x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

French Vogue pulls off an August coup

Anna Wintour called time out on holidays in the Hamptons during the sleepy month of August by summoning a select gathering (including Sienna Miller and P Diddy) to a preview of The September Issue in New York.

Anna Wintour called time out on holidays in the Hamptons during the sleepy month of August by summoning a select gathering (including Sienna Miller and P Diddy) to a preview of The September Issue in New York. However, in Paris, Carine Roitfeld, the editor of French Vogue, had already flicked the "on" switch to awaken the fashion industry from its traditional summer slumber.

Even before the all-important September issues hit the news-stands - September being the most important month on the fashion magazine calendar - the shrewd French editor had already nailed it, as in anything we might need to know for the coming season, in her August issue. I got wind of what sounded like a pretty special fashion shoot in that issue (normally famed for swimwear features and not much else) just before it came out, when the son of a friend of my husband, who was assisting the Dutch photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, proudly showed us a preview copy of his first proper assignment.

His enthusiasm was matched equally by my own jaw-dropping excitement. Let's put this in context. The duo of Lamsweerde and Matadin are currently responsible for nine out of 10 designer campaigns. They are considered so cool, so crucial, that most other fashion photographers have temporarily been put out to pasture. Who are Steven Meisel and Patrick Demarchelier these days? When my mole revealed that his shoot was in fact a two-week project masterminded by Roitfeld, which had taken place in a damp warehouse in New York, right under the nose of Wintour and featuring only super-league models, my fashion antennae began to twitch.

There are three reasons why pulling off an August coup is impressive. Firstly, because of sheer strategy. Most fashion spreads are photographed at least three months ahead, when there is just one set of samples circulating the globe (most of which, I hear, are kept in the American Vogue fashion cupboards far longer than needed, for obvious reasons). This also would be around the time that designers would be shooting campaigns and Lamsweerde and Matadin would be the most in-demand.

Secondly, the 64-page fashion spread (with no adverts in between) captures the feel of this season remarkably well with the help of one look from each of the greatest designers of our time, worn to perfection by great beauties of the moment, from Raquel Zimmermann and Daria Werbowy to Anja Rubik, Malgosia Bela and Lara Stone. The shoot demonstrates Roitfeld's nuanced take on fashion, not least with her effortless styling. A tweak of a collar or an extra layer of pearls and suddenly each designer's look is up to date.

In order to keep the flow, she picks two trends: the Eighties and, as a theme, the handwriting of each designer. (This is not a season where designers mirror a few key seasonal looks.) From Chanel tailoring to Yves Saint Lauren's Le Smoking tuxedo suit to Giorgio Armani's androgynous trouser suits to Balenciaga's sleeves to Jil Sander's precision-cut minimalism, it's all here. Further more, Roitfeld and her fashion director, Emmanuelle Alt, enlisted a set of A-list fashion accomplices such as the stylist Joe McKenna and the make-up and hair supremos Tom Pecheux, Lisa Butler and Didier Malige.

I still can't put my (well-thumbed) copy down. My favourite? It would be a toss-up between Vivienne Westwood and Isabel Marant. It's mad, I know. So different and yet this is Roitfeld's point. She is smart to identify the contribution of all designers rather than single out favourites. Choice, it seems, is extremely fashionable in a global recession. In many ways, the shoot works rather too well. I don't really feel the need to buy another fashion magazine until March 2010 (or even 2011, come to think of it).

It's certainly given me a head start and a lot to think about. I can safely say that black leather biker jackets with big pointy shoulders will become one of the must-have items, along with a silk Hermès scarf a pencil skirt and some clumpy shoe boots. Nice touch, that. Roitfeld gives a nod to the glamour grunge that has become her unique fashion offering and, amazingly, Eighties gear is no longer a rehash of those bad old days.

The dust has yet to settle on the apparent gauntlet thrown down to her Prada-wearing nemesis, and I'm sure Wintour, ever the veteran, will respond with something devilish.