Vogue Festival at Southbank Centre in London was naturally the ultimate pilgrimage for bloggers; it boasted nail bars, makeup stands by Burberry, a Vogue book sale, and a Harrods-sponsored runway that everyone was welcome to try out. The day was filled with delicious treats (with a popup Vogue Cafe), mini career sessions run by Vogue team members, and inspiring talks by style royalty. Jute Magazine’s guest blogger Yinsey Wang from Torn + Polished shares her experiences at the FASHION LEGENDS talk with Naomi Campbell and Franca Sozzani.

I was lucky to get tickets for Supermodel Naomi Campbell and Vogue Italia Editor Franca Sozzani’s panel. Fashionably ten minutes late, the speakers drew out a buzzing energy from the audience as they made their grand entrances. It was quite a nice and intimate setting, as both incredible women sat comfortably together on a generous lounge-chair amongst an understated stage set up. Campbell wore a figure hugging marine blue dress that moved lightly and flirtatiously as she walked in. Sozzani was armed with killer heels and decorated with a colorful print trench-like outfit. 

Topics ranged from the frivolous (about their respective Instagram and social media addictions) to the heavier stuff (the future of fashion in Africa), as well as their extensive experiences in a forever changing industry.

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Campbell had a stage presence that was mesmerising. Though I was fairly far from the stage, I felt how confident, assertive and expressive she was. It made sense when she revealed that she had always wanted to be an entertainer, as she was originally set on a career as a dancer or in theatre rather than a model. How fitting it was when she asserted someone told her once that modelling in reality is acting without words. Since the age of 16, she has been such an influence in fashion, pushing for greater ethnic diversity. She was, for example, the cover model of the infamous Vogue Italia Black Issue; it was groundbreaking in that it celebrated other forms of beauty and new voices that, at that time, were rarely seen in the industry. 

When asked if she preferred the term ‘black model’ or ‘model of colour’, Campbell stated the latter took her fancy. She said that in her eyes, she feels part of the community of women who are of another ethnicity and hopes for greater representation in fashion. Showing off a recent issue of Vogue that featured a refreshing mix of models from all sorts of backgrounds, Campbell was like an over-excitable schoolgirl at show-and-tell as she celebrated the era of fashion that was slowly emerging.

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Campbell couldn’t restrain her sense of passion for one day being part of an African Vogue that celebrates not only her heritage but also the untapped potential of the region. Sozzani had recently completed an edition of an African-centered issue of Vogue Italia having interviewed prominent leaders including the President of Nigeria. It was a surprisingly cerebral discussion, particularly regarding the role of fashion as part of and creating a global market. One of the surprising figures Sozzani mentioned was that about 80 per cent of prints based on African designs and methods are produced in Holland. I could see why Campbell was so restless about promoting African fashion, to bring it into greater light. Nonetheless, Sozzani emphasized how different African nations are from one another and how you cannot just simplify and essentialize it as a continent and pass it off as a unified entity. A bit obvious, one would think, but even today many media outlets are guilty of such fallacies when reporting on the rest of the world.  


Top left image: Naomi Campbell and Franca Sozzani at the Fashion Legends Talk; Top right image: Burberry makeup stand


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Above: Vogue Festival at Southbank Centre, London


 

Campbell raised a point that I found the shutterbug in me nodding my head to. She said that when she works with a photographer, she trusts him/her completely. There’s no previewing the images on a digital screen, no nitpicking about what could have been done better, neither were there requests to ‘accentuate’ certain aspects of her or ‘censor’ unwanted images (with the exception of a handful of nude photos, apparently). When in front of a lens, the thought of such freedom being granted completely in the hands of the photographer is quite an intimidating concept: it’s no wonder the selfie has taken the world by storm. Yet from my experiences in freelance photography, I have always found that models, who are free of inhibitions and who disregard preconceived notions of pretty versus ugly, tend to produce the most striking images.

Then came question time. Loyal fans hounded the two with fairly standard ones: on handling stress, distinguishing oneself as a model, and launching a publication of one’s own. I raised my hand but alas was not picked, and I really wanted to bring up the power of the digital age in today’s fashion industry. 

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Above: the infamous Black Issue of Vogue Italia


 

Worshippers of the fashion legends as they were, Campbell’s and Sozzani’s legions of audience members seemed averse to controversy. Although this presented an opportunity to discuss the democratization of fashion against the backdrop of the corporate dominance of super brands; the empowerment that social media provides as a platform for independent models, designers and fashion creatives; and the rise of the fashion blogger, no one dared. It was a ripe moment to talk to these figureheads of contemporary Western fashion directly, for example, on the size 0 debate, gender discourse, and even greater diversity in fashion, not just ethnically, but in terms of size too. It would have been fascinating to put these two accomplished women in the hot seat to either speak out against or defend positions on these very current and relevant issues. 

In any case, I really enjoyed my experience at the Vogue Festival – it made me appreciate the thought, technical mastery, imagination and vision that goes into fashion stories and the years it takes to build up a publication. I just hope the future remains bright for Vogue as it faces recent accusations from readers criticising sterile content, over-corporatisation, and an overemphasis on a select group of models and faces. For me however, Vogue has always been the bible of fashion, and to share in these series of talks was such a pleasure.  


submission fashion magazineAbout the author: North Londoner Yinsey Wang is a hobbyist who runs blog Torn + Polished with her best friend, Trinh Quan. She loves fashion, cute animals, dark chocolate, and singing. When she’s not busy pretending to be a photographer, she’s going on cycling adventures and day trips to beautiful English towns with her partner-in-crime (aka love of her life), Han. 


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