As someone who has been reading British Vogue since about 2007 (I remember because my first issue was the February 2007 issue as part of a New Year’s Resolution), the magazine has played a pretty big role in my life. It is responsible for my fashion education, and for kick-starting the development of my taste when it comes to photographers, stylists, writers and so on. I was that slightly weird girl who annotated my magazines when I was younger because I wanted to learn everything. I would even cut up the supplementary magazines that accompanied some issues and stuck images on my cupboard door in trend groups, and I still have all of those cut-outs today. I don’t do that anymore, by the way, but if you go back to the 2007 and 2008 issues, all of which I still have, you will find folded page corners and rings around anything relating to McQueen.
So I was pretty excited when I heard that the National Portrait Gallery would be playing host to Vogue 100: A Century of Style, an exhibit celebrating Vogue‘s 100th birthday this year. Even more excited still when I was invited to view the exhibit the day before it opened.
Charting every decade of the magazine, the exhibit is a journey through each era of Vogue, displaying some of the most well-known images as well as other rarely seen images. I was welcomed by illuminated former covers on plinths, followed by video footage of former shoots and contributors. Turn a corner and I saw Tim Walker’s famous image of Alexander McQueen covering the back wall, and ushering me into the Vogue of the nineties and noughties.
The exhibit is vast, and as I said moves from modern day right back to the magazine’s pre-photography days. Each room follows highlights different styles, trends and faces that Vogue has showcased on its pages, with work from some of my favourite photographers including Nick Knight, Corinne Day, Tim Walker and David Bailey.
All of your favourite faces are there too, including a young Naomi Campbell in the desert, Grace Coddington and Jean Shrimpton dominating the sixties, and of course a lot of Kate Moss. I loved seeing Day’s work with a young Kate Moss scantily-clad in underwear and a tiny vest top in 1993, a shoot that I have always loved because of the stark images and how well it captures the nineties aesthetic.
The exhibit is brilliantly curated by Robin Muir, who is a Contributing Editor to British Vogue, and employs a multitude of different techniques to immerse you in the world of Vogue, including behind the scenes footage from photo shoots. You are given insight into how the magazine has reflected upon its times, whether its the austerity of the two world wars, the freedom and excitement of London in the sixties or the OTT nature of the eighties.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style is a love-letter to the magazine. Not only that, but it highlights how Vogue has always provided a reflection upon the times, and continues to do so today. Get yourself down there as soon as possible to experience the history of Vogue.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style is at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 11 February – 22nd May 2016, sponsored by Leon Max.