Despite voices declaring the death of the September issue, the most important edition of a fashion magazine in a year is very much alive. Only different. Just bear with me for a bit…
Remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda Priestly tells her assistant, Andy, that she’s wearing a sweater selected for her by the people in the room? I bet you do.
She uses a simple reference to cerulean blue, the color of Andy’s sweater, to explain how the fashion industry, and, in particular, “the people in the room” – i.e. fashion editors – are dictating what we’re wearing.
It’s not a secret that the novel on which the film is based is a roman à clef of the author’s experience as an assistant to Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. So Miranda’s explanation may as well have been a depiction of reality.
Fashion magazines, such as Vogue, have always had a say in what is trending. A decade ago, one could argue that their influence was so great, they were “guiding” trends. And one of the most powerful tools for them to do that was the September issue. The more pages it had, the greater the power it was likely to have over us.
But times have changed. Print circulation has declined. Celebrities now reach wider audiences through their Instagram accounts. Street style blogs claim their fair share of attention. Advertisers spend less than they used to on print ads. Fashion magazines struggle to keep up with digital trends. And there are even voices that claim the September issue is dead – is it, really?
Dead or undergoing transformation?
One thing’s for sure: The “people in the room” no longer have the power to guide or dictate fashion trends. Their influence has faded, and they know it. So they’re changing tactics. They’re focusing more on social and ethical pain points in their September issues. And they’re engaging celebrities with greater power to set new trends, to do so from the pages of their September issues.
Queen B taking creative control of the Vogue September Issue cover shoot
Vogue, for example, got Beyoncé on the cover for this year’s September issue. But under certain conditions. The star chose the outfits she wore for the cover shoot. She also chose the photographer herself. And she wanted to tell her own story, instead of giving a formal interview.
She basically took control over the creative direction of the issue. If Vogue was willing to make this compromise, then it’s clear how important it was for them to get a celebrity of Beyoncé’s caliber on their cover.
It was a well-thought-out move on Vogue’s side. Anyone who reads Beyoncé’s story will agree, I’m sure, as it addresses social problems women and people of color are facing today, and most readers will likely find something to resonate with and share. Which will buy Vogue back some of that attention they’ve been losing.
Elle UK makes its September Issue about sustainability in fashion
In a similar attempt to grab more attention with their September issue, Elle UK editors have made theirs all about sustainability in fashion. As if picking up from where the Copenhagen Fashion Summit left off, Elle UK features sustainability pioneer Stella McCartney and other celebrities talk about the importance of having a more sustainable future in fashion. Livia Firth takes the topic further, connecting it with the #MeToo social movement:
When you look at the #MeToo campaign and the concept of feminism, you think, “How can we just be feminists in our little world?” When you are a feminist, you have to consider women everywhere. When you get dressed, you are wearing the story of another woman who is getting exploited. If you are a true feminist, #MeToo also has to apply to them. You have to make the connection and remember those stories.
It’s interesting how these things seem to come together, for the purpose of good. It’s even more interesting to see how the September issue, built primarily as a tool for guiding fashion trends and selling fashion items, is acquiring a new purpose: that of addressing social and ethical problems.
So is the September issue really dead? I would say ‘no’.
It’s just undergoing a transformation, as fashion editors are more mindful of social and ethical movements, and leverage them to keep their businesses afloat.