The Future of Fashion Editorial

On Wednesday 20 March we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Chiltern Firehouse where Editor of Archivist, Dal Chodha chaired a conversation on the future of fashion editorial with: Luxury Content Director at The Sunday Times and Editor-in-Chief of Style magazine, Lorraine Candy; stylist, writer and fashion director-at-large of Glamour UK, Alexandra Fullerton; Head of Content at Refinery29, Gillian Orr; and Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, Justine Picardie. Read on for highlights of the discussion..

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Lorraine candy on what she’s thinking about from a print editorial perspective when she’s at a fashion show..

Lorraine:  It's three different things. What we’re actually doing at the shows is looking at the clothes, the business of fashion and how it happens and looking at it from our consumers' point of view. The Sunday Times consumer is very wealthy, she doesn't read any of the glossies. This is the only information she gets about fashion - and from my point of view that is shocking. She wants to know what to buy, how to look more stylish and how to invest her money twice a year. Fashion in Britain is a £32 billion contribution to the economy so it is a massive, massive business. We are looking at which products are being made, which textiles are being used, which colours there are. There is also the very creative process of the designers, that is really important. How are these people evolving fashion? Which products, handbags, shoes and coats are they focusing on? It is a huge amount of information to take in. After the shows, we do a huge trend presentation internally and externally. We take all of that information and put it across the pages of the magazines for the rest of the year.

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Gillian orr on how she approaches fashion shows from a web content perspective..

Gillian: I think that the main difference is that we have a younger readership with a lower income. We look at trends and then feed that back to our readers. Although they’re not necessarily able to afford to buy the things on the runways, they do want to know which colour is going to be in next season etc.

A lot of the interest that we’ve found our readers have is in the ‘behind the scenes’ access we can give them. We give our writers a diary for the day and they tell us what they got up to, what they had for lunch and that sort of thing. It's not a world our readers are familiar with so we give them a backstage pass which our readers really enjoy.

Justine picardie on legacy..

Justine: Harper's Bazaar is 152 years old this year so it has a very long legacy. As someone who has written the biography of Coco Chanel and been closely involved with the Dior exhibition at the V&A, I often think that in order to understand what might lie ahead, you have to understand where we've come from. You have to understand the past in order to perhaps have a sense of what the future might hold.. Karl Lagerfeld's death, which was in the midst of fashion week, hit me incredibly hard on a personal level because this was somebody I had known since 1997. He's had a huge influence on my career and I'd worked very closely with him in a number of different ways. Of course, I expressed my own personal feelings on Instagram but I needed time to think about the longer, more considered piece that I’ve written for our May issue. This giant of the fashion industry understood the past better than anybody else I've ever met. He was born in 1933, he was trained by Balmain, he knew Yves Saint Laurent. He had this extraordinary knowledge and understanding of the past.

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Alexandra Fullerton on making the reader dream as well as giving her what she wants right now..

Alexandra: I think that we as fashion editors need to make the reader dream with the images we create but we also need to think ahead and be aware of who our reader is. What is she going to want to wear in September? What is she going to want to find in Topshop? We've got to edit what’s out there and present it. We refine it down and say “this is what you need, this is the definitive shoe, bag, jacket - here it is”. The British block [of fashion editors] all sit together at shows so we're all taking the same pictures which means we need to bring something new to the table when we come up with editorial. At the moment, I'm thinking of the September print issue of Glamour and really considering what our readers are going to want and how we can edit down what we've seen and bring it to their wardrobes.

LORRAINE CAndy and justine picardie on people’s perception of the fashion industry..

Lorraine: I find that a lot of professional women today don't quite engage with fashion because there is a sense that it is in some way a shallow industry. It is in fact the second biggest employer in this country.

Justine: It's bigger than cars!

Lorraine: Yes! I always use that at work. The quality of a well-made handbag is the same as the quality of a well-made car but there is a sense that it is not as important because it is a female-oriented thing.

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Justine: I think it goes in waves. When Dior's new look was launched in 1947, Europe, and the rest of the world, was literally scarred by a world war and nobody could have predicted that what was christened the ‘new look’ by Carmel Snow at Harper’s Bazaar was, in fact, quite an old look. It caused headlines around the world and was all over the American TV stations.. As a historian, you can look back and say '“no wonder the world, which had been starved of this idea of glamour and luxury and joy and hope, should have responded with such overwhelming emotion to this launch and that Christian Dior became the most famous Frenchman in the world, even more so than Charles De Gaulle!”

GILlian orr on how refinery29’s readers shape the decisions they make..

Gillian: We have a lot of dialogue with our readers. They're young, they're activists and they all want to change the world. They are the most switched on generation of women. They don't want to use plastic and words like ‘sustainability’ in fashion are so important to them. They’re having conversations about cultural appropriation and things like that. They are, for want of a better word, really ‘woke'! We think about that in our meetings and also in our representation in the models we use. We are always looking and thinking about how we can make things more inclusive and diverse. We are a very mission-driven company and that is one of the biggest things that we want to achieve. It's not a trend for us, it is really about changing.

lorraine candy and justine picardie on diversity in the industry..

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Lorraine: It has to change, I mean it really must change. Because our consumers will call us out on that, they need to be able to be part of the industry. At The Times, we have a very defined internship where we work with an organisation called Creative Access that looks for interns from a more diverse background. We take those interns because we need to bring those people in, particularly in a newspaper which is a much more traditional publication. In a newspaper we have to be proactively chasing this and making it happen - it is very difficult to get young people from a diverse background into newspapers.

Justine: I would say it has changed hugely. My team reflects a wide diversity in society.

Lorraine: When you commission features, you cannot use three white women because it isn’t fair and does not reflect society.

Justine: We need diversity in terms of age and body size as well, it can't just be that everybody is a thin, beautiful 18-year-old model, whatever their background. We've done two covers with Ashley Graham which have been amongst our most successful ever and she is a size 20 and proud of it.

our speakers on print vs digital..

Justine: There are real print fans - just like there are vinyl fans - who will collect the issues and keep and cherish them just in the way I did when I was growing up. I don't think that that has changed. There are still those people for whom it doesn't really exist until they have the magazine, the book or the vinyl in their hands, on their coffee table.

Gillian: I completely agree with that and think that there is a big space for everyone to exist together. In fact, I don't think it is print vs digital. I think it is print vs print and digital vs digital more than anything.

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Justine: The great thing about digital is that it has provided a means for people to discover the things that they love in a like-minded community. There are lots of things I take pleasure in online, I never see it as an either/or. Things also change so rapidly - three years ago everybody was saying ‘the future is digital!’ Guess what? It turns out not to be. Who could have said two and a half years ago that we were about to hit March 29th with no deal? Things change fast. Part of being a good editor is to allow for the unexpected, the magic of the unexpected instead of trying to control everything and predict everything. Sometimes you just have to let things unfold.

Alex: With Glamour changing from being a traditional monthly magazine, they realised that they wanted to focus on digital which was how a lot of their readership was consuming media. At the same time however, they knew that they still needed the luxury and the moment to breathe that the bi-annual print edition gives them. So I think that is a really good example of how we all have different business models.

alexandra fullerton and justine picardie on the future of fashion editorial..

Alex: I think that the future of fashion editorial has still got to be pictures that make you dream and inspire you. I think that the best editorials have a narrative to them and take you further. We’ve got the opportunity to make something that could become iconic.

Justine: Creating an extraordinary story and a beautiful picture will never go out of fashion.




Photography by Kaye Ford.