Not Vogue’s founder, Steve Oklyn chats about his inspiration, motivations and why it’s not always necessary to be nice.
With nothing more than carefully selected images and a few poignant words the mysterious man known as Steve Okyln has the fashion world chatting, clicking, gawking, laughing and fuming. Maybe if the world knew who he was people would have a place to direct their anger, but his anonymity is clearly one of his strongest weapons. The rest of his artillery is left up to the unique manner in which he communicates his ideas. Oklyn’s posts are terse rebukes of modern culture and he’s chosen the fashion world as the main subject for what he calls “the beginning of a revolution.”
Oklyn touches on contemporary art as well. Judging from what people have said to me in private and the few articles written about his online publication notvogue.com, Oklyn is getting what he wants; people to think about how modern culture shapes us and, in his opinion, keeps us from being free. His philosophy is heavily influenced by Jean Baudrillard, Paul Virilo and other thinkers from the early 50’s and 60’s and it’s evident in posts where he quotes them. They were convinced media would rob people of the experience of living “the real.” Oklyn proudly declares that he has taken the “red pill” and won’t stop until the rest of society wakes up out of the matrix.
I was able to chat with him about the way this intriguing site is put together. This is his first interview ever and what I hope is the beginning of a series of interviews between the two of us.
What was the motivation for creating NOT VOGUE?
At the beginning I was not completely clear as to my what my motivation was. The name evolved out of a statement by Carine Roitfeld in Fall 2010 when she was still Editor-in-Chief of VOGUE PARIS. She said: “You are VOGUE, or you’re not VOGUE”. I loved the idea of a NOT VOGUE. So I bought the domain www.notvogue.com. Then a few months went by and I had this image in my head of Anna Wintour sitting in a front row at a fashion show with her sunglasses on with Colonel Gadaffi next to her with his sunglasses also on. THE DICTATORS logo was designed. The project began slowly in Spring 2011. After a few months I began to sense from a few responses to the posts that maybe this was more than the sum of its parts. I intellectually committed myself.
The answer to the motivation question is that it gives me an opportunity to explore my version of the fashion, art and society story of our current time: the second decade of the 21st century. Since I have been both a participant and an observer since the 1960s and not a member of any one team or tribe or clique I can stand apart, observe the play of personalities and events and with, I hope, a clear head assemble a more reasoned report than those involved presently. I do not attend any of the events. I view everything online and then using their image of the events and the people themselves author a report post by post and page by page.
It sounds like you are doing a lot of research. Is there a method to how the posts come together? Do you go looking for assets that will help you make a specific statement or are you influenced by what you come across as you are surfing?
The method in the development of the new posts is very open ended. For about nine or ten months the post structure is always the same. One page with five individual posts. Now, how the page is created is truly an intriguing process even for myself. I am constantly reading both online and print materials. The construction of a single post is 100% intuitive at first. Something just clicks. A word. A sentence. An image. Sometimes I can sense the relationship of the page construction both the text [headlines] and the photographs/films/music tracks as a totality.
On other occasions it is a process of construction. Very physical. In certain cases I might view hundreds of images just searching for the decisive one. It can get physically painful. My right arm has gone numb a few times. I am endlessly exploring new ways to compose a page. One page is a film. One page is a play. The ordering on the posts also is a factor. That is also a very dream like part of the overall page construction process. Every aspect of a page, the images, the texts, the order has a place in the overall meaning. The challenge is constructing a page with a beginning middle and end (why I use posts per page) and also the ability for a person engaged with the site to pull any individual post that resonates for them positively or negatively. In close to 1,000 individual posts not a single image or headline has been repeated. You can say the totality is so wide and so deep that single elements retain the meaning of the whole. A form of intellectual DNA.
Speaking of posts resonating positively or negatively, I cringe when I see someone I know in a photo, fearing you will make an example of them with a very combative headline. However, I sometimes find you have very encouraging things to say and even in what appears to be an endorsement of a person, brand or principle you are still critiquing culture. Do you find it necessary to have negative posts when you manage to get your point across so well in the more sympathetic headlines?
I am dealing with that issue with the authorship of each individual post. The NOT VOGUE logo sets the intellectual tone of the project. A knowing, satirical, blunt weapon. The goal, if there is one, is to create cracks in a reflective surface of power. You can say they always lead with a hard right followed by left joke. I am very clear about an overall positive vs. negative balance. CRINGE. That is a perfect first response (said while smiling).