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Lucinda Chambers Reveals the Ugly Underbelly of the Fashion Industry in Savage New Essay [Updated]

The fired 'Vogue' editor gave an unusually candid interview to 'Vestoj.'

In May, it was announced that British Vogue's longtime Fashion Director Lucinda Chambers would be stepping down from her role at the magazine. It wasn't particularly shocking at the time, as Chambers had been at the publication for 36 years and her Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Shulman had announced her own departure in January. 

But — as is so often the case — things behind the scenes weren't quite as breezy as the initial announcement made it seem. Chambers gave an extremely candid interview to Vestoj claiming to have been fired by new British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful — though it's common for new editors to assemble their own teams once they come on board. 

She also admitted she hasn't read Vogue in years, adding that she didn't feel she lead a "Vogue-y kind of life." To Chambers, most fashion magazines have stopped being useful or empowering, with "ridiculously expensive" clothes and an stressful sense of exclusivity. "Most leave you totally anxiety-ridden, for not having the right kind of dinner party, setting the table in the right kind of way or meeting the right kind of people," she told Vestoj Editor-in-Chief Anja Aronowsky Cronberg. Unafraid of turning the mirror on herself, Chambers noted that some of her own work was "really crappy" — and influenced by the advertiser-focused pressures that many major publications face. "The June cover with Alexa Chung in a stupid Michael Kors T-shirt is crap," she said. "He’s a big advertiser so I knew why I had to do it. I knew it was cheesy when I was doing it, and I did it anyway.

Photo: Mario Testino

Photo: Mario Testino

Chambers says she's tired of the "smoke and mirrors" aspect of the industry, which is why she wanted to publicly rebuke the notion she left British Vogue of her own volition. But she doesn't stop there: "Fashion can chew you up and spit you out," she warned. Chambers railed against the system that makes everyone from editors to creative directors feel insecure or nervous, noting in particular the case of former Chloé designer Paulo Melim Andersson, who she felt didn't get a fair crack at the job. She also went in on Marni, a brand with which Chambers had often worked. After Consuelo Castiglioni left, Chambers suggested they hire from within, à la Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Instead, owner Renzo Rosso hired Francesco Risso, a designer Chambers believed had little experience but one very essential connection. "Before Marni, he did celebrity dressing at Prada. He'd never done a show, he'd never run a team," she said. "But he knows Anna Wintour. And who is Renzo Rosso enthralled by? Anna Wintour."

The piece lit up the fashion industry when it was first published on July 3, smack in the middle of the couture shows, and was just as swiftly removed from the Vestoj website. While it is certainly not unusual for a new EIC to make changes to the masthead, it is uncommon for former editors to publicly rail against their former employer, leaving many to speculate that Vestoj was threatened with legal action. Chamber's interview was added back to the internet the following day with an editor's note citing the "sensitive nature" of the article. "In terms of the reasons why it was removed, they are directly related to the industry pressures which Lucinda discusses in her interview," Cronberg told the New York Times. "We created Vestoj to be an antidote to these pressures, but we are not always immune."

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Whatever the reason for its temporary removal, Chambers's brutally honest take on the fashion industry is available to read in full on Vestoj's website. Chambers added that when the shows come in September, she'll feel "vulnerable" — but noted that she has "a new idea" that could happen before then. But she also understands that the fashion industry is fickle.

"Fashion moves like a shoal of fish; it's cyclical and reactionary," Chambers said. "Nobody can stay relevant for a lifetime – you always have peaks and troughs." 

UPDATE, July 6, 2:30 p.m.: Condé Nast has refuted Lucinda Chambers's claims originally published in Vestoj. In a statement to WWD on Wednesday, Condé Nast said simply: "It's usual for an incoming editor to make some changes to the team. Any changes made are done with the full knowledge of senior management."

Following pressure from Condé Nast, Vestoj itself has removed a section of Chambers's account in which she said that no one in the building knew she was to be fired — with the exception of new Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful.

"Considering this is a David and Goliath fight, I don't have the financial means to enter into, I made the requested changes," Vestoj Editor-in-Chief Anja Aronowsky Cronberg told WWD. She was unable to say whether Chambers herself would be facing any legal charges, but added, "All I know is that challenging power in those ways has a cost." 

As the original quotation regarding Chambers's version of events has been removed, Fashionista has also removed that portion from our story. 

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