How many followers do you have? That seems to be one of the most relevant questions asked of editors in the upper echelon of the fashion industry in 2017. Print is dying and with it, we are seeing what is likely just the beginning of a large turnover in the traditional magazine ecosystem. “The old guard of editors is being ushered out for a new guard who tend to be younger and less expensive–and more game to remake the magazines,” stated WWD on Thursday, just as news broke that longtime Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive will leave her post this November.
Of Leive’s successor, the trade publication noted: “Two potential ones have been bandied about by insiders, namely, Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth and Allure editor-in-chief Michelle Lee. Although Welteroth is buzzier, Lee may be a front runner as Allure and Glamour’s business teams were recently combined, perhaps hinting at what’s to come editorially.”
Leive’s impending move comes on the heels of Elle’s editor-in-chief Robbie Myers announcing this week that she will resign and be succeeded by the "more Internet-friendly editor" (as the Los Angeles Times put it) - but also an undeniably multi-faceted fashion force - that is Nina Garcia.
Harper’s Bazaar’s longtime editor Glenda Bailey is said to be next. She is expected to announce that she is on her way out by the end of the year. While over at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, the longtime editor of the Conde Nast-owned culture magazine, said he will step down in December after 25 years at the helm.
And still yet, Alexandra Shulman, who oversaw British Vogue for 25 years, stepped down this year to make way for Edward Enninful and the handful of famous faces – such as Pat McGrath, Charlotte Tilbury, Kate Moss, and Adwoa Aboah – that he has brought on board since taking the helm to up the ante. Also to have gotten the boot across the pond? Longtime British Vogue Fashion Director Lucinda Chambers.
As noted by SCMP last month of British Vogue, “Changes are expected from the new boss, who cuts a sharply different figure from his predecessor, Alexandra Shulman, who largely avoided the spotlight, while Enninful regularly posts updates on social media of his celebrity lifestyle. His dog Ru, a Boston terrier named after drag artist RuPaul, alone, has more than 11,000 followers on Instagram.”
The Icing on the Cake
Back in the U.S., Nina Garcia’s appointment to the top spot at Elle is making waves with talk of the coming of "the new wave" and the ousting of "the old guard" permeating the media. Implicit in this discourse is the ever-increasing need for individuals to not only embrace the role of a traditional editor but more importantly, to display mastery of the editorial title in the digital age.
In this sense (and a handful of other capacities, really), Ms. Garcia is a force to be reckoned with.
As noted by Hearst Magazines' president David Carey, Nina Garcia is “an important authority in fashion, respected by her peers for her personal style, her ability to spot talent and her deep relationships across the industry.”
But not only is Garcia a traditionally respected figure in fashion (Note: She worked her way up from a position in Perry Ellis' PR department in the 1980's when Marc Jacobs was at the helm). She is also one of the best-known names in the grand scheme of fashion editors, thanks to her longstanding role as a judge on Project Runway, and her ability to translate her life and her work into a compelling and heavily-followed presence on social media.
Speaking of Garcia's new role, Hearst Magazines Chief Content Officer Joanna Coles made it quite clear what a modern-day editor must embody. Coles said, Garcia “understands the multi-platform world and embraced it early on, becoming one of fashion's first social media influencers with the largest following of any editor-in-chief. Nina is a force of personality, and she'll bring her energy, her unique sensibility and style to Elle, a brand she knows so well."
With that in mind, a no small portion of Garcia's value is being placed on her uncanny ability to build - and hold on to - a following, as nowadays, one of the most important things that an editor can bring to the table is visibility, as that can then be translated to his/her publication. For Garcia, this is comes by way of the fact that she is "known to millions around the world for her role on ‘Project Runway’ and the dynamic, behind-the-scenes life she shares with 4.5 million engaged followers on social media.”
Yes, the industry, as a whole, is looking very carefully to find ways to boost the relevance of publishing and thus, increase advertising revenues (which have not so secretly struggled in recent years). As such, it is downright common practice for recruiters at top glossies to be looking at numbers. Fashionista put it well last May, writing: "Increasingly, employers are considering social media accounts an important part of the hiring process and there's reason to believe that if you've been reluctant to dedicate precious time to building your 'personal brand' online, you could be at a disadvantage."
Cindy Krupp, the founder of Krupp Group, a style communications agency, told the publication that social reach "is a huge part of where the industry is headed." As for her own hiring practices, Krupp says social media is "the first thing we look at."
Ariel Foxman, the former InStyle Editorial Director, told Fashionista that for consumer-facing roles, the magazine's hiring parties "do consider if someone has a big following as a plus ... if you're a director of one of our departments and you're going to be creating content about your experience, people want to follow you."
Most have been reluctant to say that magazines are now recruiting based almost entirely on social stats. However, Coles was willing to tell the Los Angeles Times that it is “the icing on the gateau.”