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Paris – French Vogue has been setting the trends for over a century. Its era spans the post-war New Look of Christian Dior, the 1960s sexual liberation and the 2000s dangling-cigarette waifs. The magazine is celebrating its 100th birthday with a new Paris exhibition. But times are difficult at the famed magazine. It was announced that Emmanuelle Alt (the magazine’s editor for 10 years) was leaving and the company would not be replacing her. Her departure was not the only one.

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Conde Nast International, the owner, has cut the number of editors in Europe and placed international Vogue editions under direct control by Anna Wintour, the global editorial director. Vogue, like many other media companies, is experiencing tumbling sales and declining ad revenue. The latest twist, however, is part of the constant push and pull between New York City and Paris that has been going on since its inception.

“The entire history of French Vogue is one that has been back-and-forth between Conde Nast and New York – becoming more independent for some time, then being reined in again,” Sylvie Lecallier (curator of “Vogue Paris 1920-2020”) said. The new exhibition opened this weekend after a year of delay due to the pandemic. The Paris edition was often more lofty and bohemian than its more serious New York counterpart. It was also where much of 20th-century fashion and womenhood were born.

Lecallier stated that Paris was the best place to find talent and content to bring to New York.

This exhibition shows the evolution of art deco drawings from the 1920s to the erotic image-making by photographers like Helmut Newton during the 1960s and 70s.

The magazine’s final peak came under Carine Roitfeld, its editor in 2000. She brought back a provocative Gallic identity to rid the newsroom from foreign staff and became a fashion icon. Alt was her successor and a more quiet presence. However, she still managed to oversee key moments such as the first transgender cover star for the magazine, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio in 2017.

“Everyone is a threat”

Douglas McCabe, a media expert at Enders Analysis, said that Vogue’s internet culture has been a “perfect storm”.

McCabe stated to AFP that Vogue was the fashion bible for the first 80 years. “Online, there are many ways to obtain your information. Influencers, Instagram and YouTube are all threats.”

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It is becoming harder for monthly magazines to keep up with fashion trends in a world that changes every second. McCabe stated, “It’s certainly not that they won’t survive another 100 years – but they will be different sized.”

Vogue has attempted to expand into other areas, including events. Alt stated that Alt used to work in a magazine and now works for a brand. This was on the eve French Vogue’s 1000th issue in 2019.

According to ACPM data, Vogue Paris sales have been declining steadily since 2017, when they were at 98.345 and are now at 81.962 for 2020. Eugenie Trochu was the key to the online growth of Vogue’s magazine and took the top Paris job, which is not surprising. She said she was “excited to be a part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

It is ironic timing for the curator of the exhibit. Lecallier said, “We didn’t know it would end this way when we started to work on the exhibit.” “Who knows where it will lead from here?”