Culture

From Utter Chaos to Making Fashion Great Again

British Vogue and Chaos 69 are ushering in a new era of print from both ends of the publishing spectrum

Magazines are dead. Wrong. That’s fake news

Last week in London, not one, but two new magazines raised a finger to this theory. One, Chaos 69, is independent. The other, British Vogue, is part of the establishment. David and Goliath (and is there a reason this analogy is still male?).

Should you judge a book by its cover? No. But we all do. In the case of the new look of British Vogue, it’s a very good place to start. The first issue under new editor-in-chief Edward Enninful’s helm is a slick shift into more diverse style and substance, and thank god for that.

Fashion likes to be on trend and is often quick to judge. Like an emoji, it can be hysterical in praise, but in the blink of an eye, those love hearts turn into daggers, pineapples, or shit. When something is new, the social media tribe whirls into overdrive as everyone races to retweet the image and join the new gang. Me, me, me. Yes, yes, yes. Or no no no. Not interested. Sour Grapes. Whose side are you on?

This British Vogue cover is brilliant. It made me remember why I fell in love with magazines—those heavy, cumbersome things that don’t fit in your pocket, you can’t pinch to enlarge, and you can’t scroll through faster than a Tinder app. Magazines—well, good magazines—deserve your full attention. They should inspire you.

The new Vogue cover says, Look, it’s time to up your game, get the gloss back on, twist a turban on your head, and try harder. This statement, unveiled a year after that election, translates to: okay, it’s a political fuck up, but fashion should be looking forward and celebrating talent, not click bait or fake news. Fashion should be focusing on its job: to make people dream.

Adwoa Aboah is the perfect unexpected-but-who-else-could-have-done-it Vogue cover girl with eyes rimmed in blue powder, lips glazed in flame red gloss, and freckles peeking through like fairy dust. Her expression catches your attention—ethereal and defiant. She knows it’s something inspiring and something that demands your attention. Smart. It’s chunky in a good way, and the only thing that has slimmed down is the font. The members of the stacked, starry cast list on the cover are called out for their talent, not their notoriety—a clue to the magazine’s diverse insides that are glossy and global. It’s an issue that, even before it went on sale on Friday (and subsequently sold out), has earned that overused adjective, iconic. Highlights include John Galliano at a bus stop, Naomi Campbell as roving reporter, and the majestic Meisel cover shoot, for which Pat McGlitterGrath and Guido Palau came together to make Aboah shine.

You need to buy it, read it, and relish it rather than re-gramming someone else’s opinion online. This is a new Vogue, and a new era.

If Vogue is great, Chaos 69 is a genius original.

Issue one, page one reads, “The nosey bastards club.” Perfect. Its aim?
To create “a playground with no rules.” Even better. But in an online age, editors-in-chief Charlotte Stockdale and Katie Lyall must be crazy to expand their brand with print, right? No—clever. The power duo behind creative consultancy Chaos Fashion, these two might not have 101 years of history, but they are on a magazine mission. To anyone so youthful they do not remember life before online, it was a dark time when people made eye contact, had posters on their wall, and went shopping for inspiration. Chaos 69 has flipped modern manners on their head and created not yet another magazine, but a glossy book of posters, with porn star-style font on the cover and each paper perforated so you can tear it out and put it on your wall. They have shot bottles of ketchup alongside Balenciaga boots, Katie Grand in her birthday suit with two teddy bears, and, on the reverse side, there’s an explanation of how to butter toast. Well, the result is even more of a look than the emperor’s new clothes.

The Chaos gang features contributors ranging from Karl to Kendall, and five unique covers. There’s Karl on Karl, one Girl (Cara) on Gurl (Adwoa), Kendall has a Close Encounter and Pat McGrath gives lip-reading gloss. Nick Knight shoots the “bland forces of normalcy,” while Martin Parr takes a cast of characters to a supermarket—in pajamas. It’s the right side of creative madness. There’s an ode to Bacon—Francis, rather than the fry-up—their top 69 items rank PG-tip tea bags and custard cream biscuits alongside the latest cult label or handbag and stuff so cool you’ll need to read it a few times or pin it to a wall. From Bailey portraits to paper airplanes, you need to learn every mantra in the “good fucking design advice” section, whose gems include “Fucking collaborate. Don’t fucking procrastinate. Get over your fucking self. Keep fucking learning…Find fucking inspiration everywhere.” It’s true, but thank heavens for John Akehurst, whose photos on the next page help you recover from the G-force of their message.

No, fashion won’t change the world—look who we have in charge to do that. But fashion should make it look better and break the global gloom of listless social scrolling. The way I see it, it’s not Chaos versus Vogue – it’s a new chapter for magazines, and if fashion does its job well, surely others will up their game. Make sure you get both.

Chaos 69 is available now for $91 here. British Vogue is available now on newsstands, and you can subscribe here.

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