Michelle Williams, Louis Vuitton and the aesthetics of brand name synergy.

Vanessa Friedman
Self-importance Honest.

Let’s face it: Only a few folks actually learn {a magazine}’s cowl credit, which is to say, the packing containers of very small sort contained in the desk of contents itemizing the crew behind the picture, the garments worn and the cosmetics used.

Typically, nevertheless, they comprise nuggets of knowledge which are forensically and culturally revealing. The September Self-importance Honest is a type of occasions.

The picture, for individuals who have been distracted by Beyoncé on Vogue, is of the actress Michelle Williams, perched on a stool, seemingly nearly make-up free, in a crew-neck sweater and skirt towards a maroon background. It’s minimal and unadorned, type of confrontational in its obvious lack of artifice: That is me. Right here’s what I feel. Cope with it.

As such, it’s reflective of the reinvention of the journal below its new editor, Radhika Jones, and its pivot away from a sort of arch celebrity-meets-intellect fantasy.

It’s also reflective of the method of the photographer Collier Schorr, the artist/recent fashion favorite who took the picture, and who has built a career out of exploring ideas of gender and identity.

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But it’s also something else.

See, Ms. Williams is an official brand ambassador of Louis Vuitton, the luxury house. She appears in some ad campaigns, attends shows and so on.

On the cover of the magazine, perhaps not surprisingly, she is wearing Louis Vuitton, as she generally does at the Oscars, the Met Gala or other big eyeball events. (That’s usually part of the deal.)

At the same time, Ms. Schorr is the current campaign photographer for Louis Vuitton. The brand’s ads, which feature a cast of models photographed with a relative lack of artifice against various colored backgrounds, look not unlike the portrait of Ms. Williams. It’s a photographic signature, after all.

And yet that does make it hard not to wonder, when you add the celebrity to the clothes to the photographer, if the cover is effectively … a Louis Vuitton ad.

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Magazines have long blurred the line between commerce and editorial content, tacitly supporting advertisers in their fashion shoots. Recently, some have begun venturing into e-commerce with various products in their pages (sometimes even taking a cut of each transaction). Stylists and photographers who produce editorial shoots are often the same ones behind ad campaigns.

But synergy like this, where the dots are connected out in the open, is rare. According to the magazine, though, it was not by design, but by accident.

Vanity Fair chose Ms. Schorr to shoot the cover in May, before it was aware that she had shot the Vuitton ad campaign, which was unveiled in mid-June. The magazine was drawn to her both because of her aesthetic and because she was one of the few photographers in fashion to speak out when the Harvey Weinstein revelations broke, demanding that fashion take responsibility for its own actions.

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This is also, presumably, part of what drew Vuitton to her, since a number of previous ad campaigns had been shot by Bruce Weber, a photographer accused of abuse by more than a dozen men in an investigation in The New York Times.

If you want to make a statement about entering a new era, Ms. Schorr is the obvious photographer to do it.

“Collier is an extraordinary New York artist whose work lives at the intersection of art and fashion,” Ms. Jones said. “We wanted that pairing of firsts — Collier’s first assignment for V.F. and Michelle’s first cover for the magazine — as we continue to introduce new artists and voices to our audience.”

According to a Louis Vuitton spokeswoman, the brand-cover mind meld was “a happy coincidence.” Or perhaps a sign of the times, whether you buy the serendipity or not.

Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman


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