"Vogue has always been more than just a magazine: it's a history, a way of life, a state of mind. These are the people, the places, the clothes, the ideas, that have formed it throughout the century..." – British Vogue’s art director Robin Derrick.
Little is known about Arthur Turnure, who in 1892 founded Vogue as a weekly publication in the United States. Featuring fashion and social affairs and celebrating 'the ceremonial side of life' to target debutants and wealthy Americans, Turnure probably had no idea that almost 123 years later his magazine is one of the most famous and seminal fashion magazines in the world. Although now a predominantly women's magazine (with only five men ever gracing the cover), the early days of Vogue included coverage of sports and social affairs to target a male readership.
It wasn't until 1905 that Vogue really flourished, especially overseas, after the purchase of the magazine by Condé Nast. The American Vogue was imported and sold in Britain until a British version was started in 1916 which sold well despite the war, other country specific versions shortly followed in Spain, Italy and then France in 1920. Vogue in France was particularly well received as Paris had a thriving magazine scene with the artistic elite regularly contributing to publications there.
Despite the Great Depression and World War II, Vogue subscriptions continued to grow and editions like the October 1944 French edition reflect the feeling of the age, in this issue the magazine acknowledges the hardship suffered by Parisians and Vogue workers during the German occupation. The demure cover of the December 1947 edition which celebrates the wedding of Elizabeth II to Prince Philip also reflects the post-war feeling of the wedding in which Elizabeth saved up to buy her dress through ration books.
As the popularity of fashion illustrations declined, Vogue helped start the rise of photographic covers instead of illustrated ones. The photographic covers with the iconic Vogue title is now recognisable across the globe and top fashion photographers continually clamour to shoot for the famous magazine.
After his first cover in February 1961, David Bailey has shot 29 Vogue covers across the magazines history and includes the iconic cover featuring Donyale Luna, the first cover girl of ethnic origin to be on the cover of Vogue. Further famous photographers such as Mario Testino and Patrick Demarchelier have also shot a number of covers for the magazine, Demarchelier's photograph of Princess Diana featured in the memorial issue after her death.
Going hand and hand with the photographers are of course the models, the appointment of Diana Vreeland as edition in chief in the 1960s helped to fuel the 'models of the moment' and to earn a Vogue cover became a goal for most models! Instead of focussing on 'the elite' in the fashion world, Vreeland and Vogue began focussing on more contemporary fashion and writing about the 60s 'sexual revolution'. This led to the likes of Jean Shrimpton, Twiggy and Suzy Parker regularly gracing the cover of the magazine, transforming them into icons of the decade.
In 1988 Anna Wintour was appointed editor in chief of American Vogue after Condé Nast had become worried that new magazine Elle was poaching their readers after Vogue had appeared to become stagnant and 'beige'. The appointment of Wintour signified a new phase for the magazine and she highlighted this with her inaugural cover, dramatically changing her predecessors focus of portraying a woman's portrait and shifting the focus to the full length depiction of clothing and body.
Wintour wanted to focus on fashion being accessible to everyone and continues to widen Vogue's appeal by featuring celebrity cover stars, interesting articles and the latest fashion trends.