The editors leaving magazines to launch fashion brands

When Lauren Chan joined Glamor as a fashion writer in 2015, she was thrilled to write stories and attend market dates. After three years at the magazine, she had worked her way up to become a fashion editor, but under the veneer of her dream job lurked an uncomfortable truth.

“I was surrounded by straight-sized peers who were actually able to wear the designer clothes we were all reporting on,” she says. While his frustration with the lack of high-end plus size clothing options continued to simmer, Chan decided to leave Glamor in late 2017 to launch Henning, a plus size line of trendy pieces that includes oversized blazers, slip skirts. tight and tight dresses in soft knit. (Prices are in the contemporary range: a cashmere sweater costs $ 249, leggings $ 269.)

At the time, Glossier founder Emily Weiss was already well on her way to transforming her editorial background into a billion dollar beauty brand, but the number of publishers who had dropped out of publishing to design clothes or beauty products remained negligible. . (Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang, who held the publishing titles of Mademoiselle and Vogue respectively, are notable exceptions.) An investor once pointed out to Chan that he was learning to build an airplane at the same time he was building an airplane. piloting.

Canadian fashion journalist Anya Georgijevic, photographed for the FT by Steph Martyniuk

But the trickle of journalists and publishers leaving the industry to form their own brands has now become a steady stream. The same year Chan launched Henning, former British Vogue Editor Lucinda Chambers co-founded the colorful and quirky Colville Official alongside former Marni Design Director Molly Molloy. Over the past two years, Coveteur co-founder Erin Kleinberg has debuted with Sidia, a line of caftans suitable for work from home; Canadian fashion journalist Anya Georgijevic introduced the luxury “slow fashion” line Anushka Studio and former Vogue writer / editor Jane Herman released The Only Jane tracksuit brand. This summer, Isabel Wilkinson, the former digital editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, launched Attersee, a relaxed line of elegant basics reminiscent of a slightly less austere version of The Row, and Kristen Bateman, journalist for fashion for Vogue and the New York Times presented Dollchunk, a line of cute and kitschy plastic jewelry.

“When you are a publisher and an entrepreneur, you are in this constant phase of market research,” says Kleinberg. “Editors are truly like investigative reporters who are able to identify what is missing from the zeitgeist. Their job is to listen to feedback, to delve into what readers want, what they don’t want. “

After leaving The Coveteur, he founded the branding agency Métier Creative, which counts Ouai Haircare, Playboy and Disney among its clients. With Sidia, Kleinberg intends to create a modern global heritage brand: his role models are Canadian megabrands Canada Goose, Lululemon and Mejuri. The first sales paint a promising picture. All major Sidia product launches sold out within a week and the customer return rate is 40%. “It’s about creating a legacy,” he says.

Isabel Wilkinson, former digital editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, photographed at home for the FT by Sean Pressley

Fashion journalism has a much stronger visual component than other rhythms, so it is perhaps not surprising that many of its professionals possess other forms of creativity that require a different outlet to express themselves. As the editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Wilkinson’s biggest thrill was sharing stories that transported readers to a different realm. “In Attersee, it’s a strikingly similar idea, even though the medium is different,” he says.

There is also the question of building a business. The once glamorous publishing industry has unquestionably lost its luster and relatively meager salaries, once bolstered by perks like automotive services and clothing budgets, have remained unchanged for decades.

Starting a brand offers the possibility not only to overcome one’s previous career, but also to recover the share capital. “There is a certain sensuality and charm that comes with being a successful start-up founder,” says Susanna Kislenko, a researcher at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. “We give the founders a high status in society as a whole. In a way, it makes sense to me that people skilled in creating stories and narratives are drawn to creating an outward-facing brand. “

Having an audience-facing career already can be a big plus when it comes to building a brand. Many of these journalists have integrated audiences that they can convert into clients. “Literally 100% of my sales come directly from my Instagram and TikTok, where I’ve built a following based on my work,” says Bateman. Chan agrees that her time as an editor gave her the credibility she needed to build a brand. “Our first clients were people who had read my pages in Glamor. I would say that the company’s success is largely due to the fact that I had the opportunity to be a fashion editor in front of an audience whose content was focused on plus size fashion. “

Coveteur co-founder Erin Kleinberg, photographed for the FT by Steph Martyniuk

While turning your public platform into a successful brand can be a balm for low wages in publishing, it’s a risk for those who don’t have family money to support the business. “I’m trying to get comfortable with the idea of ​​being in the red,” says Kleinberg. “Gestindo companies in the past have always been focused on profitability, but the idea was all [with Sidia] is to grow and scale “. Georgijevic, who is self-financed, has recouped 80% of his initial investment after releasing his first collection and plans to break even next year.

There may not be a singular factor that prompts editors to put down the red pen and pick up the pink scissors, but it helps that the barriers to entry to starting a clothing business have never been lower. “You can hire someone who is really talented in digital marketing and build your customer base that way,” says Chan. “It’s much easier to get started.”

Even fashion itself has fragmented to the point that the big general trends that once shaped the way of dressing have been replaced by micro trends (hipster) and niche aesthetic subcultures (“cottagecore”). Even smaller brands can be successful if they can connect with an audience that appreciates them. And the more niche a brand is, the more likely its customers are to be loyal.

As saturated as the market is, there always seems to be room for something more.

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