Will #VogueChallenge change the face of Vogue?

Written by Adam Bryce

Vogue magazine sits in an interesting position in the fashion industry and not a soul, sadly, has ever remarked that the Condé Nast title is the most progressive of publications.

Vogue magazine has such a foothold in the industry that speaks ‘fashion’ to the majority of the willing world. And, for that reason alone, it has a responsibility to address many of fashion’s systemic issues. Racism being the top offender.

It was a mere two years ago, in 2018, that Tyler Mitchell became the first black photographer to shoot the cover for Vogue, with rumours abound this only came about at the request of cover star Beyoncé. In 2017, Edward Enninful was appointed editor-in-chief of British Vogue, becoming the first black editor of the influential UK edition of the magazine.

Subsequent to those marks of change, both the American and British editions of Vogue have, at least on the surface, shown more equality but, I fear, it’s been more surface than substance. Mitchell has gone on to shoot numerous covers and editorials for Vogue, Enninful has cast numerous models of colour on his covers and black fashion stylist Carlos Nazario has become a regular on the Vogue contributors rotation calendar. However, that’s about all that has changed.

Has Vogue’s lack of progression been a contributing factor in the lack of progression within the industry as a whole? It’s a well-known insider’s tip that working with Vogue will give you a much-needed leg up to gain the ‘kudos’ required to get your phone ringing about global advertising campaigns. And there seems be an uncanny correlation as you’ll notice a distinct lack of creatives of colour behind those famous campaigns shots.

Since the death of George Floyd, many pockets of society have been rightly called to account for their diversity-challenged thinking and long-time American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, in particular, has been singled out for her part in the continued systemic racism behind the white-washed industry doors.

Just this week, Condé Nast, the publishing powerhouse parent of Vogue, announced that the peoples’ calls for Wintour’s resignation will not be considered. Has the right decision been made and will Wintour, the infamously stern face behind the flashy rag, weather the potential pending fallout over her seemingly stagnant reign?

And now, in what has become widely considered another of Vogue’s too-little-too-late strategies, we witness the launch of #VogueChallenge. A social media activation which originated from Enninful’s concept to feature ‘everyday heroes’ on the cover of his latest edition. A thoughtful ode to the essential workers front-lining the Covid-19 pandemic.

In what has now become a vehicle for creators to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, the question begs, is American Vogue’s adoption of the hashtag in the Black Lives Matter context genuine? While any movement towards inclusiveness is a positive, co-incidentally the viral hashtag has garnered over 500,000 Instagram contributions.

Only time will tell the outcome of Wintour’s rein and if Condé Nast will make the changes desperately required to make American Vogue a relevant read once again.

#VogueChallenge submissions.

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