(REPOST. Originally posted on September 22)
I’m an hour outside New York and have been on the road, in the air or in transit lounges for the last 18 hours. Its 11pm Thursday night NY time, but my body thinks its 11am on Friday morning. The transit, time zone changes and a spot of food poisoning on a flight has left me at my wits end. I can’t wait to get to the hotel and hope for three or four hours sleep before 8am when I’m due at a conference on luxury retail in China. Fashion isn’t all glitz and glamour!
Tonight is (well was) Fashion’s Night Out – a global initiative of Vogue magazine timed to coincide with the beginning of New York Fashion Week. Vogue started the Night Out in 2009 in response to the global financial crisis and plummeting fashion retail sales. The idea was to get everyone out and about to have a glass or several of champagne over some shopping. Brands were encouraged to participate and hold special events in the stores, a move that turned the night into a notable social and party event in many of the bigger fashion cities such as NY and Paris. I was hoping to already be in NY to witness first hand what sway Vogue had making cash registers ring. Alas, flight schedules conspired against me and I arrived only late enough to catch the thousands of revelers milling about on the streets after stores had closed.
September is the biggest month of the fashion calendar year. The Spring/Summer 2012 fashion shows are held in NY, Paris, London and Milan and for Vogue worldwide, September is their thickest issue every year as they release the fall/winter 2011 looks to the general public. Therefore becoming the arbiter of insulation as everyone rugs up for the cold half of the year.
This year’s American Vogue September Issue has a ‘special’ on China titled: Made In China – the Explosive Rise of a Style Superpower. Back in May I encountered the large contingent of editors, stylists, photographers and a super model or two from American Vogue, as they jaunted their way around Beijing, conducting the photo shoot and researching the article that now appears in the current September issue. (See super model Karlie Kloss’ video diary of their adventure here)
Having witnessed some of the photo shoots and spoken to people from American Vogue while they were in Beijing, I was led to believe that the China piece they were doing was ‘special and unprecedented’, especially considering that this was for ‘The’ September Issue. I was therefore rather excited to track down a copy see what all the hype had been about.
After finally getting my hands on an issue of the magazine what I read and saw was more than a little disappointing. I had gotten overly excited and expected a China inspired cover photo and ‘China something or other’ emblazoned in noticeable writing on the cover. In reality there was a rather ordinary photo of Kate Moss on the cover and ‘Made in China….’ scrawled in small print across the very bottom of the page. “Never mind”, I said to myself as I opened the magazine and searched through all 758 pages for the article. After several false starts, and I finally managed to locate the article, shoved way down the back on page 644 of the magazine (four is an unlucky number in China by the way).
To console myself and rid my disappointment I tried to understand American Vogue’s attitude towards China in the context of how they presented the article in the magazine. It’s arguable that many Vogue readers are not reading the magazine at all and are just looking at all the pretty pictures. In this case it may be irrelevant where in the magazine any article is placed. The article itself is well written and the writer does manage to tap into the hip pulse of modern China. He was however, given a privileged tour of the country, meeting celebrities and the upper echelon of Chinese glamorous society and his take on China absolutely reflects this. Of course this is the fashionable world that Vogue promotes, but there are also amazing grass roots stories of what Chinese designers are doing and how the Masses are being turned onto fashion at an incredible rate, etc. that were not mentioned. If the aim of the article was to convey an interest in ‘cool China’ to any American readers then I guess it was successful.
In terms of their business and advertising revenue, Conde Nast (publisher of Vogue) has a huge interest in China. This September, Vogue’s China edition celebrates its sixth anniversary and 2011 has seen Anna Wintour – Chief Editor of American Vogue make a much publicized a visit to China.
What I would really like to know and something I don’t have an answer for is: What interest do American people have in what is happening in China? Sadly, beyond the American brands pouring into China for economic reasons, I doubt that many fashion conscious Americans really know or care what is happening in China. They may in fact be surprised to know that China’s collective fashion consciousness is developing at truly ‘unprecedented’ speed and that before America and the world know it China will be the biggest fashion and luxury industry in the world.
As China continues to emerge as a ‘Style Superpower’ it would be encouraging to see more in depth international press coverage of what is happening here. This isn’t just Vogue’s responsibility, but as the most influential style publication in the world it would make sense for them to take the lead. Perhaps only through continued interest in China from the general public will we see a growing two-way exchange of creativity, fashion, culture and ideas between China and the rest of the world. Right now it seems more like a one-way street with Chinese out there soaking up whatever they can get their hands on. Yet, apart from the brands etc. pursuing financial gains there is little interest from people simply curious about China’s fashion world and what goes on in this country.
I look forward to hearing more about China (and I don’t mean industry news) from American, Italian, English, French, Australian Vogue and GQ, Harpers’ Bizarre, WWD etc. etc. publications in the future. I too hereby commit to writing more content about people, places and creativity and less about store openings and fancy parties.