How Amy Astley is Fashioning Architectural Digest for a New Generation

Amy Astley made headlines in May 2016 when she was appointed editor of Architectural Digest. Nothing if not an interesting move, Astley was holding court as the Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue, another Condé Nast-owned publication, when she was tasked with running the publishing giant's 97-year old interior design-focused magazine. A trio of editors (Elaine Welteroth, Phillip Picardi and Marie Suter) were named in her place.

It was the success of Teen Vogue under the control of Astley – who has been routinely described as a longtime protégé of Vogue Editor in Chief and Condé Nast Artistic Director Anna Wintour – and the great amount of time she has spent “immersed in art and design, including five years at House & Garden where she also served as the de facto personal interior stylist for Alexander Liberman that has given her a deep knowledge and lifelong passion for design that will lift Architectural Digest to new heights,” Wintour told WWD last year.

Succeeding Margaret Russell – who led the magazine for nearly six years and oversaw its digital revamp – Astley has been “charged with bringing a younger, more digital sensibility to the 96-year-old title.” Such a youthful move required a bunch of new names on the masthead, one of them being Jane Keltner de Valle, who worked with Astley at Teen Vogue - as the Senior Fashion News Director - but was more recently in the role of Fashion News Director for Condé Nast’s Glamour.

In her role as style director, Keltner de Valle oversees “the style portion of the front-of-book section, develops and writes features for the magazine, and produces style and design-related web content.” And during her tenure, thus far, this has included some of the features you might expect from AD with a modern twist: A tour of e-commerce site Moda Operandi’s Madison Avenue shop, as designed and decorated by Lauren Santo Domingo, of course, and a peek inside model Jessica Hart’s Gramercy Park apartment, complete with a short – and downright darling – video from the eyes of Hart’s Yorkie, Floyd.

The magazine’s marriage of fashion, art, interiors, and well, lifestyle in general, is a testament to “how fluid these worlds are today,” as Keltner de Valle told Fashionista last year, and it is here that what could be a dusty old mag (if put in the wrong hands) is managing to thrive. “I love AD, because it really is a lifestyle magazine, versus an interior magazine,” she further noted.

Under this new guard of editors – that also includes Natalie Do from V magazine, who occupies the role of art director; Keith Pollock from Interview, AD’s digital director; and David Sebbah, who serves as creative director – lifestyle – and a varied one – seems to be the key appeal of the “new AD,” as it was coined by the mag in April. (Note: The “new AD” came with new branding, “a new logo—the simplified AD—which is graphic and globally aligned and brings the streamlined clarity and instant impact that the digital age demands,” wrote Astley).

Astley spoke to this point this time last year in an interview with AdWeek, saying: “I don't want the magazine to look like a real estate catalog, cold and staged. Like I keep saying, it's all about having a mix.” That mix has included, well, Marc Jacobs and his dogs, complete with Instagram handles on the cover (a big first for AD, per Astley), travel guides courtesy of some of the industry’s most respected – and heavily-followed figures (think: editor and bona fide street style star Giovanna Battaglia-Engelbert), and a look at “the world” of Off-White’s Virgil Abloh.

That latter bit should give you an indication of just how much of AD has evolved to engage with modern day readers (read: millennials), who are presumably right around or swiftly nearing the age of home buying, or at the very least, rented-apartment decorating.

But do not be misled; Astley has said that the mag’s editors do not have an interest in simply pandering to younger readers to boost numbers. “Every business is always looking to bring in a new generation, so of course we want to bring in younger people,” she says. “But not in a way that alienates the existing readers,” those looking to AD as "The international design authority."

For Astley, of course, that includes utilizing digital to please the new-comers. If the short video of model Jessica Hart’s apartment through the eyes of her Yorkie, Floyd (a must-watch in our opinion) – which accompanies the editorial of her impeccably furnished home – is any indication of how the team is managing the marry the two groups of readers, then I would say it seems to be going just swimmingly.