Condé Nast’s most recent literary exploit, Vogue: The Editor’s Eye is an ode to the role of the stylist, fashion editor or sittings editor – the glue between the photographer, the model, the writer and the magazine itself. Beginning with Anna Wintour’s forward, The Editor’s Eye explains that until recently, stylists weren’t even identified in the credits for the photo shoots they coordinated, a ghastly oversight considering the influence they wield over a spread. The book is in some part an attempt to rectify this omission, giving the stylists the credit they deserve. Through an anthology of essays and accompanying image portfolios, it showcases some of the magazine’s most talented stylists throughout the last 65 years, with a particular focus on how their different personalities helped shape the various trends we have seen in fashion editorial.
I enjoyed the journey through Vogue’s history, starting in 1947 with Babs Simpson. The book effectively distinguished between the magazine’s different eras – loosely based on the editor in chief at the time (from Dianne Vreeland, to Grace Mirabella and then Wintour) – focusing on how the reigning editors inspired and collaborated with the sittings editors at the time. The eight essays, each focussing on a different sittings editor, were eloquent and insightful, and overall a pleasurable read. I especially enjoyed the essays on Jade Hobson, Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele and Tonne Goodman; I thought their profiles really captured their individual attitudes and styles. The various essayists also succeeded at painting a fascinating picture of a seemingly golden epoch for fashion editorial during the 60’s and 70’s.
Each profile was accompanied by a portfolio of images to underscore the theme; I found the photos striking and timeless for the most part, though I think certain portfolios did a better job of highlighting their stylists’ approach than others. I thought Camilla Nickerson’s body of work included in the book added great insight into her personality and modus operandi; it was thematic, tight and complemented the essay well. Same goes for Jade Hobson and Babs Simpson. However, there were times when I found it difficult to distinguish the differences between certain editors’ styles, and I didn’t think the images accompanying the essays always illustrated the point the writers were trying to get across. As an anthology, it wasn’t very cohesive; though in their own right the profiles and portfolios were certainly effective.
If you consider Vogue your fashion bible you will enjoy this book. But, make no mistake, this is a book published by Vogue, written by Vogue writers, about how great Vogue is. For a more ambivalent reader seeking an unbiased gaze into the fashion editorial field as a whole (including influences from other magazines), you may want to keep reading.
photography // Brianne Burnell