2016: the year that Vogue went rogue

This was the year that Vogue launched its documentary, put a Royal and a plus-sized model on the cover, turned 100 and its US sister publically backed Hillary. All in all, it was a big year for the fashion bible

You could not have predicted, looking at the January 2016 issue of British Vogue, that this was the dawn of most tumultuous year in its century-long history. Gigi Hadid smiled out from her first cover, wholesomely covered-up in a weather-appropriate Breton-striped knit and classic black leather jacket, while coverlines promised to help you in the traditional post-Christmas challenge to find your waist and to discover the best cold-weather skincare. So far, so Vogue.

Traditionally, it is the European editions that get the magazines name in the headlines. The nipple count in any summer issue of French Vogue is enough to get the internet hot under the collar on any slow news day, although nothing can match the furore around the infamous 2010 shoot featuring primary-school-age girls in heavy eye makeup, low-cut dresses and high heels. Italian Vogue got into hot water in 2012 for a Haute Mess shoot, which drew accusations of racism for its dabbling in the imagery of ghetto fabulousness; two years earlier, Steven Meisel shot Kristen McMenamy as a glamorously dead bird, an homage to the animals killed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which wasnt to everyones taste.

Alexandra Shulman in a promotional shot for Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue.
Photograph: Linda Brownlee/BBC/Lightbox Entertainment/Linda Brownlee

But in 2016 the upset became the norm, and this year it was the British and American issues of Vogue ruffling feathers. British Vogue pulled off an audacious centenary coup in landing the Duchess of Cambridge in her first ever turn as a cover girl. This seemingly inoffensive portrait of a smiling young royal in a sensible hat was to become the focus of controversy. Critics seized on it as dull and lacking in edge unflattering comparisons were made with Princess Dianas seminal 1991 cover, The cloak-and-dagger manoeuvring to keep the royal cover a secret lent a distinctly frosty edge to the BBCs Inside Vogue documentary. Programme maker Richard Macer took offence at what he felt to be a breakdown of trust with editor Alex Shulman, with the result that the neutral tone usual for a fly on the wall documentary shifted into something unexpectedly cantankerous.

Anna Wintour attends Hillary Victory Fund – Stronger Together concert in October. Photograph: James Devaney/GC Images

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Anna Wintour in Arkansas. Photograph: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Meanwhile, uptown: never one to be outdone, Anna Wintour was the subject of another documentary, the feature-length First Monday in May, which followed the development of the 2015 Costume Institute Exhibition and its mega opening party, the Met Gala. That film underscored the alpha status of Wintour, who effortlessly stole the show despite sharing the screen with Rihanna and Kanye West. In one memorable scene, Wintour bats away the concerns of museum employees who question the necessity of closing a wing of New Yorks largest museum for an entire Sunday for rehearsals, with a haughty and decisive statement that the public will come back next week. And while Wintour is certainly dragon lady in chief, her staff have joined her in breathing fire this year. Just in case the impression left by Emily Blunt and co in The Devil Wears Prada that the American Vogue office is inhabited by the scariest women on planet earth was in danger of fading, senior staffers used an innocuous fashion week wrap-up as a platform for a diatribe against bloggers, calling them pathetic.

Sadly, Vogues influence has its limits. Even the first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate by Vogue could not win the election for Hillary Clinton. Which means that having spent the last eight years closely allied with the White House, Wintours Vogue enters 2017 as something of an enemy of Trumps state. Watch this space.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/dec/22/2016-the-year-that-vogue-went-rogue

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