Mirror Mirror: A Look Into Vogue's September 2019 Cover
Many a thing has been said already about the faces, or forces, of change adorning the cover of HRH the Duchess of Sussex’s guest-edited September Issue of British Vogue. The Duchess is undoubtedly a force of change in her own right, as Edward Enninful, the magazine’s Editor-in- Chief, has rightfully pointed out. Interestingly enough, the Duchess has decided to not grace the cover herself, instead making space to give an additional platform for and raise awareness to the 15 trailblazing women who inspire her.
The cover’s layout is a simple one. It is made up of 16 rectangles, 15 of them filled with beautiful photographs by famed photographer Peter Lindbergh who sadly past away on the 3rd of September. The women featured are all well-known powerhouses in their own right. The portraits range from New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Arden to Actress and LGBTQ+ advocate Laverne Cox, Friday for Future initiator and climate change ambassador Greta Thunberg, as well as models such as Cristy Turlington Burns, Adut Aketch and Adwoa Aboah.
But then, there is the 16th rectangle. Placed between Adwoa Aboah and Jacinda Arden, there is an empty rectangle, that, once in print, will be filled by a mirrored foil. This is, in the words of the high priestess Miranda Priestly herself, groundbreaking. Magazines are notorious for projecting the dreams of their readers, their glossy pages filled with aspirational, dream-like and often unachievable content. In one of the most famous songs from the soundtrack of The Devil Wears Prada, singer KT Tunstall's lyrics describe what a magazine and especially its cover is supposed to represent perfectly: "I can see her eyes looking from the page of a magazine. Oh, she makes me feel like I could be a tower, A big strong tower, yeah the power to be, the power to give, the power to see!", but perhaps, it is only now, that for the first time ever, a magazine truly hands power over to their readers, making every single one of us our very own force of change. It is a seemingly simple move coming from a fashion magazine that is often branded as superficial, shallow or even toxic, but this message, no matter which kind of media outlet sends it, is difficult to dismiss. It is a crucial message to send at a time when society is in dire need of change, especially in the ways we perceive women and their work.
It is all too easy to wait for others to take matters into their own hands. It is something most people, myself included, are guilty of. This cover, however small the sixteenth panel may be, is literally holding up a mirror to each and every one of us, and holds us accountable for, as one very smart man once said, being “the change [we] want to see!”
Words by Jule Scott