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Vogue: More than a pretty face?

For the next few months Manchester Art Gallery is exhibiting Vogue 100: A Century of Style, direct from the National Portrait Gallery.

Naturally, as a lover of design and fashion I found myself wandering into the midst of artfully curated covers and beautiful photography from this iconic fashion bible to celebrate it’s work over the last century.

Thanks to this ultimate fashion brand, photography has become an integral part of how we consume and appreciate fashion. All the great names are there from Horst to Testino, but, beyond the beauty of this stunning collection of imagery what really struck me was Vogue’s ability to tell much deeper stories throughout the exhibition.

The exhibition transports you on a journey back in time, from present day to 1916. Featuring everyone you’d expect to see from the Duchess of Cambridge to Britain’s alternative royalty, The Beckham's. But, it was a piercing eyed, squared-up image of Margaret Thatcher to symbolise the Iron Ladies leadership of the 80’s that really got me thinking: is the perceived reputation of Vogue for style over substance right? Or, without realising has this brand succeeded in defining culture for generations?

The brands photography crosses political and cultural issues from the optimism of the 'Swinging Sixties' then back to the post war austerity of the 50’s, expressed through the gritty imagery of London streets and girls with their Victory Rolls saving fashion coupons for clothes from Harrods. Not to mention a rare, stark and symbolic photo-less cover to commemorate the death of King George VI.

What was certainly clear is that amid all the cultural change this fashion brand appears a constant and important element. Vogue is a cultural icon worth much more than it’s designer fashions. Over the years they have proven their ability to place fashion at the heart of our visual culture and make it accessible to the masses, as well as capturing the lives, aspirations and mood of periods of time. It’s certainly a brand expression far beyond the realms of designer handbags and shoes.

It’s definitely an exhibition that proves if a brand gets it right that great design and photography never goes out of style.

Victoria Pinnington

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