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What I Believe Is Called A Smackdown, "W" Magazine vs. Vogue’s September Issue

Last Exit To Brooklyn, from “W”

The fashion world recently suffered a management shakeup. Stefano Tonchi left the New York Times Style Magazine, often titled simply, “F,” to head up “W.” Are we, style-lovers of America, happy about the change? Use the handy scorecard below to decide.

But first a brief aside. Will we all rush out and purchase the clothes in Mr. Tonichi’s new mag? Heck no. This stuff is expensive. But mid-tier retailers are watching carefully. The zeitgeist so skillfully evoked in September’s “W” will start to infiltrate J. Crew, and Anthropologie, and maybe even Talbots. Like smoke under the doors of closed rooms.

You’re Busy, You Want Plot Synopses

If you hate fashion magazines, here’s your plot synopsis for “W,” September, 2010:

The Women of Mad Men – both the full skirted, floral, 50s gals, and the sheathed, monochromatic 60’s – got bitten by vampires and moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn. Where they knitted some things in tweed.

If you like fashion magazines:

Fashion you can make sense of – woven patterns, tonal color, more subdued but more textured shoes, matte bags eschewing billboard logos, an in-your-face restraint – I could if I wanted to, but I won’t. Luxe minimalism. The “pop” of color, made famous by Stacy London and her pal Clinton Kelly, is finally laid to rest.

But on to the competition.

“W” Scorecard – An Extravagance of Plus – As Evidenced By:

1. XIV Sins and Virtues Jewelry by Jessica McCormack. In the style of her key pendants, below, only each piece represents a sin or virtue. Anger has a claw, Sloth some feathers. These keys give Tiffany a steampunk run for their money, no? “W” has exclusive images of the Sins line.

2. De rigueur photo of mouth covered in dark red lipstick, shiny as polyurethane. Title? True Blood.
3. Last Exit to Brooklyn. The photo shoot at top, in which everything I said in the synopses is proved to be true.
4. The “What” photo series showcasing objets de desir. Avec tarantulas. And black chicken feet. No, I promise, it’s amazing.
5. A casual reference to and photo of Chanel “Stigma” nail polish, a “shimmering blackberry.” Pictures of this color aren’t even available online. Now I want it more. By The Amazing Peter Phillips, who was also responsible for “Jade,” and the Chanel temporary tatoos.

6. Revealing that Etro is stepping up to play a slightly more affordable aide-de-camp in the Dries van Noten mortgage-your-house-for-a-print brigade

7. Highlighting the Loewe “Amazona.” In a world where even Louis Vuitton now explains that their logos are “discretely placed,” Loewe has been turning this model out for 3o years. And yes, LV says “discrete” instead of “discreet.”

8. A short piece on Ikou Tschuss. A small company which supports Swiss grandmothers knitting and may soon do the same for New York omas, farmors, grannies, and grandmamas. Even if I don’t buy many woolens the idea tickles my apparel fancy.
9. Ads for Strenesse. German, in the Jil Sander vein, with a less expensive line called Blue. Jil Sander calls her less expensive line Navy. See what I mean? And Gabrielle Strehle made me want a leather shift, of all things preposterous.
10. Campaigns indicating even Versace‘s gone minimal. When a brand known for ornamentation and excess slaps you across the face with black and white ads, featuring models in sculptural outfits, both brand and trend benefit.

(-2 points for disingenous articles about how people rich enough to own helicopters host informal weddings with barefoot guests, and how a woman with D breasts isn’t sad about her chest any more. But these things come with the territory.)

Vogue Scorecard – A Drone of Minus – As Shown By:

  1. Boring essays on culture. If I want some really good boring essays on culture I’ll read the New Yorker.
  2. Self-congratulatory navel-gazing about Fashion’s Night Out. I don’t live in New York and I’m not going. It’s nice you guys get a street fair. We have them too, with dogs, balloons, and local wines.
  3. Vogue may have become, just like Chanel, a “dusty” brand. I didn’t make this up.
  4. In this media-jaded day and age, once you’ve read a magazine with its accompanying documentary playing in the background, it’s tough to go back to naked print. Go watch The September Issue again, and skip 2010.
  5. This issue had not a single image I was compelled to share. That’s saying something, because I like pictures.

(+3 points because Anna Wintour is still Anna Wintour, we presume Grace Coddington is around somewhere, and Halle Berry is on the cover representing African Americans for the first time since 198o-something.)

Final score: “W” 13, Vogue -2.

I know, I know, “W” is bigger than a mailbox.* But the next time you’re running for a plane, craving a way to amuse yourself, pick up “W” instead of Vogue. If you really want to thank me I think I’d like Jessica’s key necklace. Oh, how kind. You shouldn’t have.

*As aptly described by Worthy‘s fiance.

Last Exit to Brooklyn, via Tom and Lorenzo. Who completely disagree with me about “W”‘s brilliance.
Jessica McCormack key pendants via her blog
Etro via
Loewe’s Amazona via Loewe‘s
Versace F/W 2010 Ad Campaign via porcelain fashion

29 Responses

  1. i have heard SO many people say the september vogue is nothing more than an ad for fashion's night out. no one reads vogue for self-righteous congratulations. ughs!

  2. my ex-boyfriend always told me "any VOGUE is boring, except the Italian VOGUE". He introduced me to the one hair salon where "W" had been waiting for me right there on the coffee-table in 1992.

    It depressed me, watching how Anna ditched so many genious stories Grace had created for the September issue! oh Grace ….

  3. I remember the first time I discovered W – I was 14, babysitting for our new neighbors. The wife was a graduate of FIT and I poured over the issues of W for hours (this was when it was published newspaper-style, folded in the center).

  4. I thoroughly enjoy your writing style; I smiled and I learned a thing or two that I probably would have otherwise missed. Thanks!

  5. Being one who hates fashion magazines (and never passes up a chance to make fun of her husband's subscription to Women's Wear Daily), I found "The Women of Mad Men – both the full skirted, floral, 50s gals, and the sheathed, monochromatic 60's – got bitten by vampires and moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn. Where they knitted some things in tweed" to be hilarious. (I'm sorry, but show me a magazine that showcases clothes for short, voluptuous middle-aged women and maybe I'll change my mind.)

  6. Ha ha ha. "If I want really good boring essays on culture, I'll read the New Yorker." Exactly! Nothing in Vogue is readable anymore, and Elle is going that way, too.

  7. @JMW – totally agree about how W used to be. It is sad that ads now run a good publication, my Mom and I talked about the old format of W recently!

    Thanks for the shoutout! M is hysterical, so glad you shared the hilarious quote with all!

  8. Magazines rarely represent the middle aged female who wants wearable clothing to suit her lifestyle.
    Give me a magazine that does that and I'll subscribe…
    I am so tired of looking at skinny, air brushed models in artsy fartsy creations…(I sound angry, your post as touched a nerve!)

  9. For me, Vogue (UK edition) has become a bit of a habit. It's nowhere near as good as it was but I have a subscription and so I let it pile up in the corner of the room.

    I won't be going to the Fashion Night Out either, and I'd love some Jessica McCormack jewelery.

  10. Does anyone else wish Stacy London would go away? Her snarky demeanor is unbearable.

    Clinton Kelly can stay. At least he is a bit more kind.

  11. I picked up the September Vogue on a whim over the weekend and was sorely disappointed. Nothing to see here folks, move along. (And yes, *irritating* amount of promotion for FNO, which Wendy B will cover quite adequately for my interests.) Will be on the lookout for W.

  12. Agree about the September Vogue. While we all love the fall ad campaigns, the editorial content seemed to do almost nothing bout advertise FNO. Haven't seen W yet.

  13. I feel like Anna Wintour is past her prime. Vogue's foreign outposts are heads and shoulders above the original. Tragic, because it used to be the other way around back when Anna operated on an almost frightening level of genius.

  14. I have minimized the magazines I buy home. I agree with Hostess. These fashion magazines offer us" oldies " so little, excluding some bags and shoes.

  15. Belle – I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I'm not the only one who noticed:).

    Paula – Oh Grace indeed.

    JMW – I remember the folded W too.

    little augury – Thank you for that. Her memoirs should be fascinating. I see she's collaborating with a photographer too.

    North of 25A – Thank you so much.

  16. Jan – ;)

    Mouse – Spare us all from too many people saying uninspired things about culture.

    Worthington – Please thank M for us:).

    Hostess – I don't mind if the magazines don't want to show people who look like me, as long as the people they do show inspire me somehow. And all I ask is 2-3 items that spark my appetite.

    That's not my age – Maybe I will try the British version instead.

  17. Mel – Yes, I prefer Clinton too. His persona and his fashion sense.

    Deja – Ah, let's all make sure to hang on Wendy B's every word! Of course I do already, but still:).

    Susan – My pleasure! Have a good trip.

    DocP – See what you think.

    Charlotte – I think that's what it is. Anna just isn't too inspired any more by the magazine, so she finds the real world stuff of FNO more exciting.

    Mette – And yet whenever they launch a magazine focused on the over 40's it fails. Why, I wonder?

  18. Just finished Vogue yesterday, and I agree it's not all that exciting for a September issue. However I have to wonder if it's because it's done what older women always gripe about, and focused on real women and the world instead of exclusively on cutting-edge fashion.

    Princess Caroline is my age and I enjoyed the spread about her daughter Charlotte. I'm not quite sure what the horse-stuff she does is called, but it focused on something the daughter does, as opposed to her looks, and she's not half-naked either.

    Love'em or Hate'em, the Democrats did put a long-time minority legal figure in as Attorney General, and they covered Eric Holder fairly – the idea to try terrorists in Manhattan was a flop but it had to be conisdered.

    I didn't know that Halle Berry has diabetes, or that diabetics who're dependent in insulin can get off it with diet and exercise, but apart from that possibly mangled medical information I thought they covered her as a woman and not as a sex-object.

    If I buy another magazine this week I'll look for "W" and check it out, but overall I wasn't that deeply dissapointed with Vogue.

  19. 1st: I need W in my mailbox.
    2nd: Thanks for this lovely written piece – as always. I might envy your original metaphors, similes, and overall writing style a bit ;-) I appreciate it a lot! xoxo

  20. As someone with a dusty advertising journalism degree, I still read Vogue for the ads.


  21. This is one stellar writing piece Miss LPC, I loved every single line. Twice, because I wanted to soak it all up. I remember the folded W coming into the house and for years lived to see the September Vogue. While it still sets the pace in some respects, it was left in the dust on others, as you and many of your fab commentors (sp?) point out.

    You do a fabulous job getting at what's underneath the glossy pages. Neither publication piques our interest of late, and we just let the W subscription lapse 2 months ago, it had become completely irrelevant.

    Great job!

  22. I had a subscription to almost every fashion, shelter, cooking, and travel magazine around. Finally, I decided to winnow them down to a manageable number. Just the ones I love. Vogue and W didn't make the cut. Elle did.

  23. I'm not into LV, but I absolutely love Loewe. I usually don't like conspicuous branding on clothes or accessories, but Loewe's logo does not come across to me as a logo. It's discreet even when conspicuously placed.

  24. RoseAG – Thank you for your intelligent perspective.

    Preppy 101 – Thank you so much. I appreciate your support enormously.

    Stacy – I know what you mean:).

    TPP – Thank you. I too have read these magazines for years.

    Jill – Interesting. I've never really read Elle. I will give it a shot.

    Buckeroo – Yes, they make their logo more of a flourish than a billboard.

  25. "Boring essays on culture. If I want some really good boring essays on culture I'll read the New Yorker."

  26. Did you notice, as I did, that LVMH just simply did not advertise in Sept Vogue, hoping to prove that Vogue is irrelevant. Huge statement. Still laughing at your comparison of the recent 2 issues of W & Vogue. I've got every fashion magazine stacked to the ceiling and, really, the exotic spreads, focusing on apparel in much too bizarre way turns me off completely. I don't read a word of the printed matter – why? It's boring. But I do love Grace Coddington & she writing her memoirs. Yes! xx's

  27. Confession: I do not like fashion magazines. But how welcomed and included I feel by this post regardless!

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