While American Vogue's September issue cover is due to hit the web any day now, Vogue Japan has released its September cover, and it is quite a striking little throwback. Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Stephanie Seymour and Nadja Auermann, some of the 1980's and 90's biggest names, grace the mag's cover. Fellow supermodels Eva Herzigova, Carolyn Murphy, Karen Elson, Guinevere Van Seenus, Maggie Rizer, Malgosia Bela, Mariacarla Boscono, Saskia de Brauw, Natasha Poly and Tao Okamoto adorn the fold-out. In other September issue news, Daria Werbowy, another big name model, snagged the Wall Street Journal magazine's cover. Is this any indication of what we can expect from American Vogue?
Vogue has evolved tremendously since its founding in 1892. In 1973, it became a monthly magazine and underwent a massive change in editorial direction, and in 1988, Anna Wintour became editor. Anna’s influence and talent needs little, if any, introduction or explanation. Her reach is extraordinary. When Vogue initially switched from covers starring supermodels to those with glamorous movie stars, she solidified her status as a visionary leader, especially since the majority of magazines at the time put models on their covers. However, the change from 1988 to today is arguably off-putting and frankly, quite risky. In the past several years in particular, American Vogue, complete with a Kimye cover, seems to be catering primarily to celebrity and fame, merely masked by Oscar de la Renta and Zac Posen garments. By way of its covers, features, and the initiatives it backs, the Vogue of today amounts to a dichotomy of good versus evil.
On the positive side, Wintour remains a leader. She has partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to foster more emerging design talent than ever before, and this is worthy of extremely high praise. Having said this, Vogue is simultaneously and arguably rather publicly discrediting itself once a month when it issues a cover with the hottest actress of the moment or the most controversial pop star, or writes a complimentary feature on a dictator’s wife who walks about in Louboutins while children are killed under the order of her husband.
In the past year alone, models have almost exclusively graced the covers of Vogue’s Italian and French counterparts, with a few exceptions. In the U.S., the cover subjects are an array of musicians, actresses and athletes. For instance, Rihanna graced her third U.S. Vogue cover this past February, being labeled as "Fashion's Most Exciting Muse." All the while, the U.S. editors, who are no longer behind-the-scenes forces, very publicly side with politicians, feature a certain Sports Illustrated "model" in more than one issue, and have helped turn the front row into a circus consisting of reality television stars, athletes, and B-list celebrities; all the while, directly or indirectly creating a spectacle of U.S. fashion.
It is a difficult balance for those who long for the good old days of fashion models because celebrities sell. Love Kimye or hate Kimye, we can all agree that it is truly shocking that Twitter did not break completely when their Vogue cover leaked. Nearly everyone was chiming in on #TheWorldsMostTalkedAboutCouple. Vogue won the day (and the next several days, as well). The magazine cover got everyone talking. Vogue became the most relevant thing in fashion once again.
In this way, Wintour is brilliant. She knows what sells. This a point that she addressed in 2009, saying: “Until models become celebrities again in their own right, I can’t see them selling as well on magazine covers as actresses.” So, is that time now? There are a few major forces that have helped turn models into super models: The popularity of street style websites (many of which chronicle the “off duty model”) and the rise of fashion-specific websites, such as Style.com and models.com, which make models more familiar to a larger audience than ever before. Then, there is the omnipotence of social media, on which models are seriously hot commodities, (Soo Joo has nearly 20k Twitter followers and over 100k on Instagram; Jourdan Dunn has 179k on Twitter and over 600k on Insta; Joan Smalls has 243k and 500k, respectively; Karlie Kloss has 428k on Twitter and over a million on Instagram; and Cara Delevingne has 1.75 million on Twitter and over 5 million on Instagram). Social media, in particular, has arguably catapulted these beauties into super-stardom, making a handful of them household names and situating them in positions that are slated to rival the supers we all know.
In fact, such social media stats are not only bringing these models onto our timelines, their online presence is bringing them ad campaigns. According to Ivan Bart, senior vice president and managing director of IMG models: “The first question from brands these days is immediately, ‘how many followers do they have?' Models can be more famous than a lot of celebrities out there because they have such a large following.” Turns out, that time may be now.
It has been awhile since we have seen the likes of superpowers likes Cindy, Naomi, Kate, Linda, and the likes. But slowly, girls, many of whom may be identified by their first names only (think: Karlie, Cara, Freja, Jourdan, etc.), are emerging. It may be just a matter of time before they stage a takeover. It may be as soon as this September!
* This article was initially published in August 2012.