“It’s the non-fashion fashion mag,” read one of the endorsements on the back cover.

I flipped to the front. The Worn Archive: A fashion journal about the art, ideas and history of what we wear. An anthology from the long-gone Canadian magazine Worn, the volume featured vintage-laden editorial spreads alongside thoughtful essays about the iconic Palestinian keffiyah and Ghandi’s fashion politics. Hooked, I headed to the secondhand bookstore counter to pay.

The Worn Archive used clothing as a way to understand history and society and identity and relationship. Yet it did so with such jocular whimsy that reading it felt more like going to a party with a bunch of fashion fanatics than sitting in on a lecture. My only disappointment? I came across it too late to subscribe. Worn published its last issue in 2014.

If it was this good, why couldn’t Worn survive past its first decade?

The answer perhaps reveals as much about fashion media as a whole as it does any one publication. Magazines are sustained by advertising dollars. This means that keeping advertisers happy by pushing their products, whether overtly or subtly, is par for the course.

These days even superstar fashion bloggers, whose original appeal lay partly in their ability to function as trusted independent voices, often learn to compromise or kiss the industry goodbye. Without sponsored posts or at the very least free products from brands, it’s difficult for fashion and beauty bloggers who rely on look-of-the-day posts to generate enough fresh content—not to mention income—to stay afloat. As a result, honesty may be sacrificed for profitability. What once seemed like a promising new medium starts to succumb to the same corrupting ...

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