Leah Armstrong

Vogue: Designer Lives

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2013 at 17:30

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I haven’t bought Vogue for a while, but today, on a biscuit mission in my local newsagent, the words ‘Designer Special: At home, at work, at play’, made me pick it up, (well, that and Kate Moss on the cover)…

The December issue,  guest edited by John Galliano, celebrates the fashion designer, ‘their imagination, their creativity, their vision and their application’. In particular, a feature entitled ‘Designers Lives’ looks at the influences at play in the designer’s work. Editor Alexandra Schulman states, ‘Sometimes the connections are literal and sometimes less obvious, but all their designs are almost always rooted in a personal mash-up of experience and environment’.

The twenty-page feature presents the aesthetic and lifestyle choices of nine designers, including Erdem and Isabel Marant. The article pours over elements of the designer’s identity: their travel tastes, art collections, watch collections, reading material, furniture and even, in the case of Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCullough, their gardening skills. The result is a highly successful and alluring image (see: Isabel Marant on red vespa, Paris), of the designer as an expert and taste-leader.

As my thesis investigates, this fascination with the interior life of the designer has a long trajectory which forms part of the professionalisation discourse in design history.

The last chapter of my thesis, which focuses on the image of the designer, deals in part with the representation of the individual designer, ‘at home and at work’ in lifestyle and fashion magazines, including Harpers Bazaar and Vogue in the 1950s. Editorial features on the designers FHK Henrion and Gaby Schreiber, for example, both Consultant Designers and members of the SIAD, rests on strikingly similar motifs to do with the designer’s expertise in lifestyle choices.

However, in the 1950s, the identity of the designer was still relatively novel and a discourse of taste and expertise was only beginning to be built up.  This public interest in the personality of the designer accelerated in the 1980s, when a plethora of new design magazines emerged to fuel the ego of an expanding profession.

Paying greater attention to the public perceptions and stylistic representations of ‘the designer’ in fashion media can give a revealing insight into the potent mix of professionalism, creativity and cultural status that continues to define the image of the professional designer.

Vogue magazine is available from all good newsagents. 

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