Vogue’s September issue: another reason to love Beyoncé
The fashion in The Carters’ new video APESH**T did not disappoint. Highlights include angel wings paired with denim, jewel toned shawl collar blazers, flesh toned body suits and undulating masses of white fabric plus Jay-Z's new afro. Costuming aside, the mere fact that the video was staged at The Louvre is enough to challenge and upend one’s provincial notions of what this cultural institution is and what it means that Beyoncé and Jay-Z are there. If the point of art is to shake us from our complacency and compel us to confront our blind spots and ignorances, The Carter’s have achieved such an aim and the video deserves our attention.
What also deserves our attention is September 2018’s Vogue cover featuring Beyoncé. While it is much less provocative and more predictable in the sense that it wholly represents the Vogue “brand”, it is an undeniably striking and statuesque picture of Beyoncé with all the markings of Anna Wintour's hand. She appears regal in its angular composition. It conveys aspiration, loft while being slightly unreal, remaining just-out-of-touch (as Vogue would have it). But it is supremely pleasing all the same.
With that said, the decadence the cover photo exudes does feel a touch nostalgic. It is daring to eschew the stark minimalism which is clearly preferred today (see Michelle Williams’ Vanity Fair September issue look). Pricey photo shoots with elaborate sets in exotic locations no longer seem strictly necessary to sell clothing and capture an audience—we are captured plenty by Instagram. And our quotidian dress is following suit adhering to practical principles, embracing comfort and functionality, stripped of the frilly, fussy and flowery like we see in the editorials of Vogue.
Given this radical shift, where do magazines now fit into our life? Condé Nast just put 3 magazines up for sale and the NY Times just released a dishy piece on a magazine exec veteran who emphatically declared that "magazines are so over."
But at least with this cover, Vogue seems hopeful—firm in its belief it has universal staying power. The choice of featuring Beyonce, too was somewhat of a declaration of relevancy. Like Vogue’s editorials, Beyonce is never one to dumb down her dress. She is always sporting ensembles that support her stardom and iconography—flamboyant pieces one could hardly deem acceptable except on a stage or on a cover of a magazine.
On the other hand, the whole idea of Social media insists that we don’t need experts and that everyone has a voice that should be heard—that we can find inspiration and learn from each other just by stumbling upon a new profile. This is an admirable democratic ideal and useful for some practicalities. But in fact sometimes an expert is preferred—the best, the brightest, the most elevated. Sometimes we want to be inspired by something larger than life itself.