Chasing Adele: Analyzing Anna Wintour’s Curvy New Muse

In my weeks (which inadvertently slipped into months!) of absence from blogging for, I took solace in knowing that, Fashion Month aside, there wasn’t much to miss on the fashion forefront. Let’s face it: this time, our industry, like the cash-strapped customers who anchor it, is stricken by a particularly hardcore version of the usual mid-season malaise we expect this time of year.

But amidst the doomed haze of the daily headlines, a few things about the State of Fashion became clear to me: the bigger, brasher, and bolder bits of the 1980s are (somehow, still) in for Fall 2009, the recession continues to deliver a “unique challenge” to creative types far and wide, but, most importantly, Anna Wintour has adopted a brand new style muse and she wants you to pay attention to her.

Her name is Adele, she’s British, and she sings retro torch songs. And while she she many not leap like a gazelle or even a Caroline Trentini or fit into a Size Zero, her charms have certainly warmed over Nuclear Wintour — so much so that she gave Adele a complete image overhaul, which we all got to witness at the Grammys. But it isn’t only the recently embattled editrix who is enchanted by the curvy chanteuse. Hamish Bowles is smitten with her, as well. In fact, it seems all of Vogue has caught Adele fever and the only prescription is more… well, you know, pages that feature her. She had her own glamourous spread in April’s “Shape” issue.

Since no good deed goes unsuspected by someone paranoid and analytical, I really want to know what this all means. For me, Adele, for Vogue, for the love of all things Anna.

Q: What does Anna see in Adele?
A: Opportunity.

Q: For what purpose?
A: To lure the target demographic Vogue continually misinterprets: The Real Woman. Like the “egalitarian spirit” of the “Shape” issue she is featured in, Adele represents Anna’s attempt to convey that she understands what human women want, dream, and feel.

Below, I dissect Adele’s appeal with the care and cunning of Nuclear herself. A.) She’s actually talented. Like fellow Brits Amy Winehouse and Duffy, she sings the sort of Sixties soul-inflected pop tunes that your parents might mistake for anthems of their own generation. We always knew Anna had a thing for the Sixties (she was an original denizen of Carnaby Street, remember?). She also knows her that a 25 year old and her 50 year old mother can mutually enjoy “Chasing Pavements”. Plus one for the smart, cross-generational marketing Vogue advertisers demand. B.) She’s young, privileged, and British. And so was Anna 40 years ago. And to an upscale American audience, these are very admirable tenets. Plus one for “good taste”. C.) She’s pleasant and down to earth. Unlike so many of Anna’s previous muses. Plus one for the humanity that Vogue so desperately wants to convey. D.) She’s not thin (and thereby relatable to the Average Woman). Adele is very pretty, but when it comes to her weight, she doesn’t exactly reflect the media standard. She’s no Beth Ditto, but she ain’t Cheryl Cole, either. But does Anna, notoriously critical of anyone who doesn’t resemble the stick-thin paragon promoted within the pages of her own publication, love Adele in spite of her weight or, paradoxically, because of it? In other words, isn’t all this idol worship just a convenient excuse to make Vogue look slightly more tolerant of all shapes and sizes? After all, now that the publication is going through some “lean times” of its own, they can’t exactly afford to ignore the 90% of their readership that isn’t a Size 2. Plus one for plus sizes. And sisterhood. And whatever. While I have my own ideas about the strategy behind Anna Wintour’s fostering of Adele, I’ll leave this call up to you: Is Anna exploiting the singer for her own editorial ends or because she’s a true fan? Thoughts?

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