Has Vogue sold out with Kendall Jenner's September issue cover?
Published 18/08/2016 | 02:30
Most of us know the end of the summer is coming when it's time for the kids to go back to school, and uniforms, books and pencil cases begin to dominate the shopping list. For fashionistas though, it's the arrival of the September issues that heralds the coming of autumn.
In early August every year, publishing houses around the world debut the front covers of what's traditionally the biggest-selling issue of the year of the fashion glossies, where style lovers can see the latest trends for the season when clothes becomes most important - winter. As one 'Vogue' staffer said in the documentary 'The September Issue', about 'Vogue''s ninth volume of the year: "September is the January of fashion".
"The September issue is important to the publishing industry because it's usually the most popular edition on the calendar, with the most adverts," says editorial stylist Corina Gaffey. "It's the start of the autumn/winter season, so people buy it to see what the big colour, coat or bag trend is before they invest in a piece of clothing. Big sales equal big ads from major brands, and that means big money for the magazine industry."
And when these editions land, there's normally a kerfuffle as readers find out who got the coveted front cover of the biggest issue of the year, who was snubbed, and who scored the cover girl that's going to sell like hot cakes.
This year though, American 'Vogue''s September issue caused contention because, while its star is sure to sell, many thought that model Kendall Jenner wasn't quite good enough to receive fashion's highest honour and grace the very hottest front page.
Some fans were outraged, claiming on social media that they were going to cancel their subscription, and that Kendall was too low-brow to be on the fashion bible. Many accused her of the privilege of blatant industry nepotism, as the sister-in-law of Anna Wintour's best bud Kanye West. Jenner's association with half-sisters Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian, and the fact that she grew up before viewers' eyes on their reality television show 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians', seemed to mean that to some, Jenner would never be aspirational enough to be a September 'Vogue' cover model - that she would be forever tainted by her family's notoriety.
But surely that's unfair to the model, who is one of the most hard-working in the business; sure, she had a leg up by already being famous when she started modelling, but the fact remains that she's naturally built like a supermodel with her height and shape, she's incredibly photogenic, and she travels the world walking the biggest runways at the biannual fashion weeks.
"In my opinion, Kendall definitely has what it takes to be a cover girl," says Gaffey. "Big fashion houses like Chanel, Fendi and Givenchy wouldn't case her in their shows just because she grew up on television, or if she couldn't stand up alongside the other models. She's proven her worth already."
The editor of 'Irish Country Magazine', agrees. "I like the cover, and I like Kendall," says Jennifer Stevens. "She's a good model, hard-working, and people don't give her as much credit as she's due because of her family. She's proved herself to be a slogger, and there's more to her than being a reality TV star."
Yet Jenner is not the only Instagram-famous model to grace the September issues - 'Vogue Paris' has fellow influencer models Bella Hadid and Taylor Hill, while US 'Elle' and British title 'LOVE' both feature model-slash-actress Cara Delevingne; 'Teen Vogue' have the young blogger Tavi Gevinson on their front page. A space normally reserved for top movie stars promoting their latest film, it seems the whole industry has opened up to the concept of celebrity models.
So while Jenner does have the pedigree, her beauty isn't the only reason that Wintour has risked the wrath of die-hard fashion snobs. The cover line indicates Jenner's true worth to 'Vogue' - "the face that launched a billion likes".
Until very recently, Kendall had the most 'liked' picture in Instagram's history, and is undeniably one of the most popular personalities on social media. Her work as a model only adds grown-up credence to the fact that billions of millennials already followed her. So is Wintour attempting to court a younger American 'Vogue' reader by having that generation's icon on her big cover?
"Absolutely, they want people who are of the moment because they are the people that will sell," says Gaffey. "Last September it was Beyoncé, who's not a model but a cultural icon in music. Kendall has just as big a following, she wears clothes well, and people are interested in her and her lifestyle. This could bring a whole new young audience to 'Vogue'."
"I think you have to move with the times and go where the readers are," says Stevens. "'Vogue' once refused to put celebrities on the cover, it was models only for decades. Anna was very brave to change all that in the late 90s because there was a big backlash from the modelling industry as covers were their bread and butter.
"But she's always been avant garde, she was the first to put denim on a front cover of a fashion magazine. She has always pushed the agenda of what a traditional fashion magazine can be."
But is she pushing it in the wrong direction, as detractors cry? After all, there was uproar when Kim Kardashian and Kanye West appeared on a 2014 cover of 'Vogue' together, with Kim in a wedding dress. Does Wintour run the risk of selling out and alienating her core audience?
"I think she's been probably vindicated since the Kimye cover," says Stevens. "Kim has been on the cover of 'Forbes' for her business prowess, and the couple are on this year's 'Harper's Bazaar' September issue. It's very unusual for Anna to put a step wrong, so even when you think she has, in the long-term she's normally proved right."
Lorna Weightman is a fashion blogger and online influencer, and her work online has led to her becoming a TV stylist. However despite playing to her millennial audience, she still believes in the power of glossy magazines.
"I absolutely love them, and I seek so much personal inspiration from magazines. I love the feel of a magazine, love to see what an expert editor has curated. Titles like 'Vogue' and 'Elle' have moved with the times and now bridge the gap between print and online.
"Regarding Kendall's cover, I really respect Anna Wintour's choice. She's not only a modern supermodel, she's an Instagram and reality star, and it actually inspires confidence for me in my industry - you can be an all-rounder and not just a fashion model or a movie star, and be on a magazine cover.
"The British beauty blogger Tanya Burr was on the cover of UK 'Glamour' last year, so magazines are aware of the power of these influencers," adds Weightman.
Weightman makes a good point - is it more the Kardashian-Jenners' beauty skills that are the big draw to consumers? After all, cosmetics are as big a deal to 'Vogue' in terms of advertising as fashion is, and while not every woman can wear high-end designs, many of us can afford to emulate the makeup looks stars wear.
As an editor, Stevens says that magazine publishers would be foolish to ignore the generation of Insta-models that come complete with their own following.
"I haven't picked a pure online influencer who doesn't do anything else for the cover of the magazine, but I'm always aware of the following our covergirls have. Why would 'Vogue' bother ignoring that?
"I think you'd have to be really stubborn and almost stupid to do that looking at the media landscape we're in," she adds.