The most authentic company I ever worked for is Marni. We didn’t advertise, and what we showed on the catwalk we always produced. We never wanted to be ‘in fashion.’ If you bought a skirt twenty years ago, you can still wear it today. We never changed the goalposts. Our shows were about empowering women. We always treated our models beautifully and had incredible diversity in the company: my team was half boys, half girls, all different nationalities. It was very transparent, but when the company was sold everything changed. The Castiglionis were naïve. They sold sixty percent of the company, thinking that the new owner would respect what they had built. I never understood why they sold it to Renzo Rosso of all people. He is the antithesis of everything Marni stood for. The antithesis. When Consuelo left, I remember thinking why not give the design task to someone from the team? It would have been a reflection of how fashion is created today, and it worked for Gucci – Alessandro Michele had been at the brand forever before becoming the creative director. I talked to Renzo and he agreed, but then at the last minute he changed his mind. He brought Francesco Risso onboard, who had nothing to do with the company. Before Marni, he did celebrity dressing at Prada. He’d never done a show, he’d never run a team. But he knows Anna Wintour. And who is Renzo Rosso enthralled by? Anna Wintour. The last womenswear collection at Marni was a disaster; it had terrible reviews. The show was appalling. I heard the cost to produce it was two-and-a-half times what we used to spend, and it sold fifty percent less. A lot of American buyers didn’t even bother to turn up. Marni is no more. It saddens me, but then I remind myself that from the ashes something new can emerge.
When Vetements came on the scene, what they were doing felt very new. At that particular time, it wasn’t what anyone else was doing. And when I saw the last Balenciaga show… Okay, you could say it’s a bit Margiela or a bit this or that, but honestly I was really really really excited. You know what was smart about it? It was the scale – you saw this tiny model emerge and it took forever for her to get close to the audience. It built up expectation. Everything was thought through: the casting, the music, the space. Everything. And I loved how we were all seated: so far from each other, it all felt anonymous. Normally at a fashion show, everyone looks at each other – who wears what, who sits where. ‘Oh, she’s got the new Céline shoes.’ But here you felt as if you were on your own. It was a new feeling.
Fashion shows are all about expectation and anxiety. We’re all on display. It’s theatre. I’m fifty-seven and I know that when the shows come around in September I will feel vulnerable. Will I still get a ticket? Where will I sit? I haven’t had to think about those things for twenty-five years. Most people who leave Vogue end up feeling that they’re lesser than, and the fact is that you’re never bigger than the company you work for. But I have a new idea now, and if it comes off maybe I won’t be feeling so vulnerable after all. We’ll have to wait and see.
There are very few fashion magazines that make you feel empowered. Most leave you totally anxiety-ridden, for not having the right kind of dinner party, setting the table in the right kind of way or meeting the right kind of people. Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years. Maybe I was too close to it after working there for so long, but I never felt I led a Vogue-y kind of life. The clothes are just irrelevant for most people – so ridiculously expensive. What magazines want today is the latest, the exclusive. It’s a shame that magazines have lost the authority they once had. They’ve stopped being useful. In fashion we are always trying to make people buy something they don’t need. We don’t need any more bags, shirts or shoes. So we cajole, bully or encourage people into continue buying. I know glossy magazines are meant to be aspirational, but why not be both useful and aspirational? That’s the kind of fashion magazine I’d like to see.
Lucinda Chambers served as fashion director of British Vogue for 25 years.
Anja Aronowsky Kronberg is Vestoj's Editor-in-Chief and Founder.