Welcome to our column, "Hey, Quick Question," where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries. Enjoy!
Many glossies have found a solution to counter shrinking ad sales by essentially selling their covers to brands. It's been something of an open secret in the publishing world for years, but it's starting to become a bit more obvious as brands put their ambassadors on covers and pack the accompanying editorials with almost exclusively their own wares, sometimes going so far as choosing one of their contracted photographers to get the job done. Additionally, certain brands and designers are notorious in the styling world for insisting that their clothes never be styled with anyone else's — we'll let you take a peek through recent fashion editorials to sort that one out for yourselves — but this is much more like pay-for-play than it is an issue of the controlling creative mind.
While we can't be sure that this is the case here, there's something fishy about a recent spate of September covers featuring Louis Vuitton. Over at The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman recently noted a strange series of coincidences in Vanity Fair's September issue, starring longtime Louis Vuitton ambassador and campaign star Michelle Williams. She's wearing Vuitton on the cover — pretty standard practice for celebrities, as far as that goes — but she was also shot by Collier Schorr, the photographer behind the brand's latest campaign.
Potentially this was all just serendipity, as asserts Vanity Fair EIC Radhika Jones, since Williams wears Vuitton just once more in the accompanying editorial and Schorr was reportedly picked for the cover before the ad campaign. But then, as People lifestyle director Alex Apatoff Besen pointed out, Ruth Negga, another Vuitton brand ambassador, popped up on the September cover of Marie Claire UK, also shot wearing Louis Vuitton on the cover — and exclusively throughout the editorial.
The most egregious example, however, has to be Elle's September cover, starring yet another Louis Vuitton brand ambassador Emma Stone. On the cover, Stone wears — you guessed it! — Louis Vuitton, and wears the brand in all but one shot of her editorial. The piece also happens to plug Stone's upcoming ad for Louis Vuitton's ninth fragrance which, wouldn't you know it, launches this month.
Ben Hassett is credited as the shoot's photographer; Hassett has previously shot fragrance campaigns for Vuitton, though it's not clear if he shot Stone's new ad. And unlike either Marie Claire UK or Vanity Fair, which each actually, you know, hired writers to profile their cover stars, Elle features an extremely softball, phoned-in "interview" between Stone and fellow celeb BFF Jennifer Lawrence.
Of course, we have no way of knowing for certain that these covers represent any kinds of deals, financial or otherwise, between Louis Vuitton and magazines, and Louis Vuitton is hardly alone in participating in these kinds of exchanges. But we have to ask: Is this the future of fashion publishing? Will every magazine cover have to come with a #spon tag? Have glossies truly lost so much power that celebs will only agree to appear on their covers for #ad purposes? Are potential ad dollars worth the complete and total loss of creative control?
One thing, however, is abundantly clear: The line between editorial and advertising has never been blurrier.