Lucinda Chambers Opens a Debate on Fashion’s Relevance

 

Lucinda Chambers, the former Fashion Director of British Vogue, last week launched a stinging attack on her former employer.

Her departure was not, as previous thought, a resignation, but rather a brutal sacking.

 

 

Chambers has decided to come clean, despite advice from friends to be dignified and allow the myth to prevail, that the decision to go was hers.

At first, I applauded Chambers for her brute honesty. Not being one known to be backwards at coming forwards (I have been called Blunt as a Brick – but I prefer direct and assertive) I didn’t find her candour at all shocking. At first.

However, on reflection, Lucinda Chambers has enjoyed a 36 year career at Vogue (the last 25 as Fashion Director), along with all the super perks that go with it. International travel to exotic locations, on the FROW of all the top catwalk shows as well as undoubtedly, loads of free clothes. She was the star of the recent BBC documentary about Vogue. Her warmth and enthusiasm shone through and her apparent love of fashion was infectious.

Now that sounds like it was only half – if at all – true. If she felt so at odds with the constant peddling of wares that are ridiculously overpriced, producing “crappy” work and selling us things we don’t need – why didn’t she have some integrity and leave years ago?

 

 

“I’d imagine Lucinda Chambers weighed up the crap versus the pay and perks and decided better the Devil you know (even if that Devil wears Prada rather than Marni)”

 

 

It she really lifting the lid on the fashion industry or is it merely sour grapes? Yes, there is an awful vacuous snobbery at all levels of the fashion industry – where swagger often trumps talent.

There are plenty of people low on talent but overflowing with confidence – and as Gok Wan so wisely put it – It really IS all about the Confidence… The same could probably be said in many, if not all industries.

But still, Chambers words could be damaging for those employed in the industry at large. Our jobs rely on people buying clothing – whether they need it or not.

The truth is that everyone needs to make a living and doing “crappy work” is sadly C’est La Vie so we suck it up. I’d imagine Lucinda Chambers weighed up the crap versus the pay and perks and decided better the Devil you know (even if that Devil wears Prada rather than Marni). We’re all right there with you Lucinda. On a daily basis, you set aside your own integrity in order to get the job done.

 

 

I’ve definitely questioned my career choice and how much or little I contribute to the World. Yes, I hate the focus on margin over aesthetics, but I like where I live and I like my life, so to a point, morals need to be left on the studio doorstep.

 

Something which has irked me in recently years, is that as we shift through life, things rise and fall in terms of importance in our lives.
For instance, throughout all my teens and 20’s and indeed much of my 30’s, Saturdays were spent shopping – consuming. I was in pursuit of the perfect outfit/s with matching shoes, the most unique, eye-catching and fashion-forward I could find.

Now, the thought of spending my weekends trawling the shops leaves me cold. Seeing the faces of my my pre-teens beguiled by the array of make up, nail varnish and teenwear in New Look, I’m transported back in time, but can see how far I’ve moved on.

 

“Perhaps many of us are already shunning buying things we don’t need and those people – like Ms Chambers – don’t read Vogue either”

 

Is this an age thing? Possibly not, judging by the amount of empty retail units around. Major cities like Leeds and Manchester, have a fair sprinkling of empty shops, while smaller towns  in the UK can find every second or third unit is vacant.

Even the super chic SoHo Bleeker Street in NYC is not immune, as this recent article in the New York Times explains.

So perhaps in the modern era, not only do we prefer to shop online, but also (certainly in my case) my home, it’s interior and actual experiences, take priority over consuming “stuff”.
Perhaps many of us are already shunning things we don’t need and those people – like Ms Chambers – don’t read Vogue either…

 

So Lucinda could be partially right. Vogue et al are pushing us to buy things we can neither afford nor need. But since when did we need fashion? Isn’t the whole point that it is a bit frivolous? An escape into a fantasy existence? Somewhere we can visit, or another person we can become just by wearing something new?

 

 

Chambers replacement is the former visionary stylist of I-D (my fav magazine) The Face, as well as Vogue and Marc Jacobs – Venetia Scott. Reassuringly, Scott is not some fresh young thing, but an industry heavyweight with years of experience creating beautiful images.

 

As a designer of clothes, it’s exciting to have the potential to do that for someone. To be able to imagine and create something that becomes a garment that can impact on how the wearer feels – is a very powerful thing.

Fashion often does feel a bit fluffy and meaningless, but it also has the power to empower the wearer. It CAN change how you feel, give you a persona to hide behind, or give confidence and non-verbal communication to the persona you already have.

I do wrestle with the aspect of selling people things they don’t need. There is so much waste in the World, plus exploitation of those feeding our insatiable appetite for cheap fast fashion.

To counter this myself and to cut spending, I once went for a whole year where I did not buy one new item of clothing.
As sad and superficial as it makes me sound, I honestly felt like part of me withered and died!!
I’m not exaggerating. It left me with a void.

At the end of it I found it impossible to shop with the same carefree abandon that I had before.
I just couldn’t spend. “Good” my husband sighed with relief.

I know that sounds soooo shallow, and maybe I am. But I realised that clothes and how I put them together, are such a massive part of my identity and how I express myself. I now have a wardrobe of things I truly love and would rather pay more for something that I can wear for years. Don’t get me wrong, the magpie in me still loves the odd pretty thing!

“Yes, it’s not saving lives or doing charitable work, but Fashion can still play an important part in the World. From an economic point of view, the UK fashion industry employs around 550,000 people and is worth circa £60 billion”

 

Periods of history can be easily identified by the changing fashions of the era, the emancipation of women, rising hemlines in the 20’s, The Dior New Look after the war, the teenagers of the 60’s making the move away from dressing like their parents – and so on.

So frivolous or not, Fashion and clothes are important to both the economy and defining the times.

Naomi and Kate: You can’t sit with them ‘cos they’ll be working at Vogue

 

But Lucinda Chambers has shone a spotlight on an area of the industry once solely populated by self proclaimed “Posh Girls”.

She’s opened up a wider debate both on the relevance of fashion magazines in the digital age; but also in these rapidly changing times – of the relevance of Fashion itself…

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