This morning the news broke that Alexandra Shulman is stepping down from her role as editor of British Vogue after twenty five years at its helm. She will leave her post in the summer.
I was initially shocked by the announcement, especially as she’d been much on my mind today while I read her diary of Vogue’s centenary year. Yet upon further reflection it isn’t so much of a surprise. A quarter of a century is a long time in any job, especially one that carries so much power and responsibility. Furthermore it is also clear from her diary that she was tiring of certain aspects of her role such as the regular travel (Shulman fears flying and loathes unpacking luggage, adding extra levels of stress to the hectic biannual fashion weeks).
The publishing world, and the fashion industry, has changed dramatically since Shulman joined Vogue back in 1992 (or, more accurately, rejoined; she was features editor for two years in the late eighties before moving to become the editor of GQ for two more years). Back then there was no internet, no Instagram, no hashtags, no influencers. In 2017 I am able to sit on my sofa with my phone watching the Paris haute couture shows live just as Shulman does on the front row, and yesterday I did just that. I saw Lily-Rose Depp escort Karl Kagerfeld out at the Chanel finale at the same time as she did. Developments such as this pose new challenges for the publishing world. What added value can magazines offer to content that we can all view for free if we choose?
During the same period, and thanks in part to the same the same technologies, fashion’s constant demand for the new and the latest has accelerated beyond what was imaginable in the early 1990s. Consumers in both established markets and also the increasingly influential newer markets such as China and the Middle East want instant – or at least quicker – access to catwalk looks. The old two season cycle with its lag time of half a year is no longer tolerated by impatient customers. This is heralding further huge changes, such as a move away from the traditional fashion weeks to being able to order direct from the catwalk, as Christopher Bailey at Burberry pioneered.
Shulman was well aware of the need for print media such as Vogue to adapt and during her tenure she has guided the magazine in the direction of change. Vogue.com for instance is a lively and time sensitive source for fashion news (such as Shulman’s resignation, of course) and other trends (reporting on the Women’s Marches in recent days). She has bought on board modern fashionistas, such as Alexa Chung (who makes vlogs for the website) and Kate Moss (contributing editor), while also securing old school style and glamour, as in Kate Middleton’s first magazine cover shoot for Vogue’s centenary issue. On top of all this, Shulman has negotiated the delicate balance of producing a commercially viable – nay successful – publication, juggling technological and industry developments alongside keeping designers and their financiers happy all while sticking to budgets and sales figures. Not an easy task in a world where no-one turns up on time.
Some argue that magazines such as Vogue are no relevant to modern style nor represent the cutting edge of fashion. These claims are not without validity but for many (thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?), Vogue remains synonymous with high fashion – and for the last twenty five years, Alexandra Shulman’s name has been part of that equation too.