Vogue Italia, July 2012 issue, is currently the most commented magazine and the reasons behind this intense activity around one of the best-known publications worldwide are equally due to its own contents and the lack of excitement for the other major players of the moment. V Magazine #78 fails to impress so far, LOVE Magazine hasn't unveiled all its secrets yet and 25 Magazine gets mixed reviews without generating a consistent buzz. After two covers dedicated to famous fixtures (Linda Evangelista and Isabella Rosselini), the italian edition of Vogue goes back to the kind of visuals that played an important role in its success: a handful of relatively new models photographed by Steven Meisel.
If the majority of hardcore fans of Meisel's work for Vogue Italia are raving about this new cover and the editorial going with it, the thrill I was able to witness when the magazine got released seemed closer to nostalgy than to enthusiasm for an avant-garde project about to change the rules in the history of what has probably become one of the most awaited monthly papers. To be truly -and cruelly- honest, I'm not going to join the riddle and praise the arrival of this issue as if it were the birth of a new era, celebrating a so-called "return of Steven Meisel" with an overload of exclamation marks. Return of a certain aesthetic or come-back of an old and overused concept, we have this for sure and it all smells like deja-vu, even for this year. It might be that they were already craving for a bunch of rather unknown faces sharing the cover and, let's be fair, to each his own taste and it would be difficult to argue or even discuss. But seeing here some kind of U-turn or a small revolution belongs to the long list of romantic nonsenses and certainly not to a properly lead analysis of the magazine's cover and contents. No earlier than in April 2012, we could see a group of young models gathered on the cover while in February, which makes two months earlier only, the first page went to Laura Kampman, not really a well-known veteran of fashion modeling. The overall aesthetic of the main story in this month's issue surely helps identify Meisel's latest work with what has made him a favorite of the fashionable crowds and new faces lovers: grey and raw backgrounds, one theme per image and a lot of interaction between the characters. The same concept as those cover-stories at the time Coco Rocha and Heather Bratton were just beginners and that probably helped them a lot in their careers. And there, I'm taking a "recent" example, as this already used to be a norm years before. But since these good-old days, modeling business as a whole has changed quite a bit and what used to be considered as an instant propeller to glory can be seen as a random exercise of style today. The chances one of these eight young ladies (or five on the cover) takes the cake and uses this booking achievement as an easy key to stardom are close to zero. The amount of styling details (clothes, make-up, wigs, position of the models) doesn't leave much room for any of them to express... and impress. They are just characters of a stylish ballet, parts of a larger construction and the real superstar here is the picture itself. The probability Mackenzie, Erjona, Elena or Hedwig catches the attention and captures the eye more than her colleagues is as tiny as her modelesque frame.
Regarding the visual quality of the spread, the photographs are well executed as you can expect from such a magazine collaborating with one of the best photographers. And, from this point of view, there is no critic to address to this editorial (except maybe the awkwardness of some of the most unexperimented models or the omnipresence of wigs). The same applies to the other stories published in this issue: regular contributors and a few celebrities (Katy Perry and... Yvonne Catterfeld, who was probably the most unexpected addition to the contents). One story stands out despite of the combination of the typical team behind it, I should be fair to that one featuring Eniko Mihalik modeling for Ellen von Unwerth. Both are names you read several times a season in Vogue Italia yet the result dares to differ from what you would be waiting for from both Ellen and Eniko. Subtle, sensual and served by a dreamy atmosphere and natural outdoor backgrounds. But let's go back to Meisel's story to finish this review, and to a point that usually divides the crowds of buyers, subscribers and other afficionados of Vogue: what is the ultimate point of such a fashion magazine. Stick to images that are 'only' fashion stories displaying clothes in luxurious surroundings? Or produce stories linked to or inspired by society, ecology or politics and able to raise interesting questions for the magazine's readers? I keep in mind the controversy around this 2010 editorial featuring Kristen McMenamy struggling between gorgeous garments and rivers of oil. The most recurrent critics were focused on the possibility that fashion stories would glamorize social issues and human or ecological disasters. Hearing such points of view makes me feel some fashion addicts want fashion to remain some sort of safe and cozy microclimate, totally disconnected with reality. And this would perfectly explain why so many of them welcome the new issue of Vogue Italia with tears of joy and ecstatic smiles.
CREDITS: VOGUE Italia July 2012 / Ph: Steven Meisel