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ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: The Kamala Harris pictures are as flat as her sneakers 

What a coup for American Vogue to get Kamala Harris for the cover and what a delight it must be for Anna Wintour and her team to see the massive amount of commentary about it. No point in having a cover that nobody notices.

Naturally, every conceivable criticism is being flung at the two images (one for the print version and one for the digital) – too informal, lacking gravitas, disrespectful, even that she looks too white-skinned. 

For my money, the only flaw is that young, black photographer Tyler Mitchell’s pictures are pretty flat, and if they were slipped inside the Radio Times or Good Housekeeping nobody would be that interested in them.

What a coup for American Vogue to get Kamala Harris for the cover and what a delight it must be for Anna Wintour and her team to see the massive amount of commentary about it

They lack the punch and power and studied gloss of the work of, say, Annie Leibovitz or Mario Testino, who, in earlier times, might have been given the gig.

The picture of Harris in a workaday black suit and her favourite Converse sneakers against a makeshift backdrop of green and pink silk looks as snatched as it probably was, while the other of her wearing a baby-blue Michael Kors jacket was likely the one the most time was spent on. 

Word is the latter was the one Harris’s team expected to be on the prestigious print magazine cover but instead the Converse one was picked.

But I guess the spontaneous vibe is the point. Wintour is reported as being particularly delighted by the sneakers, which she describes as being ‘charming’ ‘relaxed’ and ‘welcoming’.

In the current America – immersed in terrifying civil unease, a high Covid death rate and hugely influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement – the Converse cover certainly reflects the times. 

For my money, the only flaw is that young, black photographer Tyler Mitchell’s pictures are pretty flat. Pictured: Alexandra Shulman

Harris looks as if she has just popped in for a split-second break in her frantically busy day. Her apparent lack of fashion styling (the suit and sneakers were her own) is positioned as just the ticket in this climate.

One of the most exciting aspects of editing Vogue was how much people cared about cover images. Every detail. Not only the subject but their hairdo, make-up, shoes, the colour of the type face.

And when you are dealing with a politically, sociologically and historically important subject such as Harris, the stakes are particularly high.

Everyone has something they want to achieve with the picture – the magazine, subject, photographer and hairdresser. Whatever ingredients you put together you can never be quite sure of the outcome. 

We photographed the Duchess of Cambridge for the centenary issue of Vogue on an icy January day, although the cover was slated for June. 

It was freezing cold and impossible to dress her in summer clothes since she wanted to be shot outside in the countryside, and in the end she was wearing a dark brown suede Burberry trench that none of us, including her, had planned to be on the cover.

   

More from Alexandra Shulman for the Daily Mail...

It’s a dispiriting fact but glamour is out at the moment. A plain Michael Kors jacket was no doubt as far down the fashion track as Kamala would travel, although in real life she’s stylish and quite adventurous in what she wears.

However, even by agreeing to the cover she’s gone way further than our British politicians who scurry away from glossies like vampires at dawn, terrified any engagement will undermine their seriousness, Converse sneakers or not.

Getting a £3bn kick out of bovver boots

On the subject of shoes, it’s amusing to think of Dr Martens, the footwear once beloved of skinheads and bovver boys, now looking for a £3 billion valuation on the stock market. A great example of the money to be made in radical chic.

Marks is losing its spark of originality

M&S continues to baffle. I would have thought by now it would have realised the last thing its customers want is more clothing brands. 

It’s confusing enough trying to work out your Autograph from your M&S Collection as it is. But no. Just when department stores selling millions of different brands are collapsing, M&S decides to add some more – Nobody’s Child and possibly Jaeger.

Nobody’s Child (which surely wins the prize for worst name for a clothing line) adds to the M&S party an indifferent range of flimsy dresses and dreary tops which the store’s own talented design team already better. 

M&S continues to baffle. I would have thought by now it would have realised the last thing its customers want is more clothing brands

While I love the idea of somebody rescuing Jaeger, I can’t believe it’s going to be of much help to M&S. For years, it has advertised its food as not just any food but M&S food. 

Surely the same should apply to its clothes. It should be proud to be M&S, not clogging up the place with unnecessary, indifferent stuff from other companies.

We need to talk – or I might just go mad

It’s taken a pandemic and lockdown to force me out for regular walks but needs must and if that’s the only way I can see friends, so be it. There. I’ve said it.

I walk to talk – socially distanced, no sitting companionably on a bench. An enjoyable stroll and then home James and don’t spare the horses type of thing.

We’re meant to exercise, not socialise, but every minute of this exchange of gossip, opinion, concern and physically shared experience is vital to my sanity and not up for lockdown restriction grabs.

Can Taylor survive the mummy curse?

Another sanity saviour has been listening to Taylor Swift’s recent albums. She can do no wrong in my eyes. 

Not only is she a great pop singer, she’s the kind of girl who goes for her walks with her boyfriend’s mum (are they in a bubble?) 

Another sanity saviour has been listening to Taylor Swift’s recent albums. She can do no wrong in my eyes

Last week she was snapped with her current beau’s mother in the park; a couple of years back it was the wind-blown Aldeburgh beach where she and Tom Hiddleston marched alongside his mum. 

That relationship ended shortly after but hopefully this one won’t fall foul of the curse of the mummy.

Can’t Hugh hitch a lift with Hancock?

Matt Hancock and Hugh Pym, the BBC News Health Editor, both live within a couple of streets of our home. I like to imagine their conversation on the Tube platform of a morning but sadly that’s unlikely to happen. 

Pym is regularly to be seen masked up and striding along on his way there, but Hancock has the ministerial car purring outside his house. Perhaps, he could consider giving Pym a lift into town. 

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