The operative word is the last one. Everybody’s invited.
If you delve inside this 120th-anniversary issue and play the hyperbolic game of finding the highest price for a single garment, you will doubtless be reminded of some glum moment when money of this kind could have been used to solve a real problem. “Spectacular” is the other keyword. The magazine suggests that you should allow yourself to be transported by spectacle — and the joy ride will cost a mere $5.99.
Here’s a novel thought in this election year: An American institution is prospering, encouraging the wealthy to spend rather than merely be taxed, to reward innovators instead of regulators.
In the pages of Vogue, the forecast is always a little sunnier. The furs that can protect from this winter’s chill will be color-blocked! And that straw-hatted farmer in Levi’s standing in his vegetable patch? That’s really Thomas Keller at his gastronomy mecca, the French Laundry, interviewed by another eminence, Jeffrey Steingarten.
Besides actual clothing, fashion magazines sell ideals and aspirations, which can seem more valuable when economic conditions deem them less affordable. After four years of peril, these titles are all suddenly thriving, from the avant-garde (W has 412 pages) to the moms-and-proms (InStyle at 652). “The only trend I can say is that high-end women’s fashion magazines are doing much better than magazines as a whole,” said Steve Cohn, who edits the Media Industry Newsletter.
These magazines make money because they elevate the eye and sometimes the spirit, take the reader someplace special. These fantasy tomes feel a boost during economic distress — like liquor and ice cream and movie ticket sales.
Of Vogue’s 916 pages, 658 are ads. As the magazine’s rate card for advertisers explains, one single page can cost as much as $165,232, though many ads are sold in discount packages. The weighty result gets compared often to a doorstop and then sometimes, tellingly, to a murder weapon.
Anna Wintour herself, in the 2009 documentary “The September Issue,” speaks to the hidden menace people project on her brand. “There is something about fashion,” she said, “that can make people very nervous.”
Reflecting new roles
Wintour has worked on Vogue for a quarter-century. For three years, I worked for her as she extended Vogue into the men’s market. By fall 2008, ours was one of many fledgling titles that had earned more admiration than advertising, and the Men’s Vogue staff joined the nation’s jobless. But many of us came away with a sense of how to stand up to a punishing economy, to find strength in Vogue’s singular vision and flair for risk.