Standing seven storeys tall in Mayfair’s Hanover Square – a short walk from Savile Row, Oxford Street and Michelin-starred restaurants – there is little mistaking Vogue House for what it is: the home of the fashion bible’s British edition.
However, a six-hour drive away, a pub in the Cornish countryside has become a site for concern for bosses at the fashion giant. Despite the pub having stood for hundreds of years, the landlords have been asked to rename it.
The Star Inn at Vogue, named for the hamlet in which it is situated, has received a message from the magazine’s owner asking for the change because, it says, a link between the two businesses “is likely to be inferred”.
In a cease-and-desist letter, Condé Nast’s chief operating officer, Sabine Vandenbroucke, argued that the company was the proprietor of the Vogue mark, not only for the magazine first published in 1916 but for “other goods and services offered to the public by our company”.
At first the pub’s landlords, Rachel and Mark Graham, were surprised. But it did not take long for their shock to dissolve to humour. “If someone had obviously taken the time to look us up, it wouldn’t have taken five minutes to say: ‘Oh, there’s a place called Vogue,’” said Rachel, 49, who is not a reader of the magazine.
The letter, dated 1 March, said: “We are concerned that the name which you are using is going to cause problems because as far as the general public is concerned a connection between your business and ours is likely to be inferred.”
The Star Inn has been in the small village of Vogue, near St Day, for hundreds of years, Mark wrote in response – in which his answer to the request was a “categorical no”.
The magazine’s letter was “hilariously funny”, he wrote. He believes it was sent in confusion after the couple changed their trading status to a limited company.
He added: “I presume that at the time when you chose the name Vogue in the capitalised version you didn’t seek permission from the villagers of the real Vogue. I also presume that Madonna did not seek your permission to use the word Vogue (again the capitalised version) for her 1990s song of the same name.”
The couple, who have run the pub for 17 years, replied to the letter within the seven-day timeframe demanded of them but are yet to receive a response.
“We’re just a village community pub,” Rachel added in an interview with the Guardian. “We do what we can to support the community.”
The pub, nicknamed “the Vogue” by locals, is adorned with maps of the local area circa 1800, and has remained largely unchanged – aside from a few upgrades and additions.
Some regulars had been up in arms, Rachel said, and wanted to go to the local council to take the case further. “We’re not really interested in fighting,” she said. “We’re just pointing out the obvious that they should have looked it up themselves. It wouldn’t have taken much.”
“Mistakes are made,” she added. “Some are just a bit funnier than others.”
A new letter was sent to the owners on Friday afternoon in which a Condé Nast lawyer admitted it was a mix-up.
He said: “You are quite correct to note that further research by our team would have identified that we did not need to send such a letter on this occasion.”
The couple bought the pub after going out for a bike ride and finding it closed for the afternoon. They were disappointed to not be able to stop and have a pint. If they had the pub, they thought at the time, it would have been open.
Not long after, an ad popped up in the local paper and they bought it.