The year was 2014. Pharrell wore a park ranger-inspired Vivienne Westwood hat to the Grammys. Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars and took the most celebrity-filled selfie in existence. And Kim Kardashian and Kanye West landed on the April cover of Vogue. It was an editorial decision that sent the fashion world spinning, with many industry insiders wondering whether Anna Wintour had compromised the magazine’s reputation as the fashion publication of record.
“This cover was a deeply controversial cover,” she recounted. “But Kim and Kanye were a part of the conversation of the day. And for Vogue not to recognize that would have been a big misstep. You are leading, not following — and that’s a very important lesson to always keep in your mind.”
Months after the cover first hit newsstands, Wintour seemed to suggest that the couple wasn’t “tasteful.” During an interview at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in November that year, she opened up about the backlash to the Kimye cover.
“I see the role of Vogue to reflect what’s going on in the culture,” she explained. “The first celebrity that I put on the cover of Vogue was Madonna, and that was considered completely controversial at the time, too. It’s such a long time ago probably no one remembers, but she was a very controversial figure. Now she’s part of the establishment. I think if we just remain deeply tasteful and just put deeply tasteful people on the cover, it would be a rather boring magazine. Nobody would talk about us. It’s very important that people do talk about us.”
And, well, here we are half a decade later still talking about that now-infamous cover. Even though the Kimye skeptics were unsure about the couple’s place within the fashion world, time has proved to be the greatest teacher. It’s hard to overlook how ubiquitous the Wests have become since their first Vogue cover, and their collective influence isn’t likely to wane anytime soon.