In the last few years Vogue editors such as Anna Wintour and Carine Roitfeld have received so much attention (both in film and print) that it has spawned an entire generation of wanna-be editors, eager to grab a front row seat. Yet even Ms. Wintour and Ms. Roitfeld will concede that prior to all this attention, the industry’s most gifted editors had been working quietly behind the scenes for decades with little fan fare.
Then there is the question of what it takes to become the editor in chief of Middle East Vogue.
Unlike its US and Paris counterparts, Vogue Turkey’s Editor in Chief, Seda Domanic, does not come with an obvious background in fashion. Prior to that, she was a journalist and the host of CNBC World’s “Business Turkey.” It seems to be a trend amongst Condé Nast executives to place a “non Fashion” person at the helm of its latest publications. There is a reason behind that particular strategy. Although the press has brought attention to high-profile editors, there is a new generation of editors emerging who are shunning the limelight.
At Vogue India’s launch party, the person with the lowest profile was its Editor in Chief, Priya Tanna. Although Tanna doesn’t fit the perceived image of a fashion editor, she’s already published several solid issues of the magazine.
“We interviewed 15 potential editors,' explained Nicholas Coleridge, the vice-president of Condé Nast. “It was extremely difficult to find somebody, one of the reasons being that magazine journalism is not well established in India. Several that we saw were what I would call "trophy editors". We were slightly dumbfounded when one said she didn't come into the office until 4pm and it was clear that she wasn't familiar with the contents of the magazine that she was apparently editing.”
“There seems to be a tradition in India that you have a group of workers and then there is a front person who goes to the parties and lives the life. We were very keen not to have somebody like that. We wanted somebody who could be absolutely hands-on. Then Priya appeared – she had run a section in a daily newspaper in India and, having subscribed to British and American Vogue for years, she knew exactly which shoot I was referring to when we were talking about ideas for the magazine. I thought, "Hooray, she'll be good."'
As Coleridge points out, being a good writer does not make one an accomplished editor. The best editors, such as Diana Vreeland, Carrie Donovan and Liz Tilberis also had a firm knowledge of fashion, its culture and history. Further more they had the ability to connect the dots between various social, artistic and cultural movements occurring at a particular moment in time. The challenge for Condé Nast executives will be to find someone who fits that description in order to bring depth to a publication geared towards the Middle East.
© THE POLYGLOT/ALEX AUBRY (all rights reserved) CHICAGO-PARIS