Vogue is one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world and Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of its US edition, is a living legend. The Canadian experience of Vogue, however, is by proxy: a Vogue Canada does not exist, and Wintour doesn't attend Canada's fashion weeks. Rather than a homegrown edition, newsstands across the country supply Canadians with Vogue (US). Many larger bookstores even sell the British, Italian and Parisian editions, forcing Canadians to pay hefty taxes for the privilege of reading magazines in which none of the content is aimed at them.
|Vogue Netherlands' April 2012 edition.
Canada's mainstream fashion publications, such as Flare and FASHION, strive to fill the Vogue void but lack the same global exposure. The void is magnified by Vogue's widespread colonisation of would-be fashion capitals. As Vogue Netherlands joins a list of 18 other international editions this month, one begins to wonder why a Vogue Canada has been eschewed. Without a real stake in the Vogue empire, can Canada's fashion industry have significant influence over the global fashion landscape?
One possible explanation for Wintour's absence at Canada's fashion weeks is that what the country offers may simply not be attractive to the Vogue editor with the famed Midas touch. "There are a few shows at Toronto Fashion Week that [Wintour] would enjoy watching. Others would make her happy she brought along her sunglasses," says style editor of NOW Magazine Andrew Sardone.
Each season there are the few sold-out evening shows during Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week (WMCFW) - Pink Tartan, Joe Fresh, Greta Constantine - but the rest of the time, attendees are ushered to move into the front row, filling empty seats that belong to VIP guests and media personalities in absentia. This year, Flare's high-profile editor Lisa Tant was in Paris during WMCFW. She tweeted on March 14 that the trip was "A case of bad timing. Toronto Fashion Week is a week early this season. Didn't know when I booked my Paris trip. Au revoir. Leaving tonight." Flare's fashion news editor, Mosha Lundström Halbert, sat in her coveted front row seat.
|Wintour alongside Franca Sozzani and Scarlett Johansson
at Milan Fashion Week in 2009. Source: zimbio.com.
Notable Toronto fashion blogger Julio Reyes of Fashionights.com suggests that the thought of someone like Wintour sitting front row at the tents is "far-fetched because Canada's excruciatingly slow progression as a fashion world leader is its own hindrance." This progression could be hastened by a stalwart presence of Canadian editors at WMCFW; not to mention attending Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver shows. If it's difficult to imagine top Canadian editors attending every single show, why should Canadians expect a world-famous editor like Wintour to glance north of the border? And yet, if Wintour were to attend WMCFW, surely others would pack up their Nikons and Boston bags and follow the bob.
The reason Condé Nast International Ltd., Vogue's parent company, has stayed away from Canada is difficult to discern, but perhaps Condé Nast doesn't have a strong enough business case to expand its magazines to include Canadian versions. The most obvious reason may be that the contents of a Vogue Canada would be too similar to the already popular Vogue (US), making the venture into the Canadian fashion magazine industry redundant. Interestingly, these two overlapping factors - language and markets - are not present in any other international edition of Vogue magazine. English-speaking Britain and Australia have language in common, but their markets are disparate from each other and from the United States. On the other hand, language barriers separate similar markets, such as the European countries of Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece, making it impossible to share a common edition of Vogue.
Similarly, Vogue (US) having a readership in Canada doesn't necessarily guarantee that those readers will shift loyalties to a Vogue Canada. Should it replace the American version on newsstands, or should readers have a choice between the two?
In order for Canada to overcome its similarities with the United States on the fashion front, the Canadian fashion industry has to make a name for itself as a world leader. But can it do so without a Vogue of its own and without the support of top editors' attendance during fashion week?
Some Canadian fashion insiders, however, believe a Canadian edition of Vogue would be markedly different from both the American counterpart and leading Canadian fashion magazines. Sardone, for instance, believes a Vogue Canada would promote Canada's fashion industry without posing a threat to existing Canadian magazines: "I don't think a Vogue Canada would be redundant. There are a lot of unique voices and thriving businesses in our country's fashion industry that aren't recognised by magazines south of the border. Vogue's power comes from the exclusivity and sense of authority it has cultivated for its brand but that wouldn't necessarily make it a threat to Canadian magazines who have built a loyal readership here for decades." If Canada had a Vogue edition under its belt, the authority behind the Vogue name may very well help to promote Canadian fashion to the rest of the world.
|Flare's April 2012 edition.
But there are skeptics. Gracie Carroll of FILLER Magazine says we can do without a Vogue Canada. "I think FLARE has definitely established a nice spot for itself as the Canadian equivalent, making it redundant for a Canadian Vogue to enter the market." But do Canadians just want a copycat version of Vogue (US) that "concentrates on international brands or Canadian brands that have made it big outside of Canada?" asks Marcus Kan, fashion director of Ukamaku.com. It is only when Canadian brands, designers and industry personalities make it into the Big Four that they become attractive content for Canada's leading fashion magazines - with very few exceptions, says Kan.
Vogue continues to be the yardstick for fashion publications and an authoritative voice in the industry. The only anomaly in recent times was in 2010 when Carine Roitfeld, (then) editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, was banned from attending Balenciaga ready-to-wear shows, precluding the magazine's coverage of the acclaimed French brand. The ban, of course, was only temporary. Canada continues to be ensconced in the Vogue (US) milieu, but sharing a Vogue with the United States may be to the detriment of Canadian cities emerging as global fashion capitals.
Sardone concludes, "I really don't think anyone in Canada's fashion industry measures their relevance by the existence or non-existence of a Canadian edition of Vogue." The rest of the fashion world, however, measures their relevance very much by Vogue - making it difficult to see what exactly Canada has to gain by remaining Vogue-less.
Correction: The original article misquoted Andrew Sardone as saying, "There are few shows at Toronto Fashion Week...." Sardone's actual quote was: "There are a few shows at Toronto Fahsion Week...."
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