On Being in Vogue — and Getting Branded, Twice

August 20th, 2014
By Naomi Klein

So I’m profiled in the new issue of Vogue that comes out today, talking about my forthcoming book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. I was pretty nervous about the piece, in part because of the somewhat weird (for me) context, but mostly because it’s the first major piece on the book. Happily, the writer, John Powers, did a really lovely and thoughtful job and I’m grateful. Of course he made my life sound way more fabulous than it actually is, but that’s his job (it’s Vogue!).

There are however, two issues raised by the article that need addressing, both of them (sort of) about branding.

As Powers reveals, I was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This is not a subject I would have chosen to be public about but it’s not one I’m able to hide either (the throat scar takes care of that). So I first want to reassure those who might be alarmed by the mention of perhaps the worst of all global brands. I’m doing great. Thyroid cancer is a very treatable form of the disease. I have excellent doctors, free health care (I live in Canada), and a great prognosis. I don’t plan on talking about the illness more than that. I hope you understand. And nothing will stop me from going out on the road to speak about the message in This Changes Everything.

The other brand that needs addressing is significantly less weighty, and this one shall remain nameless. I knew from the start that appearing in Vogue would attract some criticism. As the profile points out, my book argues that if we are to fend off catastrophic global warming, the world’s high consumers “must learn to stop buying so much, which means learning to stop defining ourselves by what we buy.” Yet those words are sandwiched between Louis Vuitton and Prada ads. And then there is the fact that I did once write a book called No Logo….

The thing is, I have a very simple attitude when it comes to promoting this book: Whatever it takes. This Changes Everything has an unabashedly radical thesis at its heart, one I am convinced everyone should be invited to debate, whatever their political leanings. I’m genuinely happy (and surprised) that Vogue saw fit to bring it to their readers.

However, I did place one condition on the interview, and it’s the same one I’ve placed on all my public appearances for almost 15 years: no logos. I pushed hard to wear my own clothes for the shoot but the idea was summarily nixed. (“It’s the SEPTEMBER Issue” the very cool stylist kept saying, with the kind of gravitas that the actors on Scandal reserve for “He’s the PRESIDENT.”)

I did win one concession: the editor agreed in writing that the magazine would not print “who” I was wearing. It seemed like a decent compromise: I wouldn’t bring down the property value of Vogue’s pages with my actual wardrobe, but I wouldn’t offer free advertiser-promo either.

They put me in a white shirt. It was nice. I’m vain enough to really like the photo.

The hitch is that for some reason, the editor’s promise was not kept and the name of the shirt’s designer does appear over the photo. The editor has been extremely apologetic. The reference will be removed in the online edition. I’m told there will be a printed correction. (Though nothing will ever be as awesome as this one.) And the fact that I briefly considered this screw up to be far more serious than my friends finding out from a public source that I have cancer tells you too much about where my brain is at.

Obviously I don’t endorse this particular brand, just as I don’t endorse any brands. It’s not my shirt. I don’t urge you to buy one. Lots of people make nice white shirts.

Onwards to stuff that actually matters! Like the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21. Are you coming?