It was the fashion news heard around the world when an interview Lucinda Chambers gave to academic journal Vestoj went live last week. The former British Vogue fashion director was fired from her post in May. She’s been with the company for 36 years, 25 of them as fashion director. Imagine her surprise when she was unceremoniously let go, allegedly to the knowledge of no one expect incoming EIC Edward Enninful. Much has transpired since the interview originally went live on July 3rd, smack dab in the middle of Paris couture week. The next day Vestoj removed the interview, before making it live again the same day. Finally, last Thursday Vestoj EIC admitted that due to pressure from Condé and Enninful lawyers she redacted parts of the interview. However, much of Chambers’ original intent is preserved in the edited version.
What did Chambers say that was so salacious? She basically challenged the fashion status quo by questioning its authenticity, and exposing the transactional relationship between publications and its advertisers. Chambers also called out the “smoke in mirrors” that exists within the industry, citing this illusion as a reason for giving such a candid interview on her firing. She also refers to Vogue as “irrelevant” and said she hasn’t read the magazine in years. Does she sound like a bitter ex-employee? Yes, of course, but this doesn’t make what she says untrue.
I think Chambers went to the perfect publication for this interview. Anja Aronowsky Cronberg is the EIC and publisher of Vestoj, a small academic fashion publication supported by the London College of Fashion. Vestoj is best known for its more intellectual approach to fashion journalism. The experience Chambers shares is her experience, as salacious as it came across to everyone is simply so because we rarely see this sort of honesty in fashion publications. Cronberg understands this and has created a space for this type of openness and sincerity, but by doing so, this puts her magazine outside of mainstream content. By doing so, what Croneberg chooses to publish is entirely up to her and her team. Her voice is not beholden to advertisers. This freedom has a price I understand very well. Exposed Zippers exists in a similar realm of journalism; we have had our fair share of sternly worded emails from publicists encouraging us to “play ball.”
Much of what Chambers discusses resonated with me and put words to feelings I’ve had toward the industry. The idea that failing in fashion, or at life in general, is not allowed does in fact illicit the anxiety and terror she speaks of. I believe this anxiety and terror hanging over people’s heads is directly related to the vulnerability we are also not allowed to talk about. Thankfully social media exists as a tool to allow anyone to design a Vogue-y type of life perpetuating the illusion of confidence. Obviously I’m being sarcastic, but the Instagrams of the world offer glamorous, often untrue, glimpses into our lives and this is what Chambers is implying with her stylist story. Many unqualified fashion people receive job titles they are ill-prepared to perform.
It is what it is. Chambers, Cronberg, and myself have all made our professional choices very clear by our output. I fully respect the courage Chambers displayed to put it all out there. This type of tell-all is so impactful because it comes from someone so deeply entrenched from the inside – it must be true. Her years of experience and influence on fashion won’t just go away, and who knows what she’ll do next, but I can’t help but wonder if Chambers was so uninspired by the work she was doing, why didn’t she leave on her own years ago. Despite her age, she’s 57, and resume it’s obvious from this interview the fear and anxiety plagued her too – like so many who participated in this industry that eventually spit them out. Reading about people like Chambers, and their experiences, always reminds me, to keep my priorities and values clear when it comes to my work. Despite how flashy and sexy things can look on the inside, things are not usually what they seem.