I spy… Vegan in Vogue!

In Vogue, Jan 2017

This is the second time the Linguini spotted a vegan item in Vogue (the other being a vegetarian eaterie in London, written about as a vegan establishment).

The article starts off with a myth buster:

“If you think vegan beauty is reserved for the granola-munching and the barefoot, you’re sorely mistaken.”

Whether veganism still suffers from a residual hippie image, it is definitely undergoing a makeover, and Vogue does not want to be lagging behind. Linguistically and semiotically, this first sentence frames or anchors, as Barthes (in Cameron and Panovic, 2014) suggests, the photo and works hard to invite the readers. This structure presupposes the audience may be reticent to all things vegan and could have preconceived ideas of who is the primary consumer of vegan cosmetic products (which could be the reason why Lush is not advertised here).

Following the Visual Systemic Functional Linguistic analysis, the photo is a conceptual representation of a social reality in which desirable young, white, women ‘doing‘ a certain kind of femininity are the target audience for expensive, ‘high-end’, make-up. The model in the photo is a carrier of these symbolic meanings. The relationship that is enacted between the sender of the message and the recipient in the photo is that of ‘demand’, which is the non-linguistic semiotic equivalent of the pronoun ‘you’. The viewer is a direct addressee whose attention is being demanded. However, the model’s gaze is neither tempting nor warm but at the same time not particularly uninviting, especially considering her slightly parsed lips. The perspective and angle of this photo is shot close-up, creating intimacy. Additionally, because the photo was taken from below, it gives off a sense of the model as powerful.

In terms of contextualisation, the model is wearing a collar and the reader can glimpse parts of her attire, which could be said is fashionable, further adding to the effort to render vegan cosmetics fashionable and ‘high-end’. The page itself is a standard Vogue beauty layout with sample pictures of beauty products at the top, giving the essential information about potential purchases, while the concrete information (i.e., the text) is at the bottom of the page. The dominant colours are fuchsia and purple, with a funky looking make-up brush, appealing perhaps to a young audience.

Linking the image back to the text, we then follow on to the next sentence:

“There are myriad makers giving cruelty-free cosmetics some serious bite, with colours and formulas as bold as their beliefs.” (My underlining)

The author clearly demarcates Vogue’s stance: Creators of vegan (beauty) products believe in bold notions. Is it the right word to apply to those who avoid causing unnecessary suffering to non-human animals?


The author is willing to remove any content that may infringe on copyrights



8 thoughts on “I spy… Vegan in Vogue!

  1. Interesting stuff, Mira, and I was thinking about this “suffers from a residual hippie image” business, as regards Veganism. Why do you say ‘suffers from’? Isn’t neo-hippiedom actually cool(ish), sort of ‘festival chic’, and all that? Then again, it’s pioneered by aristocrats and celebs who are trying too hard with it all, so maybe it isn’t so cool, after all, and I do ‘suffer from’ seeing them at it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hariod, this is such an interesting point. I’m sure Glastonbury sees quite a few, eh? The hippie movement of the 60’s was vital for strengthening if not establishing a new alternative to mainstream America, not to mention growing the seeds (pun intended! high five me 🙂 ) of veganism from Alcott’s Fruitlands legacy (do you know they serve meat in the restaurant of the museum today? I wrote to them about this but plans to change the menu is not on the horizon). Veganism until today was practiced by two main groups and gained a certain image and connotations that, I believe, it must try to shed if it to become mainstream and ‘normal’. Following the 60’s hippie vegans, the punk and then straight edge (90s) crowds took it on as a another way to defy authority. This created veganism as a sort of private club and if you wanted to be vegan, you had to subscribe to the ‘look’ and style of these groups. Also, these groups were not ‘cool’, being anti-establishment, they did not gain societal acceptance and approval. So, I think is ‘suffers’ because I would like to see veganism as ‘nothing special’, just the norm that most people follow. What do you think? Wow this is rather wordy.. Thank you for your patience!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, veganism needs to move through the phases that vegetarianism did before becoming widely accepted or tolerated, if not widely practiced. In the sixties you were an inveterate and rogue oddball being vegetarian; now you’re at worst a bit ‘awkward’ to accommodate socially at times; but it doesn’t reflect on your identity, and vegetarianism is subsumed and normalised within our culture. I think we’re seeing this same process now with veganism, and it’s just shifted out of the ‘oddball’ phase but it isn’t yet normalised and accepted fully. In wider society, you’re more than ‘a bit awkward’ being a vegan; you’re a bit absurd for thinking like that.

        In positioning yourself with others at the arrowhead of paradigm change, you’re kinda cool, because socially liberal types, Guardianistas, and Vogue magazine, as well as lots of supposedly cool people are all associating themselves with the movement. The backlash petered out quickly, and that was when trendy types proclaimed their meat-eating almost self-righteously as a rational position to take. That’s gone, and we’re moving back along the arrowhead – i.e. broadening – as veganism becomes normalised. [Sorry for the overuse of that word – everyone’s doing it since Adam Curtis film it seems.]

        Liked by 1 person

  2. bold: (of a person, action, or idea) showing a willingness to take risks; confident and courageous.
    I read this as very positive. It’s unfortunate that the state of the world requires this boldness, but it’s positive in that it indicates that change is happening, and companies are willing to take risks to support this change. You could describe anybody/anything that is at the forefront of any social movement as bold and courageous.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Forgot to mention, the analysis of the photo was really interesting. I’ve been teaching my GCSE students about persuasive techniques such as direct address and have never really given much thought to how a photo could work in a similar way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s excellent! We are interacting with hypertexts more than ever and hypermodality is definitely a suitable framework to use. I have an easy-to-follow sheet I made I’d be happy to send on!


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