Why the September Issue is so important in magazines - and Vogue in particular
The September issue of every magazine in the world is heralded as the most important of the year, but for international Vogue titles, it’s in a whole other league.
After weeks of speculation, Buckingham Palace and Condé Nast finally confirmed that Meghan Markle has guest edited British Vogue for its most prestigious issue next month.
It’s a huge coup for both parties: in the cutthroat fashion publishing world, it elevates British Vogue to a higher level than its competitors, and for Meghan, it offers her an opportunity to use her platform as a force for good; something which she has been vocal about pursuing during her own rise to fame.
Royals have a long-established history with the magazine - Princess Diana covered it three times during her life and Princess Anne has appeared four times (twice on the cover); while Prince Charles and Camilla and Queen Elizabeth have both covered Vanity Fair in the last three years, an equally influential title under the Condé Nast umbrella.
But the September issue holds a certain prestige in the industry and beyond - firstly, it’s the largest in size and takes months to bring together.
The increased pagination reflects the boost in ads by its roster of commercial clients and designers see their printed campaigns as an extension of the thoughtful editorial content put together by the team.
But what is about September that makes it so important?
September is a time for change: it marks the start of a new season. Even as professionals, the ‘back to school’ mentality never leaves us, especially after the banlity of summer.
Thus, the corresponding autumn/winter collections are the most influential of the year and fashion houses take it seriously.
While magazines are under constant threat with digital media competitors, it’s a traditional print-only element that shows no sign of slowing down; thriving in its cult status.
The concept of a September issue’s impact was bolstered by the eponymous 2009 documentary, following Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and former creative director Grace Coddington’s road to putting the ‘book’ together in 2009. It’s a record 840 pages and Wintour supervises the production of each one.
Since taking the reins of British Vogue in 2017 Edward Enninful has made his mark on each page, orchestrating more inclusive representation and meatier stories, complementing the fashion content with which it’s synonymous.
Previous stars include Emma Watson, Keira Knightley, Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss and because of Vogue’s standing in publishing, it’s considered just as prestigious for the star as it is a coup for the magazine.
It’s important to note that Kate Middleton’s only cover for the title, honouring its centenary issue, wasn’t its best selling that year, but it’s one of the few occasions when sales aren’t the be all and end all.
Kate could have chosen Harper’s Bazaar, Tatler or another glossy title, but she chose Vogue and that was enough to continue its description as the most exclusive magazine in the world.
With Meghan, however, sales are expected to be more notable, in particular, if publishers are savvy enough to offer an international edition for her many fans around the world, in her native United States in particular.
Wintour reportedly tried to court Meghan for her own September issue, but it would likely have sparked backlash to choose the US over the country in which she is a high-ranking member of the royal family.
Meghan and Harry’s global influence is undeniable and this marks the start of a concrete way in which she is utilising that fame as a force for good; in fact featuring 16 hand-picked women as ‘Forces for Change’ was as on-brand as it gets for her.
In the years before becoming Britain’s Duchess of Sussex, she was a vocal advocate for women’s rights, dating back to her childhood when she famously campaigned against a cleaning product’s sexist language about women in the kitchen.
Vogue is no stranger to group cover shots, but the 16-woman grid is an entirely new design, befitting Enninful’s groundbreaking editing approach and Meghan’s determination to make her mark.
It was a who’s who of headline-making women including New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, actresses Gemma Chan, Laverne Cox and Jane Fonda and most pertinent for Irish audiences Sinead Burke, activist and lecturer from Navan, Co Meath.
Sinead first met the duchess last July during Meghan and Harry’s much-hyped trip to Dublin and conversed with a number of Ireland’s finest talents and she is one of a handful of Irish women to ever cover the magazine including Oscar nominees Ruth Negga and Saoirse Ronan.
In short, it’s a big deal to appear. It’s also a trackable shift towards a more inclusive industry overall in an industry previously shy of featuring women of colour on its covers.