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British 'Vogue' Goes Model-Free for the November Issue

The glossy launches its inaugural "Real Issue."
Emily Blunt by Josh Olin. Photo: British Vogue

Emily Blunt by Josh Olin. Photo: British Vogue

Are "real people" trending? First, brands like Tracy ReeseRachel Comey and J.Crew skipped over models to cast real people in their spring 2017 fashion shows. Now, British Vogue is giving models a break, shoring up its pages with real-life professionals. 

November marks the magazine's first "Real Issue," which promises its editorials are a "model-free zone." To that end, according to the Telegraph, the fashion in the November issue was shot on women like architectural historian Shumi Bose, charity director Brita Fernandez Schmidt, founder of La Grotta ices Kitty Travers, and the women behind London’s Crossrail project.

"One of my hobby horses is that it is vital that a desire to look fashionable and take great pleasure in clothes should not be viewed as contradictory to working in professions that have nothing to do with fashion," Shulman says in her Editor's Letter. "Scientists, doctors, academics, teachers, politicians, accountants and others should be able to be seen to enjoy the vagaries of fashion and style. And not be thought the more frivolous for it." (Amen.)

Shulman says the idea of the "Real Issue" came to her when trying to shoot the cast of "The Crown" and coming up against the issue of a stylist being unable to get the samples they wanted in the sizes they needed. It's not a new issue to Shulman: In 2009, she penned an open letter lambasting the ever-shrinking sample size and its effect on both women and fashion, and in a 2014 BBC Radio 2 interview, she reminded interviewer Lily Allen that she's long advocated for bigger sample sizes. "I do think the designers should cut bigger and use bigger models on the catwalk; I've said it again and again," she said at the time. 

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The "Real Issue" is a particularly strong statement from Shulman, who admitted in that same BBC interview that no one wanted to see a "real person" on the covers of fashion magazines. "People don’t want to buy a magazine like Vogue to see what they see when they look in the mirror. They can do that for free," she explained. Of course, the November issue still doesn't feature a "real person" on the cover. (Apologies to Emily Blunt, who surely considers herself a "real person," but you know what we mean.) Shulman says that Blunt plays an "everywoman" in her new film and alludes to the fact that she shot shortly after giving birth, but Blunt is still a celebrity. While she may want to experiment and push the industry forward, Shulman is still tasked with selling a magazine.

"It's a real balancing act doing a magazine, between creativity and sales," Shulman said in the 2014 interview. "If I knew exactly what sold it would be like having the secret of the universe, but I'd say broadly speaking, if you're going to talk about a model or a personality, it's kind of a quite middle view of what beauty is —quite conventional, probably smiling, in a pretty dress; somebody looking very 'lovely'. The most perfect girl next door."

It's difficult to say just how much of a difference the use of "real women" will make, as all the preview images of the inside of the issue feature women who are, if not model-thin, certainly still slim figured. But unlike some of its counterparts, which often falsely promise diversity of body type or age, the "Real Issue" certainly attempts to deliver on its premise. We applaud Shulman using her platform to give more than just lip service to this issue. 

And just in case there was any remaining confusion on how her magazine differs from its American version, the editor also distanced herself and British Vogue from U.S. Vogue's recent blogger drama, tweeting on Monday morning, "Can I just be CLEAR. The current Bloggersgate furore is via American Vogue not @BritishVogue."

Vogue UK's "Real Issue" hits newsstands later this week.

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