'Jesus,' cried the boy behind the till. 'You could smack someone over the head with that and cause some series damage.'
He was talking about the May issue of Vogue, and he wasn't exaggerating. This glossy colossus is 200 pages of cultural insight bound together with a thinner though fairly sizeable supplement of around 50 pages by a plastic band flaunting the caption 'VOGUE: WHAT TO WANT NOW'.
This is my first time buying the self-proclaimed fashion bible. I don't have much fashion sense – or any, depending on who you ask – and I've always envisioned it as some kind of emblem of vapid consumerism and celebration of emaciated women adorned with extortionate clothing.
But when I heard that the new editor-in-chief of British Vogue was to be a black, gay and male, I wondered if I had misjudged the title. Maybe this was a significant publication, spear-heading diversity and dynamism in a world of which I was ignorant and unfamiliar.
Then again maybe not. Vogue talks a good game about being edgy, provocative and unique, but these are empty promises; adjectives not reflected in the pages and pages of thin, light-skinned models who populate the magazine again and again. Its audacious claims reached new depths of absurdity last October when it released its so-called 'Real Issue', in which models were swapped with 'real women' who worked in professions outwith the realm of fashion.
Not only does the title of this edition inadvertently imply that models are somehow not 'real women', the issue was widely criticised for not being diverse enough, portraying the same slender body type and filtering out the imperfections of the academics and businesswomen it featured. Even its covergirl, Emily Blunt, joked that 'It took three hours of hair and make up to get me looking this real'. In short, the edition failed to make any significant cultural impact, if that was even its intention, and resumed the status quo in the next issue.
Reading between the lines of Vogue, I found that diversity was not in fashion. I dug through their online archive and discovered that the last single covergirl of colour to appear was Rihanna in April 2016. The last model before that was Jourdan Dunn, whose appearance in the February 2015 issue marked 12 years since the magazine's last black cover subject.
Luckily for Vogue, it doesn't depend on the approval of people like me to sustain itself. It's been going strong for more than 100 years, relying on advertising before its sales revenues. One page of advertising can cost anywhere between £28,000 and £36,000, and the coveted standard front four-page gatefold is a staggering £102,670.
This theme of extravagant cost echoes through the pages of the magazine and the brands it advertises. A Valentino statement rainbow gown will set you back more than £8,000 and even a pair of jeans from Levi's will cost you a grand. As I grow increasingly confounded with every turned page, I begin to realise that Vogue is not a fashion catalogue. It's a piece of fantasy; a work of avant-garde modern art.
As such, it is fair to describe the vocation of Vogue as the imitation of life. The magazine's publisher, Condé Nast, claims on its website that the title 'looks at culture through the lens of fashion'. If that's the case, then the culture it seeks to observe is one-dimensional, homogenised and a little bit pretentious.
To give credit where credit is due, however, I must admit that in a world where printed magazines are in rapid decline, Vogue has shown both resilience and flexibility to technological and economic change. The appointment of Edward Enninful, someone who has long championed diversity, has come at the 11th hour, but, as they say, better late than never. Perhaps his art will reflect a more multifaceted culture than the one depicted during Alexandra Shulman's 25-year residency.