Vogue Diaries

Fashion editor Kirstin Knox shares her daunting tales of hyperventilating PR’s, avalanches of Louboutin returns and the decadent Russians at Vogue House headquarters.

Vogue International is the fashion only (i.e. all shoots all the time and virtually no editorial) home of Vogues India and Russia as well as Russian Glamour and Tatler with Vogue Turkey on the way. The reason it exists is because while, for example, Vogue Russia has its own offices in Moscow where all the main editorial and advertising work is done, precocious PRs and cash-strapped press offices in general won’t ship off their beloved samples to be shot anywhere beyond the traditional axis of fashion for (justified) fear that they will never see them again. Not to mention, there’s the additional cost. Thus Conde Nast, being the titans of consumer media that they are, brought Mumbai and Moscow to Central London, converging on a sort of international style production hub, if you will, for stylists, fashion editors, assistants, and of course, the clothes themselves, who bring the pages of their respective magazines to life.

 Week 1

Monday, 1:30PM, lunch:

My first few hours at Vogue have been unexpectedly quiet; it seems that I have arrived in the middle of an awkward in-between time in editorial shooting schedules, the post fashion week slump. With the last remnants of SS09 swept from the cupboard and fashion editors passing their days crunching the contents of the AW09 shows on Style.com so as to plot their next move, there is nothing to do but wait. There are three of us in there, myself and two girls whom we will call S and T, so finding tasks to keep us all amused is proving a bit of a challenge.

Tuesday, 1:30PM, lunch:

They’re rioting in the streets and Vogue’s on lockdown! Not on Bond Street, per se, but Conde Nast knows these G20 protestors (G20 as in Gucci Group 20 perhaps?) are out for fashion capitalist blood. So far I haven’t even seen so much as a leaf stir on Oxford Street. My hunch is they’re all too busy wielding Birkenstocks down at RBS to come up here and demonstrate against our excessive Jimmy Choo habits.

6:00 PM, after work:

Finally something exciting to do! One of the editorial assistants asked me to go with her on a little shoot this afternoon to get an image to accompany an interview she did with Zafar

Rushdie, son of Salman. On location in a bar in Chelsea (apparently he’s a big man about town, promotes A-list clubs and the like, just like dear old dad). Ok, it’s not a four-day/ five-model extravaganza in the Caribbean—but still, if it’s Vogue and there’s a photographer, count it!

Friday, 4:00PM:

T and I just went out back the boondocks of Vogue House to spray-paint a poster-board DayGlo yellow. Glamour Russia is doing a shopping spread on spring neons and they needed a faux-graffiti background for the still-life shoot. But given that we only had one can of paint which sputtered to its death after defacing only half a board, it’s pretty safe to say that our masterpiece won’t be gracing the newsstands of St. Petersburg anytime soon.



Week 2

Monday, 6:00PM, after work:

Oh the tranquility of the empty closet of Friday last! We have officially kicked off our AW09 shooting schedule and I have glimpsed firsthand just how decadent those Russians (or stylists adorning the covers of magazines thereof ) can be. Vogue Russia’s fashion director has just begun the process of calling in looks for two feature shoots for the August issue he’ll be doing over the Easter weekend in New York.

The amount of stuff that has started pouring in here today— Louboutins by the boatload, treasure boxes jam-packed with gems both fine and costume, and enough fur to send PETA into anaphylactic shock. We ran out of space within an hour, but that didn’t stop more from coming.

Thursday, 9:00PM, after work:

Longest day ever…didn’t even have time for lunch! Today, we were engaged in a deadlock race against time to get the esteemed director’s myriad of requests boxed and ready to board a plane to New York by the time the couriers showed up at 7PM. And as if that wasn’t enough, each item to trans-Atlanticify in the name of Russian Vogue had to be typed up on a proforma invoice for US
customs. With no single item to exceed £3 in “value” (not even diamond encrusted Manolos or a hand-beaded Julien MacDonald evening column), it took some creative maneuvering to describe some of the items e.g. £5K Alessandro Dell’ Acqua mink mini skirt became “100% polyester fuzzy skirt.” Can I climb into along with and go down on the proforma as “wannabe fashion editor, 100% zealous intern, £2”?

Friday, 2:00PM, lunch:

The avalanche continues! Stray requests straggling in having missed last night’s epic shipment make me want to bash them in with the nearest pair of eight-inch mock-croc Galliano platforms! But for all the griping, we do get to dig into boxes of the new season’s choice goodies straight from the runway—an inflatable Giles jacket, fuzzy ape arms and even a Gareth Pugh suit covered in nails. Even if I have to turn right around and stuff it into a different box, the proximity to the latest looks still retaining that catwalk smell reminds me of why exactly it is I slave to do what I do. I’m beginning to get a picture in my head of what the shoot will be like, with all the pieces in now, it’s starting to come together. Wish I could be there. God I can’t wait for the long Easter weekend.




Week 3

Wednesday, 1:30PM, lunch:

They’re coming back today. The shoot has shot and we’ve already started fending off the first PRs sniffing around for their returns. It doesn’t help that we’re in the midst of press day and ad campaign shooting season—no one wants to spare a look for more than 24 hours. But this is Vooogue, dahhhling. They, just like us, will just have to wait…

Wednesday, 5:30 PM, after work:

So we waited and waited, bracing ourselves for the onslaught. But they never came. A quick phone call to Quick Couriers later, it turned out that our shipment had been bumped from its flight and won’t be reaching us till morning. Oops.

Friday, 2 PM, lunch:

They’ve arrived…like an ominous beige flood of cardboard, taking nearly an hour to unload into the office. We are literally boxed into the cupboard—boxes stacked up the ceiling, spilling out into the hall, around the corner, shoved every which-way… it’s utter chaos. The phone’s ringing off the hook with hyperventilating PRs on the eve of their press days. Better make this lunch a quick one.

Friday, 9PM, after work:

Just leaving the office, after a long frantic day, we finally got the clothes (for the most part) sorted. Individually bagged by designer and/or PR agency, all for the courier ride home on Monday. But you know what they say: when god hangs up a Dior gown he dumps 10,000 necklaces in front of you. In our triumphant haze over the RTW disaster, we had entirely forgotten about the pile of accessory boxes stashed around the corner. Don’t even get me started on the shoes. I never thought I’d ever say this, but there are too many. God only knows what else we’ll find in there, like this bizarre bejeweled bird whose role in the shoot one can only imagine (he is cool though). I wonder what they did shoot in the end…guess I’ll just have to wait along with the rest of the world to find out when the issue goes to print in July!

Thus wraps up my time at Vogue Russia. And I tell you, the view from the inside is just as daunting as from the out: it’s a long, grueling way to the top. So why do we do it? The long, thankless hours? The pitiful pay? Well, because it’s Vogue, of course!