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28-11-2009
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She is such a lovely lady, really down to earth and a caring and compassionate individual, but fashion is about fantasy and I want my editor of Vogue to be fierce, stylish, and international, particularly when they govern fashion editorial for a country that has produced Alexander McQueen, Gareth Pugh, and John Galliano, among many many others. Treacy hats, Westwood Collars, and Burberry Fur trenches, rich in heritage, glamour, and sophistication, and I'm afraid Alexandra fails to embody any of these attributes. To make things worse I find the magazine increasingly irrelevant, I still buy it because quite frankly it would be weird not to, but British Vogue lacks the ingenuity and contemporary finish of its european counterparts. I also feel in her time at the helm she has done little for British fashion regarding its reputation and ensuring a successful London Fashion Week, if anything she's probably been a detriment, I feel it could definitely be time for a new editor, if only Isabella was still around :-(

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28-11-2009
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horrifying stylewise! especially for the fact that she's the Chief of a damn Vogue magazine.

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10-12-2009
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Updating this thread with an interview that was in the Guardian last week (guardian.co.uk):

Quote:
Alexandra Shulman interview: Keep chic and carry on

Alexandra Shulman is not what you might expect: an arbiter of fashion not obsessed with looks, a mother who questions maternity rights, and a 'Toyota-driving divorcee' who overcame a breakdown to edit Vogue

Saturday 5 December 2009

Alexandra Shulman begins by telling a story against herself. Some years ago she went to Paris to interview Naomi Campbell, and on the Eurostar back plugged headphones into her tape recorder and began to transcribe. An interview with Shulman herself had just been published in the Evening Standard, "and the people opposite me had the Standard. They kept on pointing at me, so I was sort of embarrassed, but I thought, 'Oh well, it's obvious that they can see ...' Not at all. What was happening was that the Campbell interview was being broadcast across the whole of the Eurostar carriage. I'd plugged it into the wrong bit, and they were trying to tell me. It was mortifying."

The story achieves many things quite neatly: its self-deprecation puts her visitor at ease; it establishes her as a journalist not too grand to do her own transcribing; it punctures, efficiently, any misguided expectation that the editor of Vogue, the glossiest magazine of them all, might herself be an image of perfection; establishes her as, in fact, quite normal – except, of course, most jobbing journalists aren't the subjects of profiles in the evening papers, or find themselves causing national news stories when they tick clothes designers off for shrinking sample sizes (as she did in June), or suggest that women might be making themselves hard to employ by taking a year's maternity leave for each child and then requiring flexible hours, as she did last month in the Daily Mail.

Her fifth-floor office, at the end of a dark, narrow hallway lined with clothes rails, is modest in size, but bright. The windows look out onto the trees of Hanover Square, just off Regent Street and Oxford Circus, and inside it's shiny and white: white meeting-table, white chairs, white orchids, all setting off a big clear bowl of red tulips. Cards and sketches are lined neatly above her desk – a John Galliano dress for her to wear to the Golden Age of Couture gala in 2007; a birthday card from her stepdaughter. The card is a mock-up of a cinema poster for "The November Issue": scenes include Shulman with US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour; Shulman's son; and one of her plonked unceremoniously on a kerb, immersed in a book. Shulman famously reads her way through the longueurs between shows; she is a judge for next year's Orange fiction prize and is currently bracing herself for the workload by getting what will no doubt be the longest book, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, out of the way first.

In an age that fetishises fashion and the arbiters of fashion, in which people flock to see The Devil Wears Prada and The September Issue, and tune in every week to Ugly Betty, Shulman can easily create a slight frisson by saying, baldly, that "Vogue is not my personal taste, really. I think of it more as a kind of newspaper. It's reporting on what's out there, to some extent, with me editing." This is in fact an entirely sensible approach, because it plays to her strengths (she doesn't come from a pure fashion background, having worked for a record company, for the Sunday Telegraph and as editor of GQ), but compared with editors such as French Vogue's Carine Roitfeld, who has moulded that magazine to her personal taste and confessed to using tranquillisers daily to control the stress, Shulman stands out.

"I haven't ever tried to be a sort of perfect, cool character who doesn't have the problems that everyone else has," she says. "I guess I've done it by being determinedly – 'Alex, she's so real,' you know?" She has a deliberate voice, warm eyes, and a good laugh. She answers all questions, even personal ones thoughtfully and evenly – but with little eye contact. Instead she addresses the far corner of her office, the table, Hanover Square; she hugs herself protectively, or hides her head in her hands or behind her hair.
"Though," she adds, with a sudden laugh, "there was a newspaper piece which was kind of a round-up of all the editors of Vogue, and it was like the Russian one and the Italian one – and the description of me was 'chain-smoking 50-year-old Toyota-driving divorcee' and I thought, 'Hmm, bit too much reality, actually.' I could have done with a bit more 'cool ice‑maiden'."

Shulman grew up in London, the daughter of Milton Shulman, a Canadian who arrived in London during the war and became the Evening Standard's theatre critic, and Drusilla Beyfus, a journalist who herself worked at Vogue and has written a book on modern etiquette. (Her sister Nicola is a literary critic who is writing a biography of Thomas Wyatt, and is married to the marquess of Normanby; brother Jason is an artist.) They lived in Belgravia and she went to St Paul's Girls' school, where, one lunchtime, the headmistress announced to the whole school that "Alexandra Shulman's mother has said she is not to have potatoes". It was actually Shulman's father, prone to chunkiness himself, who was most worried, specifically that if she was too overweight she'd never find a husband. She tells a story about going to visit him when he was seriously ill. "I was going to the intensive ward, and I came down the corridor, and this very robust voice greeted me, 'God, Alexandra, you've put on weight." And I thought, 'OK, he isn't going to die yet.'"

Where some might make this the basis of a misery memoir, it seems to have made her robust in turn: "I'm about 10 pounds larger than I want to be at the moment. I've always been, 'Why can't I be thinner?', but I obviously don't really care about it, otherwise I would be, you know." She also has a bracingly realistic attitude to ageing. "It is a huge help to have been nice-looking but never very beautiful," she wrote in Vogue when she turned 50. "For those whose identities are completely bound up in their good looks, the diminution is terrifying."

Size, and the exigencies of size, are of course a huge issue in the fashion industry, and she is increasingly concerned by it. It is now unusual to be able to get a film star, for instance, into a piece of couture. Models who can do so are airbrushed to make them look bigger and healthier. Carefully planned looks and expensive shoots have to be rearranged at the drop of a (Philip Treacy) hat. Can't you just ask for something bigger, I suggest. She laughs. "No. You do not ring up Miuccia Prada and say, 'Hey, we need another one, right now, three inches bigger.'"

In the event, she did write a letter to leading designers, asking them to increase sample sizes. Did she get any replies? "Everyone said that they understood the issue, but most people thought that really it didn't apply to them. I do think there has been a very slow creeping movement to adjust things. But I don't mind saying I am disappointed in the industry's reaction to this particular issue, because I think it's out of keeping with what most people feel. I think it's one thing taking a point of view because you are the creatives and you can't create by popular demand – no artist does that – but I think when you've got society as a whole not really admiring something I think it would behove people to pay a bit more attention to it. But frankly, one magazine alone – I can't start just using size 12 models. It's not going to happen."

Shulman studied social anthropology at Sussex University, arriving just when its radical heyday was beginning to curdle. "There were a lot of long-haired trolls having kind of, occupations, with a lot of stereotyped feminists literally in dungarees and cropped hair and – it just seemed very knee-jerk to me. The time was changing so much at that point, and nobody seemed to say anything very intelligent. Obviously I am a feminist. Obviously. Because you know, I reap the benefits of everything that's been done, and I work, and operate in a way that I'm very grateful to be able to. But I've obviously also got a kind of intolerance of various aspects, I suppose. My mum was – still is – a journalist, and had three of us and worked all the time and everything, and yet never banged on about women's rights and all of that kind of thing. She just did it. And so I think I just always felt, 'Oh get on with it. Get a life.'"

Her article about maternity leave came from that experience, she says, as well as from having been a single mother herself, who kept a big job even though when she took it, at 34, in 1992, she wondered if it meant ruling out motherhood and marriage forever. It wasn't just the sheer size of the job, it was "partially because I knew I'd be working in a place that was so women-centric, and I didn't think I was going to … be flooded with men I might marry." She turns her head to the window, dips under her hair, and laughs in embarrassment. "Oh, it sounds really dumb. But it was a thought I had. It wasn't as much a thought as how would I ever manage to get on an aeroplane, though. That was far more worrying to me."

She had her son Sam when she was 37, and separated from writer Paul Spike when she was 40, acquiring a stepdaughter to raise on the way. She has known her current partner, journalist David Jenkins, since she was 17 and he an "impossibly cool" 27; they got together on a weekend, some months after her father died. "It was so strange, because I had literally known him [Jenkins] all my life. Anyway, it's very, very nice."

As a single mother she got a nanny and worked full-time and at one point was so desperately worn out she considered quitting (it was in fact a piece by Gaby Hinsliff, in the Observer, about actually quitting, which prompted her to write the Mail article). She thinks a year's leave is too long – for the mother, for the office, for the replacement, for everybody, because by then they will have established patterns that are hard to break. She knows she is unusual in being able to afford a nanny, but insists she was mainly addressing other women like her, who can afford these things but choose not to, putting the onus on their workplaces instead. "What I don't really understand is people having big families and thinking that their office can make it all right for them."

I suggest that she is, in effect, upholding a status quo – the assumption that presenteeism is all, that the current model should not be tinkered with – to make it truly family-friendly, for example, instead of women-friendly, which in effect entrenches inequalities of childcare. "I'm not a polemicist, and it's quite possible that had my experience been different then maybe I would have viewed it all completely differently. Maybe if there had been the option of another person being there half the time, paying half the money, all of that, I would have thought, 'We can juggle'. But that wasn't my experience."

Her remarkably sane separation of work and personal life – she once confessed that no famous designers had become personal friends; she says she is completely focused when she's at work, and immediately switches off when she leaves; she's chic, but refuses to dress as though she's providing any kind of fashion leadership – is also the result of experience. Partly, she says, it is because "I'm quite competitive. I'm not going to compete on a level I can't win." But it isn't just that. In her second year at Sussex she fell ill with glandular fever and had to go home. "I also had a kind of a nervous breakdown there, which the glandular fever was probably a symptom of. I got terrible panic attacks. I couldn't be on my own, I couldn't go outside, I couldn't travel anywhere." It happened again in her early 30s. "Essentially, you think you're going to die. Nobody can convince you that you are not about to die. And that's really terrifying. Even to walk out of here and to the bank over the road would have just seemed an inconceivable thing, that one would not collapse in the street.

"I came out of it by being treated, through therapy and medication, for quite a long time. I always sort of slightly worry that it might happen again. [One] thing I gleaned from it was possibly that I felt trapped both times – different things were trapping me. That's quite important to me, to not feel trapped. So I think maybe that did inform a decision to not try to be something that I felt was going to be a strain on me. I think, particularly in this industry, where image is so important – if you try and be something that isn't what you really are, it can be terribly damaging."
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29-12-2009
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She might not be the best dresser...but I love what she does with british vogue issue after issue! <3

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07-06-2010
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This feature appears in the July 2010 issue of UK Vogue, reprinted in a newspaper (dailymail.co.uk):

Quote:
How I waved goodbye to bad hair and learned to love the salon

Vogue editor ALEXANDRA SHULMAN says there comes a point when we all have to take the salon seriously...

A few months ago, I was waiting to have my hair cut at John Frieda's Mayfair salon. The mirrors that face you have wings that allow you to see what is happening from all angles as a stylist wields the scissors.

They create a concertina effect, so it appears as if the salon goes on and on into infinity. I was thinking of something quite other than my hair, when I became intrigued by an elderly-looking woman somewhere farther along the concertina, who was seated there like me, and who appeared deeply unhappy.

Her dark hair, waiting to be seen to, was scraped back from her face and allowed a clear view of the lines that ran down from her mouth and the folds of skin around her jaw. The unsparing simplicity of the hairdresser's gown did her no flattering favours.


Long locks: Alexandra in 1976, left, and still with a similar style decades later in 1992 right, after avoiding visiting hairdressers

I wondered what had happened to her that afternoon to make her look that discontented, and then spotted that her earrings were exactly the same as mine. Yes, she was me. It's probably predictable that I should have looked so miserable. My relationship with the hairdresser is best described as up and down.

Where others find the soothing attentions of the shampooist, the concerned chatter of the stylist and the emergence from the whole experience sleeker and smoother both relaxing and pleasant, I am irritated by, and impatient with, the process - usually frustrated both by the time it has taken and my resulting appearance.

But about a year ago I realised I had to change my ways. Rather than regarding my long-suffering hairdressers as necessary evils, I have had to make a big effort to embrace them as the benefactors they are.

Because, as Vernon, who whisks me in and out in under an hour at the local Headmasters salon, emphasised: 'Women of a certain age recognise the power of a good blow-dry.' And I am definitely, now, 'of a certain age' at 52.

If there's one thing that hairdressers agree on, other than the fact that the person who last cut your hair got it badly wrong, it's that the older the hair is, the more needs to be done to it. Our relationship with our hair is one of the most time-consuming of our lives, involving questions of colour, manageability and the big one: suitability for one's age.

For some people, the whole tenor of their day is cast in stone by how their hair is behaving when they wake up and whether they are able to fix it. The weather, their marriages, no hot water for a bath, have minimal impact on mood compared to the condition of their hair.

Our feelings about our hair are formed early in life. Unlike our reaction to, say, green vegetables, which almost always changes as we grow up, what we think about our natural hair stays with us throughout our lives. You hate your curls at five? You still hate them at 50.

My personal hair history is as follows. Broadly speaking, I have always liked my hair. When I was ten my mother, no doubt fed up with the daily fights over the bird's nest residing at the back of my head, marched me off to Vidal Sassoon on Sloane Street, where the whole lot was chopped off into the hideous geometric style fashionable at that moment.

It was a ghastly mistake and no doubt informed my reaction to hairdressing for years, because throughout the next two decades I scarcely visited one. Instead I did it myself, cutting bits and pieces out of it, experimenting with henna rinses, trying to induce some wave into its stubborn straightness. My hair and I were free spirits.

I would have a layered trim at Annie Russell in Kensington, where many girls with layered hair had the same cut, and there was a brief flirtation in the Eighties with James Lebon's basement salon, Cuts, but in general my hair and I operated out of my bathroom.


Drastic crop: After becoming editor of Vogue, Alexandra has a pixie cut in 1993, left, but has let it grow back by 1996, right

It was when I became editor of Vogue, aged 34, that I began gingerly to enter the world of having my hair 'done'.

After six months in the editor's chair, I decided to do something dramatic and asked Nicky Clarke to cut it into a pixie crop - this time with, I like to think, better results than when I was ten. But I grew it back within the year.

A key player in my current arsenal of hair support is colourist Josh Wood at Real Hair, with whom I discuss the question of age and hair as he paints some stinging cold liquid on to the back of my head and pulls out some strands around the hairline to tint - OK, to hide - the encroaching grey.

'One has to groom more. It's really simple,' he explains in his flat Yorkshire tones. 'You are dealing with this particular dilemma of going grey. For some people, the texture changes as they age. They have a whole head of hair they didn't have before.'

The problem for me, and quite a number of women like me, is that our relationship with the notion of 'grooming' is problematic. 'You,' Josh continues faintly accusingly 'want to have your hair blow-dried, to not look as if you've had your hair blow-dried.'

And he's right, because while the postwar generation of young women were delighted by the luxury of having their hair immaculately styled and elaborately cared for after years of austerity, I am a member of the alternative mind-set that came next, who admired the long, free-flowing tresses of singers such as Joan Baez, Carly Simon, Carole King and Joni Mitchell. They would never have had a salon blow-dry.

But what one style generation adores, the next frequently kicks back against and today's girls just love a hairdressing salon. In recent years there has been a massive change in our attitude to hair. While it might be the older woman who is tied to the gruesome and expensive treadmill of the regular blow-dry, it is young women who are filling salons for fun. If I had a daughter, she would no doubt be weaving in as many extensions as she could manage, dropping into blow-dry bars for lunchtime straightening.

The other factor that my hair heroines shared is that they all had long hair, and if there's one issue that immediately raises its head over the parapet when you discuss hair and age, it's length.


Happy hair: Alexandra in 2008, left, and 2009, right, after learning to love going to salons and picking up tips on haircare from stylists

It's become a clichι that after a certain age you shouldn't wear your hair long, but, as many women I can think of demonstrate - Jo Wood, Marie Helvin, Helen Storey and Italian Vogue's Franca Sozzani among others - this is quite obviously not the case.

If you want to get sociological about it, you could argue that long hair in women denotes a fertility that is inappropriate for older women to convey and, therefore, when this natural order of things gets disturbed, society becomes uncomfortable.

But there's nothing natural about most things in life at the moment, so we don't need to bother too much about that. Demi Moore and Madonna certainly do not.

But the association between nostalgia and experience is a major factor in our feelings about our hair. There is a theory that we keep our hair the way it was when we remember being most happy, which makes sense.

If our idea of self is bound up in the way our hair appears, it would follow that if we can remember how it was when things seemed particularly fine we might want to maintain that status quo. It also explains why we project a huge responsibility for our emotions on our poor hair.

I know that when life seems to be on the downhill and everything looks bleak - fighting with my son, no cover for the magazine, the mortgage unbearable, I will often blame it on my hair. Well, not exactly blame it, but expect, utterly irrationally, that if I could get my hair to look better, look different, then the rest of the world will fall into step. And in that approach I am, apparently, very common.

'If you can go and get your hair fixed, you will feel better even though you know, really, it won't fix the exam results and it won't stop your husband having an affair,' says Josh.

If youth is wasted on the young, it is also true that self-appreciation is similarly wasted. I remember a much-older boyfriend stroking my hair admiringly when I was in my late 20s and complimenting me yearningly on how shiny my hair was. I didn't realise then that shine without serious application is lost to women over 40, his contemporaries.

Ditto, I had no realisation of what a luxury it was to be able to simply scrape my hair back and bang it up with a few old pins and look appealingly dishevelled, rather than a close relation of Worzel Gummidge. Clearly my ideal, the Joni Mitchell circa 1974 look (does anyone else remember her naked with flowing tresses on the cover of For The Roses?) is not an option in one's 50s (even dressed).

But I wouldn't rule it out for my 80s, especially with all the new hair technologies which mean that it should be possible to keep one's hair in good nick right into the grave. By that time, I will have earned a licence to look as mutton as I want, and drink and smoke too much while I'm at it.

At my last colour session I commented on how rare it was for me to see an old woman in the salon. Everybody seemed a uniform blonde thirty-or-fortysomething. 'Like her,' I said pointing to a woman dressed in a navy dress with airy blonde hair. 'Her?' whispered Josh. 'That's what 70 looks like now.'

Worzel Gummidge, all bets are off.

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10-05-2013
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