I’ve been recommending this book to all and sundry, it’s one of the best things I read last year. Not dissimilar to Love Nina, it’s another long-forgotten literary format resurrected in spectacular fashion – the diary – this time written by Alexandra Shulman, the longtime editor of British Vogue, throughout the year of the magazine’s centenary celebrations. There’s plenty of drama. Throughout the novel Shulman organises a top-secret shoot with Kate Middleton, and even manages to keep it a total secret to all but four of her staff members right up until the magazine goes to print. She organises the Vogue Festival and Portrait Gallery exhibition, becomes a spokesperson for the ongoing body image in fashion debate and stars in a documentary for the BBC… All while putting out an issue of Vogue every month.
It’s more insider-y than I was expecting. If Love Nina documents a certain strata of intellectual A-listers, Inside Vogue is decidedly more Hollywood. Cameos from Kate Moss, Alexa Chung, Dakota Johnson and more abound. Shulman is incredibly candid about everything from designers’ refusal to dress certain celebrities, to the relationships (or lack thereof) between starlets themselves, and the political minutiae of running a global magazine. One memorable incident, when Shulman and her team rush through a cover of Rihanna so as to pip their American Vogue counterparts to the post, is chronicled in incredible detail, and was of particular interest to me as someone who has worked in magazines for several years.
Shulman is a master of the diary format, the true likes of which we haven’t seen in literature for a while. She wrote every day, morning and night, which means that you get to see her unfiltered responses to things. (Stella McCartney bears the brunt of her ire when she cancels her RSVP to the Vogue 100 gala dinner. The diary doesn’t hold back on her thoughts on that, although she is profusely apologetic the next day when she finds out Stella’s father in law has just passed away). It’s familiar and easy to read. Mixed in the catty asides about fashion types are eye-opening insights into what it’s like to a powerful, hard-working, intelligent working woman and mother. Someone who one day is picking what image of Cara Delevingne will appear on the cover of Britain’s bestselling fashion magazine. And the next is shucking water out of her house after her boiler has broken and flooded. We contain multitudes – even fashion magazine editors.