Sunday, January 21, 2018

Who will mourn teen vogue?

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When Women's Wear Daily reported Thursday morning that Condé Nast would shutter Teen Vogue in print, the overwhelming response was: Why now, when the brand seemed more in the spotlight than ever?But for the magazine's first generation of readers, who decorated their bedroom walls with tear sheets and clippings, its significance was independent of its relevance.

"There was something different about having a physical magazine," said Anna Fitzpatrick, a freelance writer who grew up outside of Ottawa. "Trading them at sleepovers, reading them at lunch breaks at school, especially because I was kind of a shy, introverted teenager."

Her favorite magazines were YM and Elle Girl. Teen Vogue, she said, "was kind of a rich-girl publication, but it did have very strong visuals and lent itself well to collaging and inspiration boards."The description doesn't fall far from the vision Anna Wintour described when she spun off Vogue in an effort to convert adolescent women into Condé Nast loyalists. In 2003, Ms.

Wintour told The New York Observer that she sought to reach "a huge segment of young women who weren't being tapped into, who were much more sophisticated and interested in fashion and aware of fashion and buying fashion, who other magazines weren't addressing" - women like her daughter, Bee Shaffer, 16 at the time.

Teen Vogue would become an incubator for people we now call influencers. Eva Chen, the head of fashion partnerships at Instagram, was a beauty editor there. Emily Weiss, the Into the Gloss founder and Glossier C.E.O., was an intern. In 2006, the magazine became a backdrop for the popular MTV series "The Hills."

Ms. Wintour appointed Amy Astley, who had been the beauty editor of Vogue, to oversee Teen Vogue. Its small (6¾" x 9"!) pages featured the high-budget fashion editorials that are its parent magazine's signature, for the low starting price of $1.50 per issue ("about as much as a ChapStick," the late media critic David Carr wrote). Its accompanying website became a meeting place for young people. Arabelle Sicardi, also a writer, said that before she read Teen Vogue's web forums, she saw fashion and beauty as alien subjects.

"I had never thought that fashion ever applied to me, really, so having people my age to talk to and share our interpretations of it was something that I really cherished," she said. She went on to become a blogger and was featured in Teen Vogue for her work. Later, the magazine hired her as an intern and regular contributor.

 "Teen Vogue is my family," Ms. Sicardi said. "I grew up in those hallways. I was probably at the magazine for longer than I was ever in a classroom."Elaine Welteroth, the print magazine's second and final leader, had been a mentor to Ms. Sicardi. Ms. Welteroth took over from Ms. Astley in 2016 and was officially named editor in chief this spring, in a grim climate for magazines aimed at the older-teen set (R.I.P. CosmoGirl, YM, Teen People, Elle Girl).

Until recently the youngest editor in chief at Condé Nast - she is 30 - Ms. Welterorth quickly became an Instagram celebrity and received heaping praise for the magazine's newly "woke" tone. Teen Vogue 2.0, as she reimagined it, wasn't just about clothes and makeup; it was about news, politics and social justice, too.

In her first year, Ms. Astley had emphasized how crucial it was for her to create a product that was "racially, ethnically diverse, fashion-wise diverse. We don't say someone is or isn't Teen Vogue." The magazine entered the field at a time when millennials were just beginning to document their lives online, with LiveJournal and MySpace, and the platforms that continue to replace print publications showcase diversity even more effectively.

It wasn't until 2015, after a decade of mostly white, mostly famous cover stars, that Teen Vogue changed course, with a cover featuring three little-known black models. The issue became the year's best seller, underscoring the appetite for fashion magazines that reflect some version of real life.

"I've always been a queer, gender-nonconforming kid and person," said Kate Lesniak, the publisher of Bitch Media. "I never really cared about those magazines because I never saw myself in them at all, in any way."But recently, Ms. Lesniak noticed a shift in the tone and presentation of Teen Vogue.

"In the last year and a half or two years," she said, it had become "a mainstream media outlet in print that reflected people like me back to ourselves. Teen Vogue did an incredible job of amplifying communities of color and queer people as well."

That representation has come in the form of articles that criticize racialinsensitivity, trumpet black feminism and explain how to be a transgenderally, as well as a guide to anal sex that received mixed reviews, mostly from adults. Ms. Welteroth also courted activist-actresses like Rowan Blanchard, Hari Nef and Yara Shahidi, who now serve as unofficial brand ambassadors to their combined millions of followers.Readers and admirers lamented the end of Teen Vogue's print run after the announcement.

The author is the editor-in-chief of The Spectator, Hamilton's weekly student newspaper.
The article appeared in The New York Times.

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