Vogue is the voice of fashion. It has sway, it has authority and a unique position in the world of fashion. But is Vogue using all this firepower to really address the key issues in the world of fashion like sustainability? I am not convinced. Here is why.
For the second year running, Vogue Italia has dedicated an issue to the topic of sustainability. Last year it was an issue without fashion photography. By doing that, Vogue Italia reports it reduced its carbon footprint for one month. This year, their January issue is dedicated to animals which Vogue wanted to take over their physical and digital space.
Subsequently, seven different covers were published featuring the work of artists and spanning lambs, ducklings, dogs, bees and animal art. All incredibly beautiful. With the issue, Vogue Italia issued a statement which reads as follows:
“This issue challenges the illusion of an anthropocentric world. Animals do not exist for our purpose, nor as a function of what we would like them to be. It is almost too simple to stress how much we’ve been reminded of this by the effects of coronavirus, by the way it came into existence and how it has impacted our lives, freeing up spaces that wildlife has at least temporarily reclaimed for itself. And it seems almost too obvious that the fashion industry, like any economic activity, must ask itself where the limits lie in the exploitation of natural resources, and what prospects are offered by technological progress”.
Nothing controversial about this statement. Yes, we as human beings, one of the most efficient and destructive creatures on earth have created a moment in the world’s history which places not only ourselves at risk but also the rest of the planet. Our selfish and short-sighted actions have created a terrible legacy for future generations. The world of fashion is a player in all this too, since it is dependent on natural resources such as water, land and air to create fabrics, dyes, yarns to fuel an unsustainable system that we call fast fashion. It is a system the industry has created and which we have become so accustomed to. Habits are hard to break but they must if we are to start salvaging what is left of our world and its natural resources.
So back to Vogue Italia. What is it that has stirred me up so much to write a piece about the January animal issue? As I mentioned at the beginning, Vogue is a global player, with global sway, with a massive global readership and influence. It has the ability and the means to step into the sustainability discussion with credibility and authority. Yet, it has failed to do this is on a massive scale. Their statements, declarations and Charter of Values combined with just a single edition per year focusing on sustainability is vacuous, pretentious and I would go as far as saying green washing.
Words are great and they can read beautifully laying out a statement of values that aims to change the world, but if there is no substance behind them, they are as good as worthless.
Vogue as a publication all over the world, needs now more than ever to stand up as a bastion of light tackling the topic of sustainability in fashion head on. Dabbling around the edges and cutting your carbon footprint for one month or dedicating just one issue to sustainability per year just does not cut it. If change is to happen in any meaningful way, it must be real and that needs to be backed up by tangible and impactful actions.
So, what could Vogue be doing better? Here are few suggestions.
Every monthly issue of Vogue globally, should have a dedicated section to the topic of sustainability in fashion. Educating and inspiring readers and raising up the voices of designers across different geographies and categories. The designers who are working against the entrenched fashion model and are finding innovate and better ways to make fashion more sustainable. It is not enough to keep hearing the same voices of the established designers such as Stella McCartney, Eileen Fisher and others, who yes, are innovating in their own right. But if we are to enrich the debate and knowledge on sustainability in fashion, Vogue should be providing a regular platform for new, diverse and different experiences and voices to be shared.
If the commitment as outlined in Vogue’s Charter of Values stands true and is authentic, there is a real need to re-evaluate how smaller, sustainable brands are featured in fashion edits. It is no secret that in the main, brands who can afford to pay for Vogue’s lucrative advertisement pages often get preferential treatment by being frequently featured in Vogue’s fashion edits. Showing a diverse selection of smaller sustainable brands alongside established brands would be a great way to show that sustainable fashion is, well, fashionable, wearable and desirable.So, come on Vogue take a stand, move beyond words and ramp up your rhetoric so it turns into tangible, consistent action which brings meaningful change!