Former Vogue Editor Exposes Fashion's Dark Side

Clements and her new memoir, "The Vogue Factor." Photo courtesy of Melbourne University Press.When former Vogue Australia editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements got unexpectedly, unceremoniously fired last year, she was offered a book deal to tell her story the very next day. Now the new memoir, “The Vogue Factor,” has folks buzzing about her decision to blow the lid off all kinds of backstage fashion-mag drama—particularly the kind relating to anorexic models. But Clements insists she was simply telling the truth.

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“I’m not spilling,” she told Yahoo! Shine in an email exchange. “They are honest observations. Anyone in the industry would have heard the same things.” Things like models being barely strong enough to stand for shoots, spending more time on drips than ingesting food and eating tissues to stave off hunger.

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"Apparently they swelled in your stomach," she explained about the tissue trick to Entertainment Tonight.

Clements also wrote about editors altering photos of models in unexpected ways, such as to "get rid of bones," in an attempt to make them look less emaciated. “Most people accuse editors of [airbrushing] images for the girls to look slimmer, on occasion we had to do it the other way around,” she told ET.

One time the former editor spent a three-day gig with a model, and never saw her consume a single meal. On the third day, the woman could barely hold herself up or keep her eyes open. In another instance, she writes, a Russian model said that her "fit model" roommate (meaning extremely thin) spent frequent time on hospital drips.

“When a model who was getting good work in Australia starved herself down two sizes in order to be cast in the overseas shows ... the Vogue fashion office would say she’d become ‘Paris thin,'" she writes.

“Eating disorders exist. The problem is that they are hidden," Clements told Shine. "You can’t be sure. That’s why they are so insidious.”

“They relate to a small percentage of models, not all,” she continued. “But all the industry is complicit in varying degrees. It’s up to each person to make a judgment and call it as they see it, over the areas they have control over. Editors don’t control everything.”

As for her decision to write the book in the first place, she insisted it was not about exacting revenge. “I just wanted to capture my recollections, with honesty, and then move on,” she said.

Yahoo! Shine invited Vogue Australia to respond to the memoir, and current editor-in-chief Edwina McCann emailed the following: "I can only talk from the perspective of Vogue Australia as it is today. Almost a year ago the international editors of Vogue signed a global health initiative. I take Vogue Australia’s commitment to the initiative very seriously and we are vocal ambassadors for the message of healthy body image both in the magazine and outside. We actively encourage designers and editors to favour models who resonate best with our readers."

Clements’ ascension at Vogue began in 1985—following her phase of punked-out, pink-haired Sydney-nightclub scenester—when the magazine hired her as a receptionist. She rose quickly through the ranks, becoming an editor’s assistant, beauty editor, Paris correspondent and then editor-in-chief, a position she held for 13 years, until a “regime change,” as she calls it in her book, brought about many layoffs, including her own. She was dismissed by HR, not permitted to talk to her staff before leaving the building, and swiftly replaced by McCann, of Harpers Bazaar Australia. 

“I was shocked, a bit numb and a bit relieved,” Clements told Shine about her firing, which she details in chapter one of her memoir. “Eight CEOs is probably enough for anyone.”

Now, she added, though she doesn’t miss working at Vogue per se, “I just miss my wonderful team.”

She’ll no doubt yearn a bit for the fabulousness of her Vogue tenure—a highlight of which, “in terms of amazing,” she noted, was Ralph Lauren's 40th anniversary in Central Park, an A-list 2007 bash that featured an over-the-top runway show of his creations. Among her favorite icons to spend time with, she told Australia's Rescu, were Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld. “He’s extraordinary…and actually quite down to earth…and kind of naughty,” she said of Lagerfeld. “I met so many famous people, it just became part of the job.”

Her social life, though, shows no signs of stopping. “Modern marriage: I ran into my husband in a nightclub last night,” she tweeted in late March, referring to husband Mourat Ayat, with long career ties to the world of nightlife.

For now Clements plans to focus on consulting and writing gigs (she’s been contributing to a blog for the Australian clothing brand Sportscraft, she told the Sydney Morning Herald, adding, “No, it’s not Chanel, but I don’t have that snobbery about labels.”) She’ll also presumably have some more time for her twin sons Joe and Sam—though, at 17, they might not have much time for her.

“My sons are fashionable in a ‘I don’t know that style, clearly it’s some new cool cat hybrid I’ve been excluded from’ [kind of way],” she said. “As things should be when your children are 17.”

As far as how she balanced her demanding editor-in-chief role with raising the boys, she told Shine, “Life is all about balance and change. Sometimes you’re the best mum in the world sometimes you’re not. Don’t beat yourself up.” Also, as she she told Rescu, “I was lucky enough to have a house husband.”

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