Cathy Horyn Explores What’s Wrong With Vogue

Rihanna at the American Music Awards. Hm, we're on
the fence about this one...

The flurry of rumors about Anna Wintour leaving Vogue have settled, making way for exploratory stories about why they started in the first place. Cathy Horyn offers the long answer to this question in the New York Times. Vogue's ad pages declined 9.6 percent in 2008, compared to an average of 8 percent in other fashion magazines. The problems Horyn cites are obvious: Editors don't appear to understand the digital age, the magazine hasn't undergone a significant change in ages, and they feature the same boring celebrities on the covers year after year. Also:

There are too many stories about socialites — or, at any rate, too few such stories that sufficiently demonstrate why we should care about these creatures. What once felt like a jolly skip through Bergdorf now feels like an intravenous feed. To read Vogue in recent years is to wonder about the peculiar fascination for the “villa in Tuscany” story. Ditto staff-member accounts of spa treatments and haircuts.

Ooh, ooh — we know why we should care about socialites: The City, the reality-television masterpiece that will allow an uncanny look into the world of socialite Olivia Palermo and inspire legions of tween post-high-school fantasies across the nation. But is Vogue doing features on that? Of course not. Horyn continues:

It’s embarrassing to see how Vogue deals with the recession. For the December issue, it sent a writer off to discover the “charms” of Wal-Mart and Target. A similar obtuseness permeates a fashion spread in the January issue, where a model and a child are portrayed on a weekend outing with a Superman figure. Is a ’50s suburban frock emblematic of the mortgage meltdown?

Nonetheless Anna shall stay on at Vogue because, according to a Condé Nast staffer who spoke to Horyn anonymously, she "speaks with this incredible authority to advertisers." Indeed, she's a scary lady (see anonymous source).

Our short answer to what's wrong with Vogue? It's just boring. Reading Vogue is kind of like listening to Enya. You know the best people created it and it's not necessarily done badly in any way, but reading it is like asking for a nap. Speaking of which, one of those would be great right about now. So long, 2008!

What’s Wrong With Vogue? [NYT]