Vogue September: The Heavy Fall


The September issue of Vogue is a hefty disappointment. Though it is no longer news to the readers of women’s fashion and beauty magazines that the September issues are to be heavy and ad-thick, the new 798-page issue did little to make itself stay aloft.

First of all, the September issue is a boring continuation of the “heavy Fall” tradition, even though Fall issues usually double, even triple the pages with luxurious ads. Last year, the record-breaking 840-page fall issue had already been criticized for containing only 13 percent editorial content. However, despite the reduction of page numbers, readers may not find any substantial changes in this year’s issue. The editorial content is still less than one-third of the total 798 pages. The table of contents doesn’t even start until page 64, and then ads interrupt over the next 188 pages until the TOC’s modest and exhausted four pages finally finish their job. Then readers must wade through 212 more pages to find the start of the next bits of content – the editor’s letter, letters from readers, and contributors’ pages – and then finally reach the front of the book (an actually story!) on page 400. It is understandable that a fashion magazine is an advertising-rich environment since there is many a fashion mania that bases their wardrobes on these luxurious ads. But, does it mean that the editorial part should be sacrificed? Do readers spend $4.99 only to flip through the ads? Maybe, ads have something good, as Rob Haggart, the former director of photography for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine wrote on his blog: A Photo Editor, “You probably enjoy smelling the ads as well. Too bad you can’t smell the editorial.” But Vogue is Vogue, a niche fashion MAGAZINE. Not an advertising BROCHURE at all.

For all fashion magazines, the cover is the most prominent and useful selling tool. However, for the year’s most anticipated issue, Vogue again chose the controversial British star Keira Knightley as its cover girl. The last time she appeared on the cover, the magazine didn’t sell (It was the June 2007 issue which only sold 405,000 copies, the second-lowest seller of that half of the year). So Vogue is bold, if nothing else, for trying again at this time. Unfortunately, it is a bad try. In Balenciaga ocean-blue velvet top with Strass chevron necklace, Knightley looks more summer than “brilliant fall fashion.” Compared with the fall issues of other magazines like Elle or Lucky, it will definitely confuse the newsstands browsers as a summer issue, however, unusually-fat.

Except for the confusing cover, the September issue seemingly did something creative by offering a special package delivery. The issue, delivered in a box with “CAUTION (STILL) HEAVY” stickers, was encapsulated within a clear carrying case with black leather and chain handles, meaning that readers may easily carry the special issue of this fashion bible and read it anywhere. It is absolutely a smart marketing idea. However, it may not help sell the magazine since only few insiders of the fashion industry are on Anna Wintour’s list to enjoy the privilege; most of the obscure subscribers like me, on the contrary, could only get the regular one crammed into their mailboxes.

Vogue may be graced by great articles like those features which are always my favorite part. But what good are they if readers only see tons of ads, and are bored into bailing out of the issue before discovering the editorial needles in a haystack.

–Frances Wang



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