July 6, 2017
“Hell hath no fury like a fashion editor fired”
by Taylor Sperry
The fashion set has been “abuzz” this week after the “news of an incendiary interview with Lucinda Chambers, the former British Vogue fashion director,” who was dismissed from the magazine this past May. As Elizabeth Paton opens her piece for The New York Times: “Hell hath no fury like a fashion editor fired.”
But Chambers doesn’t seem… that furious?
The apparently scandalizing interview, which ran in Vestoj: A Platform for Critical Thinking on Fashion, was removed from the site the same day it appeared, in direct response to outrage from within the industry. (It’s back up now.)
Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, the founder and editor-in-chief of Vestoj, told Paton, “As you know, fashion magazines are rarely independent because their existence depends on relationships with powerful institutions and individuals, whether it’s for tickets to shows, access in order to conduct interviews, or advertising revenue… We created Vestoj to be an antidote to [industry] pressures, but we are not always immune.”
This concession from Vestoj seems more provocative than the interview itself, which at its most damning reveals the fashion industry to be exactly as the rest of us imagine — petty and cutthroat and in thrall to Anna Wintour.
But aside from naming names and making the whole thing sound like a really shitty dinner party—“who wears what, who sits where. ‘Oh, she’s got the new Céline shoes’”—what Chambers describes in the Vestoj interview sounds like the ugliest view from the top of any major industry, as much as from the top of fashion in particular: “Fashion can chew you up and spit you out”; “You’re not allowed to fail in fashion”; “In fashion… you can walk into a room feeling pumped up and confident, and if you radiate that the industry will believe in what you project”; “Fashion is full of anxious people”; “Fashion is an alchemy: it’s the right person at the right company at the right time.” Can’t you swap in for “fashion” just about any competitive field (with the possible exception of start-up tech companies and their obnoxious Fail-Better-ing) without batting an eyelash?
If anything, Chambers is critical in the least surprising ways (“In fashion we are always trying to make people buy something they don’t need”: duh), and is in fact generous enough to lend a little bit of humanity to what is otherwise glossy, polished, and unattainable by design.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.