders) – It's always good to hear about how solid London's fashion industry is now looking with these starry names headlining LFW and interesting to hear them speak with language such as "we" and "our" – they're building brands that potentially could by eyed up by conglomerates and they're in it for the long haul.

Can Fashion Change the World? (with Livia Firth, Katherine Hamnett, Tom Craig and Vivenne Westwood) – This talk could have been broken up into so many sub topics – how fashion is connected with culture, issues of sustainability, organic materials in textiles, the effects of fashion on the environment and most pertinently labour conditions, as Katherine Hamnett pointed out in her powerful and short presentation, relating to the recent factory fire in Bangladesh.  Her words rang loud, true and clear and as she said, let's hope that now is the turning point in the industry.  

Natalie Massenet: The Woman Who Changed the Way We Shop - My favourite of both days and you already know why.  

Victoria Beckham: My Fashion Life – I like the way Vicky B is super conscious about emphasising the fact that she is very involved in every process of her business but at the same time, you wish she could let her guard down a bit.  We already know she's a successful designer with growth year on year and it still feels like she wants to prove her position within the industry, when in fact she doesn't really need to.  I liked it best when she got a bit cute or funny with the crowd.  

The Secrets of Creating a British Brand (with Anya Hindmarch, Jonathan Akeroyd, Christopher Kane and Tamara Mellon) – An unsurprisingly business-focused panel with some great questions at the end.  It's well-timed with Kering Group (still can't get used to that…)'s investment in Kane's brand and so there were a lot of PPR/Kering questions – it was nice to see Akeroyd, CEO of Alexander McQueen give his perspective as someone we a) don't hear a lot about and b) has witnessed the transformation of McQueen during the difficult period of Lee McQueen's death and Sarah Burton's subsequent appointment.  I liked the discussions about what inherently makes a brand "British" and someone in the audience quite rightly asked whether a product that is designed by British designers, but made overseas can be called "British".  Mellon answered in affirmative.  "As long as the thought process and creativitity is British, then it's British."  Oh, and to answer the burning question of why Kane hasn't got a website?  They haven't had the time or resources to devote to web but they will have one eventually.   

Too Fat Too Thin…Will we ever be content? (with Christa d'Souza, Daisy Lowe, David Gandy and Patsy Kensit) - Alex Shulman introduced this talk by emphasising that this wasn't a discussion about ideal bodies in fashion but how we as women (and men) personally relate to the subject of weight.  This for me skirted the issue of what exactly is the media's responsibility in this (excuse the pun) heavy topic but it was nice to take away the message that we as women in particular, need to love ourselves and have more respect for our sex so that we can have a less fractured relationship with our image and body shape.  It was a conversation that could have gone on for hours judging by the questions.

Alber Elbaz: The Dream and Reality of Fashion  - Undoubtedly of all the talks, Alber Elbaz got the loudest cheers and the most number of spontaneous bouts of applause.  He is a natural charmer and like I said before, even backstage after his shows, serious buttoned-up journalists swoon at his feet, enraptured by his thoughtful answers.  He's a great story teller and has a cheeky sense of humour which were instant crowd-pleasers.  Lines such as "I love first class but I hate the people travelling in it.  I prefer coach." and "I wanted to ask my psychiatrist why I can't ever resist a sandwich." were always going to be memorable.  Elbaz got serious though when talking about his respect for process, craftsmenship and the "hands" that make clothes.  He was also balanced and diplomatic when asked what he thought about Hedi Slimane's work for Saint Laurent, having worked with him previously, insisting that Slimane needed time to settle into the house. 



As a final word, I do have to apologise for being a bit out of it if you tried to speak to me.  I was battling with a cold, intermittent hearing and a croaky voice this weekend.  It felt like I was walking around wrapped up in plastic so most of the Vogue Festival hustle and bustle was a bit of a muffled blur for me.  I tried to combat the illin' with some tried and tested neon hues, thanks to one of my favourite vintage pieces from Merchant Archive, a Stella McCartney jumper (thanks Net-a-Porter Premier – you are TOPS) and my Six London collab shoes.  

IMG_4206Wearing Karen Walker sunglasses, vintage neon striped dress, Stella McCartney jumper, Six London shoes, Christopher Kane clutch

17 Replies to “Vogue Fest Second”

  1. Susie – Don’t recall reading your views on body shapes in fashion. What is your position?
    I find it hard to think of fashion as an entity. I wouldn’t say fashion has a problem. Individual brands though, I’m surprised they don’t try harder to convey their characters and moods through their choice of models. Even if we exclude the shows where practicality reigns, it’s always the same type of girl. The Versace girl looks just like the Gucci girl. Unless they employ celebrities, which can be worse than someone neutral. It’s boring, and says little about the brand. I feel like we’d see a lot more variety if designers were more scrupulous or courageous with marketing.
    There are exceptions like Lea T. at Givenchy. Karl Lagerfeld is often adventurous with his choice of models at Chanel. Better, more ambitious marketing would certainly make the landscape more interesting, and more true to life.

  2. I think there are quite a few issues to dissect here, and the discussion always gets too convoluted that it’s hard to discuss in a post. Just in your comment alone, you’re addressing – body shape, gender, outward personalities in models. A “type” of girl has many contributing factors and it’s not just body weight. There needs to be diversity in all areas really – race, shape, nationality but at the same time I don’t believe in diversity for tokenism’s sake. For instance, casting one “curvy” girl in a line-up of skinny girls just fo the sake of diversity, creating a sort of “freak” show effect. I believe in casting that needs to work for the designer and for that particular collection. That’s ultimately a designer and a casting agent’s prerogative. Also, have we actually measured the effects of diverse casting? For instance, when Mark Fast casted bigger girls in his show, weirdly, the reaction seemed mainly negative from an industry of women. There’s a problem here that is deeply rooted in fashion’s culture and doesn’t seem to want to change. I hope that one day there’s more of a balanced representation of body shape in runway and in campaigns but it needs to be for the right reasons and not for “effect”.
    As for “types” – what you were referring to in terms of different personalities and types of girls, I don’t think they’re going out of their way to cast the “same” type of girls. I think it’s better today than it was say four or five years ago. Cara Delevigne is for want of a better word a personality. Or the return of 90s/00s “classic” models http://www.dazeddigital.com/blog/article/15860/1/90s-models-just-cant-get-enough Ditto for race – Tom Ford’s show for instance or the rise of Asian girls. There’s always room for improvement but also the need for the right platform for different girls to emerge.

  3. I was disappointed not to make it to any of the talks this weekend due to other commitments but have really enjoyed reading your informative round-up this morning. It goes a little way to making up for not being there in person. Thanks Susie!

  4. Crikey that degree course is expensive! Especially considering it’s only 30 weeks long. It’s really interesting that they are expanding their brand though. I always wonder about the future of printed literature in these days of multimedia wonderment.

  5. Tokenism was the consequence of discussions about body shape in “fashion” and “media”. It became an easy publicity hook. Mark Fast is an excellent example, maybe the intention was good, but the so-called bigger girls were dressed in highly unflattering looks, nor was it clear what they were meant to be expressing about that particular collection.
    By type, I meant a certain age and by extension a typical adolescent figure. I just think it’s more helpful to talk about individual brands, than tendencies across the industry. It might even be impossible to judge at once the casting against the particulars of the case AND our best wishes. That muddles the conversation.
    It does become thornier when talking about magazines that are generalist in character. Even there, differentiation would lead to greater diversity. If British Vogue were to be more aggressively British, it would necessarily produce a more balance result and not just race wise. Again, driven by marketing (in the pure Peter Drucker sense of reaching the customer), not abstract values.
    It all comes down to differentiation and individuality.

  6. I went to the, ‘Can Fashion Change the World?’ talk. It was great but just agree so much to cover in such a short space of time. I am also hoping that this is a turning point for the industry. Love your neon outfit!

  7. Hey Susie, I did see you the other day but you were being bombarded so I stood back lol
    I totally agree with your comments. This years event was a lot more serious and I think it comes down to creatives passion and willingness to succeed. I myself have made numerous sacrafices so far during my career as a fashion designer and I think listening to people such as Johnathan Saunders you realise we are all in this for the long haul.
    Thanks for your articles honesty!

  8. Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

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