The former editor of Vogue took a latest journey to Sainsbury’s at 3pm. “And to me that was so fascinating. I’ve not been in a grocery store on a weekday afternoon for 35, 40 years or one thing. I used to be simply all in favour of who was in there, what individuals are shopping for, what the parking was like. I’m all in favour of all these items.”
Since standing down in June from the journal she edited for 25 years, Alexandra Shulman has been having the loveliest time. She has taken holidays, attended cultural occasions and, she says: “I have that sort of slightly horrible sort of happy-clappy feeling about me, you know, smiling everywhere as if I’d found God. It’s not like I was longing to be free from Vogue,” she provides unexpectedly. “I just thought, 25 years is such a huge amount of your life to spend sitting in the same building.”
She greets me with a demob-happy glow of contentment. The 57-year-old pads round her north London dwelling making espresso, and laughs that even one thing as mundane as changing her defective doorbell feels unique. She appears shocked after I ask if she misses the facility of her former place. “No, I’m not really interested in power. I am interested in having a voice.” By the time I depart, although, she is trying more and more uneasy about how what she has to say can be acquired.
Shulman’s voice has been touchdown her in sizzling water these days. Last month, in a column musing on what makes a great editor, she wrote: “It’s certainly not a job for someone who doesn’t wish to put in the hours, and thinks that the main part of their job is being photographed in a series of designer clothes with a roster of famous friends.”
“Miaow!” was the overall consensus throughout the style world, who took the road for a thinly veiled swipe at her successor, Edward Enninful. Shulman says she was amazed. “No! It was intended to be a comment on what the future of magazine journalism could be. Not about Edward, no. Why would I slag off somebody who’s taking over Vogue?”
That’s not how Naomi Campbell noticed it. She told the Guardian this week: “I’m not pleased at how [Enninful] has been treated. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. I find it racist. It’s like a vendetta and it should stop. I take it as racial abuse.” How did Shulman really feel when she learn that? “Well, upset. It was weird.” Does she perceive what the supermodel meant? “No, I don’t. I mean, listen, Naomi is very vocal, and she’s chosen to take that view, and there’s nothing I can say about it.” But after a quick pause she goes on: “I don’t think it’s very becoming of somebody who is contributing editor of a magazine to slag off the previous editors. Naomi had more covers than any other model, other than Kate Moss, during the time that I was on Vogue.”
Is Shulman positive? “I can’t think of another model who had more. Something like eight.” I inform her Natalia Vodianova appeared on eight of Shulman’s covers, and Gisele Bündchen 11. “Really? British Vogue? I can only remember two. I’ve got a terrible memory.” Campbell made the duvet simply 5 instances. Shulman appears puzzled. “Maybe those were single ones. Maybe it wasn’t where she was also in groups.” Campbell did seem beside Puff Daddy, however that cowl is included within the 5. “Well, anyway. I’m not going to get into the thing. If she wants to feel that aggression, who am I to stop it, you know?”
Shulman says she preferred Enninful very a lot on the 1 event they met. “The only thing I don’t feel happy about is that I worked with an incredibly talented team of people who were hired not on the basis of their sex, their age or their race, and they worked bloody hard.” Her successor was reportedly eager to filter the outdated regime’s “Sloanie club”, and there have been a number of high-profile departures, most notably Lucinda Chambers, who was fired as fashion director after 35 years’ service.
“I do find it offensive, this idea that there was this kind of posh cabal who weren’t doing anything. The idea that we were having a kind of tea party when we made literally hundreds of millions of pounds as profit, I find offensive.”
The Ghana-born former stylist’s appointment didn’t shock her, however after I ask if she thought him a good selection, she says: “That’s an impossible question to ask me. Because if I say yes I was pleased, and then a lot of my staff lost their jobs, it sounds very disloyal. If I say no I wasn’t pleased, then it sounds very rude. The answer is that I think Edward was a good idea.” She pauses. “But when you leave a job, it’s a bit like abandoning your child to someone else. It’s almost impossible to think that anybody, if you’re completely honest – well, everybody’s going to be flawed as the new mother, or the father in this case. So I’m just being completely honest. It’s hard to feel completely, ‘I’ll love everything he does,’ because I won’t.”
On the morning we meet, Enninful’s first cowl has simply been revealed, which Shulman has seen. “I think it’s lovely,” she smiles. “Absolutely lovely.” After a quick pause: “It’s funny because, of course, I’m old enough to remember those covers when they were live – you know, 70s covers, with the headscarf and blue eye shadow.” Did she discover something on the duvet stunning? “It’s exactly what I would have expected. Adwoa [Aboah, the model] is very much, you know, the girl of the moment. We’d actually offered her the cover and she turned us down when I was there. I don’t know why. Maybe she knew she was going to get this cover.”
Did Shulman supply it that not too long ago? She thinks. “No, it was earlier than Edward would have been there. Anyway, I’m an amazing admirer of Adwoa. I believe her Gurls Talk factor is admittedly fascinating, and he or she’s good. She’s the proper combination of blended race, type of posh Notting Hill royalty. So she’s the proper cowl star, completely.” On her cellphone we scroll by means of another pictures of Aboah. Shulman factors out 1 exhibiting the mannequin bare-headed. “It’s funny, because Adwoa is actually much more, kind of, ginger in reality.”
Shulman continues to be smarting from the uproar provoked by a photograph in her final edition of the outgoing editor surrounded by 54 of her workers. Did she anticipate that many readers can be shocked to see that each single certainly one of them was white? “No,” she mutters dryly. “Clearly not. Had I known that this was going to happen, I would not have put that picture in it. But it never entered my head. Over the years there have been people of all kinds of ethnicities in the magazine. On that particular day there was nobody there and, you know, it’s frustrating.”
Whenever non-white candidates utilized to work for her, she says: “I’d say they almost always did in fact get the job. But relatively few came up through the pipeline, for whatever reason, so that might account for why there weren’t more.”
Many employers go to some lengths to draw extra various candidates. “Well, I guess I have to hold my hand up and say I don’t encourage positive discrimination in any area.” Shulman flatly refuses to simply accept the critique that beneath her editorship Vogue had a range drawback. “I’ve by no means been anyone who’s box-ticked. I’m towards quotas. I really feel like my Vogue had the individuals in who I needed it to. I didn’t have a look at what race they had been. I didn’t have a look at what intercourse they had been. I didn’t have a look at what age they had been. I included the individuals I assumed fascinating. So no, I don’t, completely not.
“But in the event you’re going to say to me, ‘Well, how many white models as opposed to how many black models were in there?’, I’m positive you can also make the numbers stack as much as argue that there was a problem. But so far as I’m involved, there wasn’t, and it by no means entered my head.”
She begins to look sad. “In terms of the idea that in any way I’m seen as insensitive or racist, one of the reasons why I do find it upsetting is because actually my son’s grandfather, Robert Spike, was one of the civil rights leaders. So it’s very offensive to me and my family, the idea that I’m racist. I do mind about that. I can’t pretend I don’t.”
Readers could then marvel why she put black faces on the duvet solely 12 instances in 25 years. “Well, I don’t know. Who would I put on? Who would you have suggested that was a really well known black model who wasn’t on the cover?” One reply can be Thandie Newton, who lives simply 2 doorways up from Shulman and complained bitterly final yr about being ignored. “Why have I not got the cover?” she told the Guardian. “And I resisted race. I resisted it … And then I had to accept it.” Shulman sighs.
“There are lots of actresses who weren’t on the cover. It didn’t enter my head that I should put Thandie on the cover.” But moments earlier she had stated, “I would have loved to have more really famous black models that we could have put on the cover.” “Well, Thandie’s not a black model.” Nor had been 2 of her black cowl stars, Beyoncé and Rihanna. “But they’re very, very world-famous names.” Was Newton not well-known sufficient? “You’re leading me down a path where I don’t really want to talk about who sells and who doesn’t sell. Why didn’t I put Thandie on the cover? I don’t know. There’s a million other actresses who I didn’t put on the cover.”
The drawback, she says, is that there weren’t sufficient established black fashions. In her 25 years, just one aside from Campbell – Jourdan Dunn – ever appeared alone. Would she not have helped make others identified by that includes them? “Well, no. Vogue always sold on the newsstand, and people have to recognise the person who you’re putting on the cover. I was judged by my sales. That was my remit. My chief remit was not to show ethnic diversity as a policy.” If she put a black face on the duvet who was not immediately recognisable, “You would sell fewer copies. It’s as simple as that.”
Does she assume Enninful’s Vogue will battle to match her circulation common of roughly 200,000? “Well, I’m sure this issue will sell. But it’s not my job to predict what it’s going to do. I’m absolutely sure Edward will do really well. He’s the right guy at the right time. I’m sure that Condé Nast will be delighted, I really am.” She will get to her toes. “I’m just getting more coffee because it’s so stressful, that whole thing about models – black – the whole thing.”
She worries that what she has stated will land her in even hotter water. “But you can lie and say everything’s lovely. Or you can be honest, and then reap the consequences of that.” I’m inquisitive about why she needed to present the interview. “Several people have asked me that,” she grins. “I suppose because I wanted to be able to put the record straight about that column I wrote. And because I am upset by accusations of racism. I haven’t got a racist bone in my body, and it does infuriate me, so I suppose that. Also, I guess because I haven’t left Vogue to go and hide under a stone somewhere. I suppose, you know, you like the publicity at the end of the day. You want to carry on having a voice.”
Later within the week, after she has seen Enninful’s first full problem, she gives her verdict. “I think it looks great. That is meant genuinely. I would really like it on record that I do not have any axe to grind with Edward. I really wish him well. Vogue’s a hugely important part of my life, and I want it to flourish.” After one other of her signature pauses, she provides: “Obviously, you don’t want people to do things a great deal better than you did them.” So if he doubled Vogue’s gross sales in a single day? She smiles.
“Well, that would very frustrating. Unquestionably frustrating.”