A leaked cover of American Vogue got through the 24/7 news cycle over the weekend, facing disbelief, criticism and praise at the same time. American Vogue magazine is no stranger to the cover controversy, to the point of many in the press believing this is a way for the magazine to get free publicity. Numerous times the magazine has faced fierce backlash over their covers, from readers spotting tiny photoshop errors to the even controversy of the Gisele Bundchen and LeBron cover in 2008 starting a first massive discussion on race in fashion print.
Nevertheless, in the moment of pandemic and the election turmoil in the states, as we all could have guessed, the Vogue team has selected a far more casual image of the Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris for their cover. In a similar cover shoot by a Conde Nast publication Vanity Fair featuring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the choice of clothing was widely blown out of proportion. Especially the price of the same, many ignorantly or purposely abusing the fact photo shoot clothes are samples simply borrowed from press rooms. Perhaps, Kamala team has stayed away from designer clothes in a photo shoot for a moment due to the massive backlash AOC’s Vanity Fair cover has received. The AOC Vanity Fair shoot while far more produced and styled was also work of Tyler Mitchell. Ocasio-Cortez addressed the styling backlash in her response to a FOX newscaster: “And I don’t know if you’ve been in a photoshoot Laura, but you don’t keep the clothes.”
If we talk fashion magazine covers disappointment comes by default from people expecting the high fashion glamour from Vogue whatever the cover choice is. While on the other side the rumour circulating of Kamala team not having a say in the cover choice was hardly any help in the matter. Harris is wearing on the cover sneakers, a pair of converse and her own clothes.
In charge of the photography was Tyler Mitchell who is recognized by the Vogue team as one of the youngest talents on the scene. Mitchell has famously photographed Beyonce for American Vogue as a cover by the youngest ever photographer, who also happened to be African American. While the race might for many have no importance, Vogue has faced multiple accusation of working only with white cis male photographers, the accusations are circle around for years now. The Harris cover is meant to be one of Vogue’s proudest moments in years, and Wintour herself has talked about the shoot prior to the release with New York Times journalist Kara Swisher for her widely popular podcast SWAY. The podcast recorded days earlier premiered yesterday and Swisher talks about the process behind creating this shoot with Wintour. Swisher reached out to Wintour for a statement regarding the cover controversy, and got the following response: “Obviously I heard and understood the reaction to the print cover. I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to in any way diminish the importance of the Vice President Elect’s incredible victory. We want nothing but to celebrate Vice President Elect Harris’ amazing victory and the important moment this is in America’s history and particularly for women of colour all over the world.‘
President Trump is no longer relevant
Furthermore Anna Wintour also addressed the magazine’s choice of the cover, now accompanied by another digital cover expected to go to print in February 2021 issue’s second print run: “There was no formal agreement about what the choice of the cover would be, and when the two images arrived at Vogue, all of us felt very very strongly that the less formal portrait of the Vice President elect really reflected the moment that we were living in. Which we are in the midst. As we still are of the most appalling pandemic that is taking lives by the minute and we felt to reflect this tragic moment in global history a much less formal picture something that was very accessible and approachable and real. Really reflected the hallmark of the Biden Harris campaign and everything that they are trying to and I am sure will achieve.”
Swisher talks in length to Wintour about the cover shoot as well as the political situation in the states right now. Even addressing President Trump’s tweets about Vogue not putting Melania on the cover, Wintour reacted only with: “President Trump is no longer relevant.”
Mid December Conde Nast has revealed it’s massive shake up, with editorial changes in Europe of their German and Spanish titles and the new roles for Edward Enninful and Anna Wintour. With the repositioning in Conde Nast
I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to in any way diminish the importance of the Vice President Elect’s incredible victory.
Earlier in 2020 Ms Wintour also had to address racism in Vogue offices, the headlines spearheaded by media but also by a piece from New York Times, quoting: “Many of the people interviewed for this article said the racism they encountered was usually subtle, but sometimes blunt. Their main accusation was that Ms. Wintour created a work environment — and there is no facet of Vogue that she does not control — that sidelined and tokenized women of color, especially Black women.Many Black people who worked for her said they felt so out of place in Ms. Wintour’s domain that they created white alter egos — two used the term “doppelgänger” — just to get through the workday, reconditioning their presentation and dress in a way that was mentally draining.“
Wintour has nevertheless remained the force of change in the fashion industry as well, spearheading the quest for young black designers and talents and even calling for change among the positions in Conde Nast. Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the editor of Teen Vogue since 2018 shared in the same piece for the New York Times talking about Ms. Wintour: “has given me opportunities in leadership, and I’ve made inclusivity a deep part of the conversations we’re having.”
Kara Swisher goes much deeper than the cover talk, she also addresses with Wintour the political situation talking beyond president Trump. Wintour shared with Swisher: “So am I political? I am a concerned citizen, and I think that there is no way that you could not be involved in politics. Particularly during the last four years.”
Wintour talks also British politics with Swisher, what was happening at Conde Nast in 2020 and much more, you can listen to the full Sway by Kara Swisher podcast on Spotify and NYT.