Vogue and Alexa Chung: The Fashion Documentary
British Vogue’s mini-series Future of Fashion was created with several aims in mind. In its own synopsis, the publication stated: The plan was to show this world, from the inside out, to dispel the myths of a frivolous unprofitable industry and introduce young people to exactly what being in fashion means today and what opportunities there are for everyone.
Guided by the loveable and forever chic Alexa Chung, the series includes a diverse group of figures, including the likes of fashion designers Olivier Rousteing and Sir Paul Smith; journalist Sarah Mower; and fashion psychologist Dr Carolyn Mair. However, despite this plethora of fashion insiders the series offers only a superficial insight into the industry.
With each episode attempting to address a different topic within twelve minutes, it was always going to be hard to get as much information as possible on screen. Regardless of this, however, the series seemed to incorporate people who were addressing issues irrelevant to their expertise. When asked how to break into the industry in episode one, British designer Christopher Kane told Chung that going to a reputable college wasn’t a necessity. Yet this advice seems questionable given that Kane was a graduate of the prestigious Central Saint Martins. Constant references to the likes of Stella McCartney, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen – all graduates of CSM – throughout the series also served as a reminder that these fashion titans were well educated also. In ‘Episode two: How to Become a Fashion Designer’, Chung pays a visit to a group of fashion students. Yet, given that these graduates are only at the beginning of their fashion careers, it begs the question of why they are the ones providing insight on how to make it to the top rather than someone who already has a reputation in fashion?
Crucial issues are also given a superficial approach. On the topic of body image and diversity in fashion, Caryn Franklin, ‘the fashion oracle,’ only briefly mentions the need for a diverse range of body shapes, ages and ethnicities on catwalks and in magazines. The majority of her interview with Chung is simply a reminiscence of how fashion was once seen as an unacceptable career – an irrelevant discussion given the topic at hand. This was a glaring chance for both Vogue and Chung to dissect the perpetual negative stereotypes surrounding body image and the lack of diversity in the fashion industry. Sadly this opportunity wasn’t taken. Moreover, given that this series is labelled The Future of Fashion, there is a clear lack of analysis about the industry’s plans to tackle this issue. It is only when interviewing Clare Waight Keller, creative designer of Chloé, in a later episode where Chung encounters the first authoritative voice regarding fashion and ethics, with Keller stating that she designs for healthy body types only.
In this rather lukewarm series, Olivier Rousteing is the only figure that provides anything worth listening to. Having taken over as the creative designer of Balmain at the age of 25, it is undeniable that the Frenchman is a rather impressive figure. From talking about social media being the ‘revolution of fashion’ to emphasising the need to push the ‘boundaries of ethnicity’, Rousteing provides relevant commentary on the modern fashion world. He not only speaks of the contemporary, but also looks forward and believes that this epoch will be known for specific events: Kim K on the front row; Kate Middleton wearing Alexander McQueen; and Rihanna’s Dior campaign. By providing such predictions Rousteing makes his opinions relevant to the overall series.
The disappointing thing is that Future of Fashion barely even elaborates on the profusion of opportunities available in the fashion world, despite this being one of the series’ stated aims. The series revolves around London and Paris, two fashion capitals obscuring the rest of the world and the opportunities available in these regions. Indeed, there are brief encounters with fashion buyers and journalists whilst the likes of Christopher Kane stress the importance of the backroom staff. But there is no substantial insight from the actual people who are so crucial to putting together a fashion show, from the PR staff to the garment cutters.
Chung is undeniably cool and charming in her interviews. But there is no depth to any of the questions or discussions, thus not helping the negative stereotype that fashion is superficial and little more.