Since its inception in 2011 NOT VOGUE, the anarchistic fashion blog that prides itself on telling it like it is has been taking over the internet – and baffling the industry. Its founder, known only by his pen name Steve Oklyn has been called the ‘world’s greatest fashion critic’ but no one knows who he (she?) is, leading readers to speculate that he may be a fashion industry insider on a mission to lay bare his own industry.
We speak to the man behind the moniker to find out what’s really going on.
WHY DID YOU START NOTVOGUE.COM?
NOTVOGUE.COM began as an intellectual process in the Fall of 2010.It was instigated as a response to a statement made by Mme Carine Roitfeld who was leaving as Editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris. She said “You are Vogue, or not Vogue.” I was struck by the hauteur and could instantly grasp the social decay inherent within the fashion-industrial complex that could generate that level of pretension. The domain was registered immediately. The primary symbol composed of Colonel Gaddafi and Anna Wintour side by side wearing their signature sunglasses was created in early 2011 as the Libyan civil war was in progress which also happened to be as the Automne-Hiver 2011-2012 collections season was coming to a close. The name and symbol were in place. What forms the critique and commentary would eventually take took several months of thought to define. The project formally launched on July, 8 2011.
WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO CREATE ANONYMOUSLY?
That was both a spontaneous and and an intuitive decision. There is a calm sense of control with a self-imposed societal distancing. Visibility, especially in a Social 2.0 reality construct, has become the fashion world norm. Satire which is the core directive of NOT VOGUE works more efficiently when undistracted by direct social involvement. Each new NOT VOGUE page is authored strategically as a drone attack. The layers and layers of visibility required by the current fashion overlords ie. Bernard Arnault and Jonathan Newhouse is surprisingly easy to access, analyse and to destabilise with a counter-narrative from a data control center cloaked in anonymity.
WOULD YOU SAY NOTVOGUE.COM IS ANTI-FASHION OR JUST AN ANTI-FASHION ESTABLISHMENT?
NOT VOGUE is 100% anti-fashion-industrial complex. It is completely in opposition to the commercial aristocracy that owns and controls its singular approach to reality. That their brands, their financially supported “brand ambassadors”, their pay to play media is experienced as the supreme arbiter of identity construction and personal happiness is deeply corrupt and disturbing. To maintain complete autocratic dominion the managers of their empires have to control the opinion apparatus as well. Sadly the journalists are trapped. They are as much a tool of the marketing and promotional machinery as the designers and the celebrities – all leading to the lavish and incessant advertising propaganda. The most visible and popular celebrity bloggers are fifth columnists. The current fashion nobility from Franca Sozzani to Virginie Mouzat to Stephano Tonchi operate from within an aristocratic eighteenth century salon. NOT VOGUE views the values they represent and promote as the ones of a decaying ancien regime. NOT VOGUE believes fervently in the rights of the individual and their right to freedom of expression. These creative values are beautiful and valuable for a deep engagement with life. It is painful to state that designer Alexander McQueen fought the law and the law won.
THE SITE USES FIVE IMAGES AND AND CONTINUED QUOTES PER PAGE, WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FORMAT?
The page visual format – the structure – is as important as the text. The composition of each new page has mutated multiple times since the construction of the first page. There have been periods when there has been a line of text for each image. There have been pages that required video and/or music to support the meaning of the page. For a while there have been pages constructed by breaking the text across the five images. In a number of cases two or three lines of interrelated texts have been built in parallel vertical arrangements. Of course one text supported by five images allows for a focused critical assault. The project is as much an experiment in how to create meaning with structural (text/image/sound) combines as exploring how the web is a digital assembly allowing the spread of opinion.
WHAT PROCESS DO YOU GO THROUGH WHEN CREATING A POST? IS THERE ALWAYS A LOT OF RESEARCH INVOLVED?
The creation of a page which on a number of occasions has required two or more pages to fully express the idea is both challenging and exhilarating. The creative process is very open. The ideas are developing in an extra-dimensional mind space. One consistent project element is where the images are sourced. Every image has been tracked down with a Google search. There is a period each day which is determined by how active the fashion marketing and promotional apparatus has been for image research. The page concept can be generated from a single image. The critique/commentary (text headlines) develop from gossip, knowledge, discussion and experience. Many times a page concept happens spontaneously from something read or something heard. There are rational pages and very emotional pages. Always operating as the pages are being authored is the accumulated history of avant-garde narrative strategies. It can be said that NOT VOGUE is Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy.
YOU USE CAREFULLY CONSIDERED HEADLINES AND QUOTES, ARE THERE ANY SATIRICAL WRITERS YOU PARTICULARLY ADMIRE?
William S. Burroughs, John Fairchild’s alter ego Countess Louise J. Esterhazy, E.M. Cioran, James Brady’s creation of Page Six, Dominick Dunne, Truman Capote’s story La Cote Basque and Fran Lebowitz’s Interview Magazine column I Cover The Waterfront have all inspired me to author NOT VOGUE in such a way. Avant-garde investigative society gossip composed as meta-fictional critique is a huge inspiration.
IS THERE ANYONE IN PARTICULAR YOU ADMIRE IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
I admire the original stealth creative approach that was Martin Margiela. The exhibition or book that I would like to experience would be HERMES Women’s collections 1997-2003 by MARGIELA. I also greatly admire the design of Hanes 3-pack white 100% cotton crewneck t-shirts.
YOUR SITE HAS REMAINED ADVERT AND ENDORSEMENT FREE, WAS THIS A DIFFICULT DECISION TO MAKE?
No that was not difficult that was essential. NOT VOGUE is a conceptual project. It is a personal journal. It is an online experiment. It was never conceived as or thought of as a business. Its freedom is its strength.
HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF FASHION JOURNALISM, DO YOU THINK MAGAZINES WILL BECOME OBSOLETE?
As long as fashion content is owned and controlled by the current corporations and multi-generational families journalism will remain an extension of the public relations, marketing/promotions and advertising departments of the various maisons. The global fashion mind-matrix growth is quickening. The fashion content control network is still expanding. There are now 23 international editions of Vogue magazine. The truly interesting thing is that there needs to exist only one online version of NOT VOGUE to create worldwide editorial critique and disruption. That is the new media algorithm in action. That illustrates the new editorial equilibrium. Print magazines can be a beautiful platform for information. In the right creative hands they become extraordinary experiences.
WHAT’S YOUR GOAL WITH NOT VOGUE?
The goal of NOT VOGUE is to disrupt the control of fashion reporting and the fashion history narrative which is not history as much as commercial propaganda. The message of that construct is that there is a set style protocol. That narrative is written and owned by the brands and their public relations platform – the fashion magazines. They guard their fairy tales. They are vigilantly controlled by a few and supported by billions of dollars which supports the script ultimately promoted by their pay for play tastemakers. The global consumer buys into these insidious memes which they are told will ensure a life of branded beatitude. NOT VOGUE is an attempt to question the narrative and the narrative’s induced simulacra. Simulation is not just an imitation of reality. It becomes the consumers default reality. What NOT VOGUE hopes to expose is that the fashion-industrial complex is defending a series of definitions pertaining to human happiness that are as fake as the knock-off products for sale on all the Canal Streets of the world. Vogue magazines guide and manipulate their readers consciousness into a state of awe. A reverential silence. Vogue = silence. NOT VOGUE is vocal and disruptive in challenging the Vogue dream state. NOT VOGUE = DEFIANCE. I’m Steve Oklyn and I approve this message.