Every festival is a minefield for families; from Christmas to birthdays, to grandma getting drunk and telling you the milkman was terribly nice to her long ago, to your mother crying over the tea-towels you so lovingly bought her, yet again. You'd think that at somewhere as elegant as Vogue things might be different. We are relieved and reassured to discover that is not so, and Vogue is only human after all. We sent Chelsea Dean along for what was to be a delightfully bumpy ride. Tin hats on everyone.
(And in case you were wondering, the opinions expressed herin are absolutley and emphatically those of David Bailey. Just so'as we're clear.)
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Who should sit centre stage in my appraisal of the Vogue Festival? Christopher Bailey? Dolce and Gabbana? Stella McCartney? Tom Ford? All seemed deserving, until controversial David Bailey stole the show.
It was ‘the place to be’ last weekend and it’s safe to say that everyone had high expectations of what was to follow. However, I'll not endeavour to bore you with the details; I will cut straight to the chase. Yes, speakers such as Stella McCartney and Tom Ford- who may I say, is the most beautiful man I have ever set eyes on… got the audiences’ juices flowing. But it was David Bailey who threw the crowd into Facebook and Twitter frenzy.
In walked a man, who unlike those preceding him had made very little aesthetic effort. Un-kempt hair, Wrangler jeans and a corduroy jacket, he was unpresuming, resembling a barrow-boy more than a world-renowned photographer, famous for his love affairs with beautiful women. It was a relatively tame start; he talked of his East London background and reminisced about his first photograph. Naturally the liberally peppered expletives resulted in looks of disapproval between Vogue officials and the owners of Conde Nast however, nobody could have predicted what was to follow.
While candidly reiterating his years at Vogue, from his love affair with Jean Shrimpton to the inspiration for his photographs, he gave the audience a word of warning. “Don’t ever sign anything for fucking Conde Nast or Hearst” followed swiftly by a seemingly throw-away comment of his “ghastly contract with American Vogue”. Now, you have to consider this in context. Sitting directly in front of me is the owner of Conde Nast and the audience is crawling with Vogue officials like something out of 1984 for fashion victims. An animated auditorium, gasps, laughter, the sound of multiple cameras and a VERY fidgety front row who, judging by the profound sense of unease were eager for Jo Ellison to wrap up the discussion, it was met with mixed appraisal.
A fired up audience, hoping his next statement would be as controversial as the last, were not disappointed. Talking of Lord Lichfield he confessed, “He only got into Vogue because he was a Lord. It wasn’t his fucking photographic skills anyway…. He was visually blind”. Bringing to the forefront the overt inconsistencies present in the hiring process at Vogue, it seemed Bailey was eager to channel his aggression publicly. His persistency in critiquing his colleagues for their “snobbery” only heightened the tension, entertaining what can only be described as a very succumbing audience.
It is fair to say that he was the highlight of the 2012 Vogue Festival, leaving every journalist inspired, putting pen to paper. The event, initially disappointing, tarnished by unfulfilled promises, and an extortionately over priced café who quite clearly forgot that real human beings eat more than two hundred calories a day, was saved by controversial Bailey.
I managed to catch Bailey after the talk and pressed him further. Asking if the comment regarding his contracts with Conde Nast were suggestive of his desire to take an alternative route”. He laughed, rolled his eyes and said, “Who knows, it’s too late”.
I will leave you with one final thought… Jo Ellison introduced Bailey as, “What can only be described as a modern legend.” They got their legend, that’s for sure.