Dialogic and Dialectic Interpretations of Fashion in the Magazine: L’Officiel and L’Officiel Art

Master of Arts Fashion Studies Thesis, Submitted in May 2021

The fashion magazine and the art magazine are repositories of culture, a space in which the common actors and elements from the fashion system and the art world converge to create representations and discourses which are specific to their own dynamics and interests. They are also a space in which tensions between the art world and the fashion system often materialize and intersect.

Beginning in July of 2020, I had the unique opportunity to work through the digital and physical archives of L’Officiel in preparation for the celebration of their centennial anniversary. At its foundation, L’Officiel functioned as a living press release for the fashion industry. Offering industry-specific coverage and practical information in comparison to magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, it became a unique case study for observing the increasing confluence of the fashion system and the art world. Founded in 1921 in Paris, the magazine emerged at a significant moment in time for fashion history, during a decade in which the artification of the designer and the influence of avant-garde art movements were becoming increasingly prevalent through the work of designers like Paul Poiret and Sonia Delaunay.

Over the years, the publishing family which owned L’Officiel, added several different magazines to its roster, and in 2012 L’Officiel Art was born. The original editor-in-chief defined its ambition to be “[a] magazine by those who have a taste for this creative twenty-first century, where contemporary art is apprehended in these hierarchies and this intimate proximity which now link it to fashion, cinema, literature, design, architecture, music, travel, gastronomy and everything that makes sense of our daily lives…” This concept, art as lifestyle, emerged in France at the same time as the original L’Officiel, where the modernity of this relationship across disciplines, became more and more evident due to its increasing mediatization.

This point speaks to the intersectional nature of fashion and art magazines, and furthermore begs the question of what can really be considered fashion or art, as well as the magazine’s position of authority as a gatekeeper to these proclamations, all of which were considered in this thesis. Chapter one investigates how the relationship between the fashion system and the art world has materialized by creating a trajectory composed of magazines across history which reflects its increasing hybridization. Chapter two reviews the strategies used to incorporate art by L’Officiel, while chapter three establishes a counter discourse by exploring the representation of fashion in the art magazine, L’Officiel Art. By looking more closely at both magazines, this thesis aimed to understand and interpret the mutation of printed media, and to explore both the dialogic and dialectical nature between these fields through the magazine.