Lindsay Peoples Wagner: Taking the Tricky Road to the Top of Fashion | Fashion


WAs New York Fashion Week kicks off on Wednesday – effectively the first since the pandemic interrupted, and then collided with, the social justice movement to force recalibrations across much of the industry – many looks will be turned to Lindsay Peoples Wagner.

At 30, she presents a new guard of fashion editor, in this case the To cut, an influential addendum to new York magazine. She and her peers seek to change the direction of fashion and, with her, to put more emphasis on the multiplicity of gestures and signals, nuanced or not, that people make with the clothes they wear.

Peoples Wagner steps into the role – which has at times been imbued with near-mystical significance – at a tense time in an industry seeking upbeat new starts after widespread criticism for his delay in acting on inclusion issues , representation, objectification and sustainability.

Her approach, in short, is to recognize the reflexive and self-isolating racism of fashion – the contours of which she has personally experienced – and to act in the opposite direction. “It’s about telling more intimate stories and making people feel included in the community because traditionally magazines have wanted people to feel really far away,” Peoples Wagner told the Observer.

Cover of The Cut’s fall fashion issue. Photograph: Campbell Addy / The Cut

“It’s easy to sell a publication if you feel like you can’t be a part of it and it’s part of a fantasy that you have to be cool enough, pretty pretty, and rich enough. But this is simply not true. It is a mistake. Our approach is to create something more accessible than ambitious.

Peoples Wagner graduated from Vogue teens, a publication partially freed from the restrictions of its adult counterpart, where she moved from internship to editor. She joined the To cut earlier this year, before her Vogue teens Replacement Alexi McCammond has resigned following comments she had made on social media years earlier.

In an editor’s letter to her first fashion issue – titled “Is There Room for Fashion Criticism in a Racist Industry?” – Peoples Wagner wrote that the industry’s efforts to make amends have created “an even more complicated space for people of color like me.”

Her plan, she announced, is to open the floodgates: “I want all these uncomfortable things that weren’t said out loud to keep bubbling up.

“Obviously, it’s not really easy,” she added. “Doing work that strives for both beauty and relevance is walking a fine line at the best of times. The culture of cancellation finds its prey in the crevices of uncomfortable conversations.

It’s a perspective of openness and responsibility, of embracing people from different backgrounds and levels of access, and of “making a fashion magazine that challenges the idea that if you are a” fashion person. “, You cannot always care deeply about the world around you.”

Peoples Wagner, raised in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, attended the University of Iowa and traveled to New York City for several fashion jobs before entering publishing.

“I grew up loving magazines and loving what I saw, but I never really felt included. I didn’t know anyone in fashion so I took any job to gain experience. It’s been a tough road, like any black girl in an industry when you don’t have the same trust fund, relationships, or perspective that a lot of people have.

Lindsay Peoples Wagner, left, and model Paloma Elsesser
Lindsay Peoples Wagner, left, and model Paloma Elsesser at a New York fashion event last year. Photograph: Melodie Jeng / Getty Images

But when she made her mark, she made it to New York with a toned article published three years ago titled “Everywhere and Nowhere: What It Is Really To Be Black And To Work.” in fashion “. The story, which she said took six months of emotional interviews to compile, earned her an award from the American Society of Magazine Editors.

In 2018, Peoples Wagner became the youngest editor-in-chief of a Condé Nast magazine and the third black editor to run one of the publisher’s U.S. titles when she was appointed editor-in-chief of Teen vogue, and with an editorial mandate focused on diversity and LGBTQ by Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

Three years later, the emphasis on performance permeates the To cut. Naomi Campbell takes the cover, followed by a story titled “The Global Pursuit of a Bigger Ass”: The “Frenzy for Curves That Mimic – and Distort – Black Beauty Ideals”; and “The boss is dead. Long live the girlfriend”. Vietnamese-American designer Peter Do, a protégé of Phoebe Philo, also presents a first clothing collection this week; the exodus of fashion editors to higher paying jobs in Silicon Valley; and a celebration of Kim Kardashian’s Skims underwear line, and the writer’s recognition that the queen of the Kardashian clan “offends me deep inside.”

Personal or political realism are topics that the main sponsors of fashion publishing, brand advertisers, generally prefer to avoid. But in times of controversy, Peoples Wagner argues that people are “now more ready than ever to see the things we’ve been talking about, face to face and confronted with what is really on the minds of the fashion industry.

Designer Tia Adeola, left, Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Anna Wintour
Designer Tia Adeola, left, Lindsay Peoples Wagner and Anna Wintour at a Teen Vogue event in New York City. Photography: Ilya S Savenok / Getty Images for Teen Vogue

“You can’t go around it, so the only way is to go through it. Even if you’re not a person of color, you can’t get paralyzed and say, “Oh, this conversation makes me uncomfortable, so I’m not going to have it.” It’s not productive, and you won’t get anywhere by doing this. So we’re in this complicated place where we have to have these in-depth conversations, but people are very wary of canceling culture. They don’t mean the wrong thing.

But the powers of forgiveness and redemption are not what she seeks. “I’m a fan of the culture of accountability instead of canceling the culture because I think a lot of this moment is about holding people to account for their actions – and not discussing the character.” people in a reductive way. People may disagree, and that’s okay.

“In the end, I just want the To cut be a place where you can have conversations. It’s not about conversations with fashion people, it’s about the exposure of just talking to real people.

It is a lofty ideal, and one which has found form for Peoples Wagner beyond publishing. Last year, she and publicist Sandrine Charles founded the Black in Fashion Council, an organization backed by hundreds of black models, stylists, executives and editors, which aims to help businesses diversify and foster inclusion. .

The necessary change will come, she anticipates, when companies combine creative talent with a commitment to inclusiveness. “Businesses like to say they care about change and diversity. But they’re not really interested in a big change in their business plan. They also don’t want to be canceled or called.

The danger is that the fashion industry, along with countless others, inside and outside the realms of creation and consumerism, will come up with nothing more than performative displays.

“Things are changing, but what we’re talking about is a systematic change in the infrastructure that was put in place before my life, so I don’t expect to change overnight,” says Peoples Wagner. “What we’re asking for is a fundamental change, and it will take time and tough conversations that people haven’t always wanted to have.”


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