If you are remotely interested in fashion and have been online this month, you know about the now-infamous Lucinda Chambers interview in Vestoj. If you don’t know, admittedly it’s a bit weird that you ended up here reading my opinion on it, but for the sake of context you can find the interview here. The brief backstory is that after 36 years at British Vogue, the latest 25 of them as Fashion Director, Lucinda Chambers was unceremoniously fired as a result of Edward Enninful taking on the leading chair at the publication. The interview, currently live at Vestoj, is actually an edited edition of the original piece (which was republished after being taken down because #legaldrama) – but for the purpose of this word mumble it does the job as I’m not remotely interested in the details of Vogue’s dirty laundry.
What I’m interested in is why despite the overwhelming media coverage on this “explosive interview” [iD’s words, not mine], nobody is talking about what’s at the core of this reveal: that this is the rule, not the exception. That it shouldn’t be news at all.
Potential redundancies at Vogue have been in everyone’s minds, albeit only a few anonymous mouths, since Enninful was named the Editor in Chief to front British Vogue following Alexandra Shulman’s departure. As it should have been. Not to say that I’m a fan of redundancies, staff reconfigurations or whatever the euphemism of the day is. Absolutely not (I’m a socialist, and medically sane), but let’s not forget that creative jobs are not just about abilities, they’re about having a point of view.
So let’s talk about the big elephant in the room that everyone seems to be ignoring in favour of sensationalist headlines and repetitive recounters of Lucindagate: working in fashion, as in any creative industry, is by definition risky. Which is why Chamber’s interview didn’t carry any shock value for me, except for perhaps the part where I asked myself ‘can anyone leading a major magazine’s fashion direction really be surprised that a new EIC appointment puts her position at risk? If her views have aligned with the former EIC’s for twenty-five-years, wouldn’t it be miraculously weird that her creative proposal would also fit the magazine’s new direction?’. I stopped looking for an answer to my rhetorical questions when I reached the “Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years” part.
Creativity can’t be boiled down to a set of skills in the same way other structured industries can. Efficiency and knowledge are of course valued, but they both become redundant the moment they don’t serve a creative vision. Styling, sourcing, strategising, designing, planning, shooting, marketing -just a few randoms within an endless list of jobs where the skillset to execute is only in high regard so long as it delivers a message. Creativity is directional no matter how much you try to tell yourself that it’s not. If you work in a creative field, your job depends on how cost-effective you are of an employee like it would in any other industry. But it also depends on much your creative values (read: unavoidably personal values) match your employer’s.
So regardless of my disappointment at the lack of real opinion pieces surrounding these news -I found the Financial Time’s the only interesting one so far- I’m glad it got me to pin point something I’ve felt for a long time in the back of my head but struggled to put into coherent words. That mixture of excitement and terror that lies in the back of your head when you’re caught in a creative industry, which is not your typical “am I good enough?” but “do I belong here?”.