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Vogue Italia illustrated issue
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Vogue Italia illustrated issue

Vogue Italia has taken an environmentally conscientious approach to its January issue: wasteful photoshoots are out, sustainable illustrations are in.

Unlike the earliest issues of British Vogue, the mag’s Italian version has never had an illustrated cover – let alone eight at once. Artists Vanessa Beecroft, Yoshitaka Amano and David Salle are amongst those commissioned for this new issue, creating visuals for the covers as well as illustrations for the inside pages. No new photoshoots were commissioned, and according to editor Emanuele Farneti ‘the money saved in the production of this issue will go towards financing a project that really deserves it: the restoration of Fondazione Querini Stampalia in Venice, severely damaged by the recent floods.’

Aside from the fundraiser, this all comes from a wider move towards holistically sustainable practices in publishing: focus is perhaps disproportionately given to the physical aspect of magazine-making, when what goes on behind the scenes can be just as unsustainable as sourcing harmful papers and inks. The fashion industry has long been scrutinised for its high levels of wasteful production, but plastic clothing and landfills aside, the decision to ban photoshoots for environmental purposes exposes a less obvious aspect of unsustainability in the fashion world.

In his editor’s letter, Farneti reveals the extent of environmentally damaging production that went into the magazine’s September issue: ‘One hundred and fifty people involved. About 20 flights and a dozen or so train journeys. Forty cars on standby. Sixty international deliveries. Lights switched on for at least ten hours non-stop, partly powered by gasoline-fuelled generators. Food waste from the catering services. Plastic to wrap the garments. Electricity to recharge phones, cameras….’

While this initiative is rightly being celebrated, it must be mentioned that this issue isn’t exclusively made up of illustrations. Photographic images still make up a large proportion of the issue, and while no new photo-shoots were commissioned – meaning sustainable creds are still due – I can’t help but think Vogue Italia missed a huge opportunity to push the magazine outside of its comfort zone. Consider how indie mags celebrate illustration, and how the New York Times Magazine did one of their annual NYC issues as a series of comic stories: every single element was hand-drawn, even the credits and crossword. Additionally, each magazine arrived individually wrapped in single-use plastic!

The images themselves, however, are undeniably lovely. I was lucky enough to get my hands on my favourite of the eight covers, a portrait by Delphine Desane.

I think Vogue Italia have cast a vital light on sustainability, but wrapping the mag in plastic signals that there is still some way to go. Editorially speaking, Vogue Italia has long had a reputation for being the most progressive of its sisters. Now that the magazine has started the environmental conversation, let’s see who continues it.

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