How do you think the economic situation is affecting the fashion world -- are you seeing the effects of the slowdown in the spring collections?
My point of view is that the designers are looking at satisfying many eyes. Not so much the financial eye, but they're looking at satisfying all the global eyes that are paying attention. They are very aware that information is distributed very quickly and that information is very global. And now you're addressing it for a crowd that's looking at it from either Japan eyes or Russian eyes or Middle Eastern eyes or Canadian eyes, American eyes -- you have a very global platform. So that make designers -- I think it has made designers -- pay attention to that, and maybe when they're designing they're trying to please more than others.
|"More attention means more brand awareness. There are three monitors in this world: your cell phone, your television, and your computer. You've got to deliver that message."|
You're known for your great eye and what designer Bruno Frisoni calls "a global vision." What experiences, jobs, or influences helped you to develop this talent? When were you challenged to find your own vision?
Well, it's curiosity first. You have to start somewhere, when you were a little girl, and that's about curiosity, but I think my tenure with Marvin Traub at Bloomingdale's when I went to different countries to do those promotions I saw how that works, and I think also because when working for a magazine, you have a lead of three to four months, so you get to see information very quickly. You're in a meeting with a book editor or you're in a meeting with the arts editor. You're planning four months in advance so you know what exhibition is going to be somewhere. So I think that kind of magazine training just activates your curiosity more and more, and if you have an appetite for it, you go for it. Certainly, I have an appetite -- not to know more necessarily, but I really want to know. I've got to find out.
The long lead time of magazines is a little bit of a luxury -- to look ahead three or four months. The Internet has really changed the pace at which the public gains exposure to collections and trends. How does this new sense of immediacy affect fashion and media?
If you had four months to look at it, and you were getting information, it was being distilled or filtered or whatever word you want to use by a certain group of people. Now you're getting information unfiltered and at a rapid pace, so you have -- as a viewer and as a reader -- choices, so many more choices. It's going to be up to you now. You're getting a lot of what you wanted; now make up your mind.
I think it's healthy both ways. Obviously, you realize that I've given this a lot of thought because I'm on both sides of the coin. For example, I love miniatures -- you know furniture sellers used to walk around with little miniature [versions of the furniture they were selling] and it took them days to get to someone's home to tell the ladies what the new furniture was, and then you ordered it and you had to wait. Today, if you want a sofa that sits eight you can find it on the Internet and get it, but is that it? No, there's still value in the option of going to look at it and in customizing it. I don't think we lose what people are. People are still very important in all of this. It's the human aspect.
In a panel last spring at FIT, Vogue editor Sally Singer said that this accelerated pace is challenging publications like Vogue to be better curators and focus on more special things. Do you agree?
Yes, but I would say that Vogue has always, always sought to be the standard. I think that the pride I have in Condé Nast is that you can get it first, you can get it fast, and you can get it exclusive[ly]. We have that power. We have that access. I think that if you talk to any fashion designer today, what are their wishes and dreams? Their wishes and dreams are to be in Vogue, and after they are in Vogue, they'll say, "If I could only have a cover." It's what he or she can take home, either to the Midwest or to Japan and China and show, "I'm in Vogue." There is that, and I think [the accelerated pace] is going to make for great magazines, because you are going to sharpen your point now. You're going to be able to demand different things and you're going to look at it a lot more, because you know five people have talked about the same thing as you. If you talk about something, I talk about something, and three other people talk about it too, one of us is going to try to make the story a lot more interesting or edgy or colorful. It challenges us.
Describe the career path that led you to your current position as executive fashion director of Style.com.
Went to FIT, worked for a photographer, worked at Bergdorf Goodman... Then designed windows and went to Bloomingdale's, where Marvin Traub took me, had a fantastic career at Bloomingdale's with all of their branch stores and the New York stores, basically reinvented windows with Bob Currie, then went to Harper's Bazaar. When I was at Bazaar, Anna [Wintour] asked me to join Vogue as the accessories editor, and then I became the accessories director, did four or five years there, and then it was sort of, "Am I really good, or am I just comfortable?" Many offers came, and I had great admiration for Ralph [Lauren] because I thought that no one could have their signature about what they were doing in an American house as well, so when he called, I answered. I did a year there, did a movie [executive produced, in conjunction with E! Networks, a documentary about the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Jacqueline Kennedy exhibit]. Then, the Internet was in its infancy. Some [early Internet companies] won, some of them lost. Style.com happened to have been one of the winners, and eventually Anna said, "I think you should go there," but in the meantime, I was doing all of the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, and I still am the executive in charge of programming for anything that's Vogue, but Anna [Wintour] said, "You should go to Style.com," and here I am.
What do you see as the role/editorial mission of Style.com?
To be editorial. Our role is to be a magazine on the Web. We are definitely not just a pick-up page, and we are not just dropping information at random. We do have content. We have an editorial staff. We do generate our own portfolios. We shoot. We have holiday portfolios, shopping portfolios. We run it like a magazine. We do have the [coverage of fashion] shows, which are basically how Style.com began, but we've added so many things, and we've changed the format, but I think if you were to say, "What site has an editorial point of view?" We certainly do. And we are the online home of Vogue, so we have the amazing access that Vogue has. I think that that's why I'm there. I'm a Vogue girl that gives Style.com the Vogue access.
And it's a testament to the authority of Style.com that WWD routinely indexes the popularity of designer collections based on the number of hits received on Style.com. What do you think are the key drivers of Internet traffic to certain collections? Sometimes the numbers don't square with what I would expect in terms of the popularity of certain collections or designers.
Well, I think that culture plays a big part of that. For example, Marc Jacobs' show is always going to up there, but it's a phenomenon with Marc Jacobs. Whatever he does, his hits are phenomenal. It can be whatever he's doing [in his Marc Jacobs line] or the Marc by Marc Jacobs line. He has a fan base, and even before he was at Vuitton, Marc had that kind of iconic, music/pop star value. And today, when you consider the Internet, it's a very key thing that designers either want to or need to have. Marc has been everywhere, in music and different areas, so he's kind of built himself a history and his own Web search in a way. There are times when you see things that are at the pulse of culture. Take politics today, look what's happening. How does popularity in two days go from here to there? How can one person change the beat in minutes? That's what it is, and it certainly has a lot to do with exactly what you and I are doing right now, bloggers, publicity.
Do you think that online popularity is correlated to commercial success for fashion lines or designers?
Basically, what I think that everybody who is designing fundamentally wants is attention. More attention means more brand awareness. More brand awareness means more people who go to the store and says, "Oh, that's by Thakoon, I read all about him." I think that there are lots of ways that this works. It's maybe not as ching-ching right away, but it definitely builds an awareness, a familiarity. It's a TV commercial. It's television. You know, there are three monitors in this world right now: on your cell phone, your television, and your computer. You've got to deliver that message. People are walking around, plugging in, and sharing. And sharing is a great thing, because it's word of mouth. So fashion as word of mouth. We're making it in the electronic world sound like it's the newest thing since cream cheese, but it isn't, that's word of mouth!
|"If I could have 64 television monitors in front of me at all times and know what's happening around the world, that would be thrilling."|
Do you read fashion blogs (other than those on Style.com)?
I read PopSugar, Fashionista, PopMatters, and The Huffington Post.
What do you think makes a good fashion blog?
Short and to the point. Not just wanting to hear yourself speak in print, and I think there's a lot of that. We need writers.
What's your advice to aspiring fashion journalists? What should they know about this field as they strive to progress within it?
You've got to love it, and you've got to want it. You've got to have passion. I always love someone who is not sitting there seeing the same thing as others, that thought to look beyond that, to find an angle to make their mark or to report something, and say, "Gotcha. Hey, those weren't buttons, they were snaps!" That is a good fashion journalist.
Do you think that there are any jobs or organizations that serve as particularly good training grounds for aspiring fashion journalists?
Well, I think magazines, just because you see a little bit of everything. You see the clothes, you see the books, you see the art, you see the meetings, you see the traffic, you see the changes that occur within hours. You see editors editing words, you see the sense of urgency. The hours are long, the glamour is big. The demand is large. Also I think that any newsroom is good. I think [of] young interns in an NBC production suite. I think that anywhere news is being created is a fantastic arena to be in if you have that personality -- that you can turn on a dime. For me, if I could have 64 television monitors in front of me at all times and know what's happening around the world, that would be thrilling. I love breaking news. My major thing is, "What's breaking now?" And if I can find that out and I can hang my hat on that and run, I can turn that into something interesting for you. You have to like that kind of stuff. Breaking news can affect fashion very quickly. The world is looking at fashion, and that's great.
[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]