LAST WEEKEND, owing to a funeral in my wife’s family, I had to forego the chance to rub designer shoulder pads with Anna Wintour and Victoria Beckham at one of the innumerable events lined up to celebrate the 100th birthday of Vogue.
I’d been invited because I once regularly contributed to the fashion “Bible” and had, in fact, been asked to offer up some recollections of my Vogue years for the handsome Voice of a Century coffee-table book published last week by Genesis Publications.
Among the things I wrote was this: “Vogue took me out of the blokeish world of music journalism and injected me into a milieu with which I had – and still have – a very ambivalent relationship. I liked its intense glamour but was always slightly scared and suspicious of it.” And in the end, that was why I felt relieved to send editor-in-chief Alex Shulman my apologies and say I was unable to attend.
That old ambivalence was born almost certainly of the fact that my parents scorned fashion as vain and superficial, but also from a profound lack of confidence in my own sartorial style. Yet to deny I felt any pull towards Vogue’s world would be disingenuous. The fact is, I was pathetically flattered to appear in its pages, as if somehow it hoisted me out of the grubby geekdom of music journalism and propelled me into some jet-set domain in which, in my heart, I knew I did not belong.
My peak Vogue moment came in the summer of 1992 when features editor Eve MacSweeney asked me to fly to New York to interview Naomi Campbell, who predictably kept me waiting in a hotel room for 24 hours. I look back now and wonder if I shouldn’t have ingratiated myself still deeper into that monde, rather than revert to blokeish type and take the staff job offered to me by fledgling music monthly MOJO.
With my wife, who does possess innate sartorial style, I watched both parts of the Beeb’s recent Absolute Fashion doc on Vogue and found myself feeling the same old ambivalence: how seductively luxurious it seems, how beautiful the women are… yet how absurd the preening paranoid vanity of it all… and how grotesque it all is in a world where the most traumatic suffering occurs every moment of every day.
Though I thought Alex Shulman and Lucinda Chambers came across as very grounded and unpretentious in the film – just as they did when I went in for monthly editorial meetings all those years ago – it didn’t change my fundamentally puritanical distaste for the elitism that Vogue represents and defines. I was glad that Patsy and Edina were on hand in Ab Fashion to puncture its manifest foolishness.
And so, in the end, did I regret not being at swanky private club 5 Hertford Street last Sunday to mingle with Posh Spice and Poppy Delevigne? Not really. I’d only have stood around feeling wholly out of place – knowing I don’t belong. I almost certainly had a better time in Blackpool, celebrating the life of my wife’s beloved and brilliantly funny Auntie Elma, than I’d ever have had in Mayfair.