INTERNATIONAL FASHION EN VOGUE
When I was a little girl, I recall running to the front door of my house as the mailman pulled up and dropped off my mom’s guilty pleasures at the front door. I would begin by staring at each magazine, analyzing the cover. I paid close attention to the captions and the images surrounding the main cover photo, but that image, often of a beautiful woman, is what drew me in and made me want to delve into the full edition, front to back. As I got older, I started to pay more and more attention to the details on the cover. Who was being represented? What was this individual representing? Did I recognize the individual on the cover? Was the magazine promoting a new scandal or highlighting a positive story? I admired People Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Vanity Fair, but I longed for the one time a month when the new issue of Vogue would be waiting at my front step.
Vogue is the world’s leading fashion and lifestyle publication and has expanded to 26 international editions. Arabia, India, and China all publish their own edition each month featuring a unique individual front and center. Some covers are impressive when featuring celebrities dressed in pieces that are authentic to the country, while some miss the mark, spotlighting an individual, often American, who has no connection to the country of publication. As representation and cultural appreciation are valuable and important elements of a publication with such a wide audience, it is essential that Vogue, as a billion-dollar company, not only represent people of all backgrounds and identities but display an authentic portrayal of each country it produces editions for.
Vogue Arabia was the 22nd edition of Vogue and was distributed to countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Lebanon. In March of 2017, Gigi Hadid was featured on the cover of Vogue Arabia. Two different editions of the magazine's first issue have been produced, one in English and one in Arabic, with images of Hadid in a sequined headscarf on the cover. Almost immediately, the cover received a tremendous amount of backlash from Vogue readers as they wished the company picked a more “authentic” model that truly represented Arab culture. Because many consumers did not feel as though this cover accurately represented their culture, it would not be surprising if this edition of Vogue Arabia did not result in as high of revenue as past Arabia editions. While Gigi Hadid is part Palestinian, it was odd that Vogue Arabia chose her as the cover model considering she is visually a white, blonde, American, which arguably does not represent most others in Arab culture.
The following March, Vogue released their 2018 cover which featured two of the Arab world’s most famous models: Iman and Imaan Hamman. These gorgeous Arab women are dressed in Saint Laurent and Wrap Life turbans. The Editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut discussed diversity issues amongst Vogue covers and stated,
“Finding the right model or celebrity that effortlessly combines an idea of beauty and style, while also capturing the spirit of the times, is an exercise that occupies my mind for the better part of the month. I truly believe that a cover should also encapsulate a message of hope and go above and beyond just a pretty image. This is exactly what we tried to achieve when we invited two of the biggest models with strong ties to the Arab world to be our March cover stars.”
Arnaut’s mentality ensures that cover models fit the part and portray a message that goes beyond just presenting a pretty face. Culturally representative cover models should be prioritized, as readers will be more attracted to a cover when they notice people who relay the beauty in their culture. When readers can see a part of themselves represented in the image, they will want to purchase the magazine to look inside for more, thus maximizing profit for Vogue.
In March of 2018, Vogue India launched their edition featuring Kim Kardashian on two of their covers. While Kim looks breathtaking in dresses by Jean Paul Gaultier and Philipp Plein, there was a lot of backlash due to her appearance on the covers. One individual tweeted, "I have nothing against Kim Kardashian but @VOGUEIndia is really doing itself a disservice by continually neglecting to portrait [sic] brown women in their 'magazine' — you're perpetuating a detrimental cycle of underrepresentation. Stop whitewashing your own damn culture." Similar to Gigi Hadid gracing the cover of Vogue Arabia, many feel as though choosing models famous in America to represent other countries’ cultures is a slight to the international world reading Vogue. In a six-month period of time, Vogue sold over 73.4 thousand copies, proving the immense exposure this company has. Knowing the impact that Vogue has on the fashion industry, choosing to put Kim Kardashian on the cover of an India edition sends the wrong message about cultural authenticity.
The September 2019 issue of Vogue India featured the beautiful actress Priyanka Chopra wearing a sheer mauve blouse styled by Sabyasachi and Mimi Cuttrell. Sabyasachi is an Indian fashion designer whose brand has a net revenue of Rs 274 crore translating to $36 million USD. His designs range from Rs 50,000 to Rs 3,00,000 ($655 to $4,000). This cover is a better example of authentic cultural representation on Vogue covers. Priyanka continues to make her culture a priority in her public persona despite her continuous growth and popularity within American films and media.
Under the new Editor-In-Chief, Margaret Zhang, Vogue China demonstrates a beginning of a new era for international Vogue. For their September 2021 edition, Vogue China spent several months scouting the country and prioritized finding women of diverse backgrounds, ages, and sizes- something Vogue has never focused on before. On the cover of this edition is Jinghan Fan, a 19-year-old dance student at Beijing Sport University. Fan is featured wearing an orange silk dress that flows behind her, an appropriate cover for her age. The orange color and the sun behind her represent a new beginning for Vogue China and I hope we will see future Vogue China covers continue in its footsteps.
As the top-selling fashion publication, with an estimated net worth of $7.56 million, it is vital that Vogue continues to think about and actively improve who they choose to represent their brand. Each edition that they release will be in the hands of millions of people, demonstrating the significant mark this company leaves on the fashion world. Vogue has been a staple in many women’s lives since 1892, and has become an outlet that provides consumers with the hottest trends to follow and influences the trajectory of all things business and fashion. With the increase of its global lens, the demand for Vogue across the world has increased exponentially. Knowing the impact that their company has on so many individuals, it is Vogue’s job to ensure that the content they are producing is appreciating each culture, as fashion is not just something for America, and fashion trends and ethnic clothing is an essential part of the global fashion landscape. As a young girl, I spent time analyzing the details of each Vogue cover and hope that in the future, young girls of all different backgrounds and identities will be able to pick up their mom’s magazines and see a variety of individuals represented on the cover.