Fashion represents a huge consumer industry – $3 trillion dollars globally, in fact, according to data from FashionUnited. And that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given how big of a role fashion plays in our day-to-day lives.
Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture defines ‘fashion’ as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. This means that fashion occurs when a society at large agrees to a style, aesthetic or cultural sensibility for a period of time. The large social scope and clearly defined time period is what makes fashion such an effective marker of time.
This was the starting point for the Faces of Fashion study, where we decided to analyse 25 years of fashion across different countries. We used a technique called ‘Delaunay Triangulation’ to extract the facial features of Vogue cover models from seven unique fashion capitals from across the globe — and we found some fascinating results.
Our first stop will be an image of what the average Vogue cover model for the past 25 years looks like:
We applied this same averaging technique to cover models from seven different international editions of Vogue to see how the results differed by country.
The original Vogue began as a weekly newspaper in 1892 before later becoming a monthly publication. Often called the fashion bible, it’s been under the leadership of Anna Wintour – widely regarded as one of the most influential people in the industry – since 1988, when she began making the brand more approachable. Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Amber Valletta have been regulars on the cover over the last 25 years, joined by celebrities including Madonna, Halle Berry and Angelina Jolie.
Russian Vogue was first released in 1998 and has been credited with helping Russian women become more style conscious and informed. While Moscow isn’t known as a fashion capital, the last couple decades have seen a rising enthusiasm for fashion in Russia – and excellent prospects for smaller, niche fashion brands. The leading monthly fashion magazine in the country with a readership of 633,400, Vogue Russia has featured a diverse mix of both Russian and international models on its cover, including Natalia Vodianova, Anne V, Natasha Poly, and Sasha Pivovarova.
Parisians have always held a reputation for being fashionable and chic, and in 1920, Vogue Paris launched into what became a powerhouse of fashion photography and journalism. In contrast to the American edition of the magazine, former editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld – who was at the helm from 2001 until 2011 – was unconcerned with making the fashion accessible to readers. French Vogue is about the French identity and connects its readers with Parisian fashion houses and trends, whether they’re wearable or not. The magazine covers are notably absent of many Hollywood celebrities, instead favoring French icons like Catherine Deneuve and models including Daria Werbowy, Kate Moss and Gemma Ward.
Vogue Japan, sometimes known as Vogue Nippon, landed on the shelves in 1999 and is the most influential fashion magazine in the country. It looks to connect with its readers by bringing them fashion and beauty advice, as well as social and cultural trends. The Japanese fashion market has long been associated with luxury, but Japanese streetwear has also made its mark on Western fashion houses. The covers of Vogue Japan are predominantly international models, such as Angela Lindvall, Élise Crombez, and Freja Beha Erichsen, though several Japanese nationals have made the cover, including Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi and model-actress Rila Fukushima. The August 2017 issue of the magazine had an astounding 67 cover models – all from Dolce & Gabbana's Fall 2017 runway.
Vogue Brasil was first introduced in 1975, though the fashion industry in the country has only begun flourishing over the last decade or so. Thanks in part to São Paulo Fashion Week and Fashion Rio, fashion has become a means of cultural expression for Brazilians. Vogue has kept close to home, notably featuring mainly Brazilian models on its cover. Gisele Bündchen has covered the magazine 21 times, while Fernanda Tavares, Caroline Ribeiro, Adriana Lima and Isabeli Fontana also make frequent appearances.
Launched in 1916, British Vogue was the first international edition of the magazine. Fashion has always been big in Britain and London is a well known hub for global fashion, with notable designers like Vivienne Westwood, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen having British roots. Though plenty of international models and celebrities have graced the cover of British Vogue, the magazine tends to celebrate homegrown models like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Stella Tennant and Agyness Deyn. Under new editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, the magazine promises to better embrace inclusivity and diversity.
The roots of fashion in Italy go back to 14th century Florence, though it wasn’t until the 20th century that the industry really started to flourish. With so much history and passion, it’s no surprise that style is important to Italians and Italian culture. Vogue Italia, first published in 1964, is the least commercial of the Vogue editions and has a reputation as the most ‘artful’ of the lot. Relatively few Italian models have graced the cover of the magazine, though Mariacarla Boscono has seen several features. A number of issues have multiple cover models, including a September 2014 supermodel reunion shot by Steven Meisel that featured the likes of Christy Turlington, Karen Elson, Linda Evangelista, Coco Rocha, Liu Wen, Liya Kebede and Candice Swanepoel.
Founded in 1892, Vogue is one of the world’s most prominent and prestigious fashion publications, and achieving a cover feature is the ultimate accolade for models and designers alike. That is the reason why we selected Vogue for this study.
We began this project by sourcing the names and images of every female cover model for these seven editions of Vogue over the past 25 years. The exceptions are the Russia and Japan editions, which were launched in 1998 and 1999, respectively, and Vogue Brazil, for which we were unable to source every single cover prior to 2000.
We sourced the names of the models from a combination of Fashion Model Directory, voguescovers.blogspot.com and The Fashion Spot. Once we compiled the full list, we cross-checked all names against Wikipedia.
Our designers then took over, extracting the features of each face using facial feature extraction techniques. This works by placing markers on key areas of each face to determine things such as the position of the eyes, distance to the eyebrows and the length of the nose. There are 68 points in all, including 6 on each eye, 16 on the jawline and 9 on the nose.
Next, they created the average face using a technique called ‘Delaunay Triangulation.’ This technique splits each picture into triangles, then the averaging algorithm twists and warps two or three images at a time so that they align perfectly with each other. Once all of the triangles are put back together, the average face is born.
British Vogue. (2018) British Vogue Magazine Archive.vogue.co.uk
Fashion Model Directory. (2018) Fashion Covers. fashionmodeldirectory.com
Jennings, H. (2012) How Brazil’s homegrown fashion grew up. theguardian.com
Vogue: The Covers Archives. (2017) Vogue Brazil. voguescovers.blogspot.com
The Fashion Spot. (2018) Vogue Brazil Covers Archive. forums.thefashionspot.com
Vogue: The Covers Archives. (2017) Vogue Italia. voguescovers.blogspot.com
The Fashion Spot. (2018) Vogue Italia Covers Archive. forums.thefashionspot.com
Conde Nast International. (2018) Vogue Japan. condenastinternational.com
The Fashion Spot. (2018) Vogue Nippon Covers Archive. forums.thefashionspot.com
Vogue: The Covers Archives. (2017) Vogue Japan. voguescovers.blogspot.com
Design Scene. (2018) Vogue Japan. designscene.net
Listal. (2016) Archive of Vogue Paris Covers. listal.com
Vogue: The Covers Archives. (2017) Vogue Paris. voguescovers.blogspot.com
The Fashion Spot. (2018) Vogue Paris Covers Archive. forums.thefashionspot.com
Conde Nast International. (2018) Vogue Russia . condenastinternational.com
Vogue: The Covers Archives. (2017) Vogue Russia. voguescovers.blogspot.com
Design Scene. (2018) Vogue Russia. designscene.net
The Fashion Spot. (2018) Vogue Russia Covers Archive. forums.thefashionspot.com
The Fashion Spot. (2018) US Vogue Covers Archive . forums.thefashionspot.com
Vogue: The Covers Archives. (2017) Vogue US. voguescovers.blogspot.com