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BoF Exclusive | GQ Creative Director Jim Moore to Step Down, Will Welch to Succeed

The longstanding editor will transition to the role of creative director-at-large following a series of departures from the Condé Nast men’s title.
Jim Moore | Source: Nathaniel Goldberg
  • Chantal Fernandez

NEW YORK, United States — Another longstanding Condé Nast editor is stepping away from the legacy publisher. GQ's influential creative director Jim Moore, who established the magazine as an authoritative style guide for American men over the course of almost four decades, is vacating the position he has held since 1998. Will Welch, editor-in-chief of GQ's upscale quarterly, will add the role to his duties as of January 2018.

Much in the same way Vogue's creative director Grace Coddington reduced her role at the magazine in January 2016 while maintaining an office and a commitment to the title, Moore will take the title of creative director-at-large and still be an active contributor to the magazine's pages and special projects. The details of Moore's contract moving forward are still under discussion.

"[Editor-in-chief Jim Nelson] has been a big advocate for me, so he wants me around and he wants my hand on every issue going forward," Moore tells BoF, explaining that the difference now is that his involvement will vary from project to project. "One of my favourite things is being an ambassador of the magazine. That's a really important part of what I want to continue, the video series — teaching is really important for me."

At Condé Nast, the responsibilities of the creative director-at-large role vary from title to title, but in some instances allow a longstanding editor to remain involved with the magazine while also exploring outside opportunities. At the same time, the publications are able to cut costs as the print industry struggles to adapt to a digitally focused media environment. In November, Condé Nast announced that GQ would reduce its print frequency from 12 issues a year to 11 (among frequency changes at other titles) and lay off about 80 people across the company. In this wave of cuts, GQ has had the most high profile departures of Condé Nast’s titles, including the executive digital director and fashion director. The company is also currently evaluating ways to consolidate the fashion market and beauty departments across all its titles, much in the same way the sales teams were reorganised in April.

As for Moore, he says the new arrangement works for both him and GQ. “I’m sure when you get slightly pushed out of the nest, it’s a wobbly feeling — especially for me, it’s been my life for four decades,” he said. “I’m really excited about staying connected to this but looking out there for other projects.” One of those projects is a book about his GQ years, the exact format of which is yet to be determined.

"I don't know any one person who's had more effect on the way men dress in America," says Nelson. "Jim's is an almost mythic influence. When we threw an anniversary party several years back where Kanye West performed live on stage, even Kanye rapped about the talent and legend of Jim Moore."

One of my favourite things is being an ambassador of the magazine. That's a really important part of what I want to continue.

Moore actually predates Condé Nast's own involvement with GQ. He started interning at the magazine in 1979 when it was still owned by Esquire. He was hired full-time six months after Condé Nast bought it in August of that year. Moore says former Condé Nast chairman Si Newhouse, who passed away earlier this year and was memorialised this week, saw the potential of a fashion title in the men's market even though the circulation was low. In 1983, Art Cooper came on as editor-in-chief and "changed the magazine completely," putting celebrities instead of models on the cover. Moore rose the ranks quickly, overseeing shoots with photographer Bruce Weber after only one year at the title. Cooper hired Nonnie Moore (no relation) as fashion director and she implemented a formal sense style in the pages. Moore succeeded her in 1994.

“[I wanted] to make it a little more attainable and try to break the trends down a little bit,” says Moore about his vision for GQ after Nonnie Moore retired. When Jim Nelson took over in 2003, he also wanted to demystify fashion and make the magazine more serviceable. “His vision was something that I had hoped for the magazine,” says Moore. “So we started to build this momentum of — let’s grab things from the street, let’s increase the celebrity aspect and put personalities, whether they be athletes or real people or musicians or actors, into the fashion pages.”

Moore prioritised the kind of educational style content that has become signature to GQ, as exemplified by its classic approach to the suit (always with a tie bar, pocket square and cuff). “We’re not shy about being commercial and useful,” he says, explaining that the goal was to “always teach not preach” and make the runway accessible. He was the face of GQ’s “Upgrade Your Style” and “Style and How To” video series, starring in 27 and 42 episodes of each, respectively.

"His instincts have always been to address the American man directly," says Nelson. "It’s one reason the magazine has been so widely embraced and for so long – because men relate to the message of someone genuinely interested in making them look their best. When people say, 'That man is so GQ,’ they’re essentially saying, ‘That man is so Jim Moore.’"

In addition to Weber, Moore has worked with photographers across the industry including Richard Avedon, Mario Testino, Inez and Vinoodh and, this year for the first time, Cass Bird. He is also known for championing American designers including Ralph Lauren, Michael Bastian, Jerry Lorenzo and Heron Preston, the latter two of which he describes as the "the future" of fashion. He's known Tom Ford since his "Studio 54 days" and says he was the first editor to visit Virgil Abloh's showroom. He encouraged Todd Snyder to launch his namesake line and open his first store.

"That's a huge part of what I love to do," says Moore about working with designers. His efforts led to the launch of one of GQ's tent pole series, the Best New Menswear Designers in America, in 2006. The program counts Rag & Bone and Engineered Garments as alums and has evolved to include product collaborations with Levi's and, for the last six years, Gap. Moore says he hopes to spearhead more brand collaborations on behalf of GQ in the future as well.

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with other brands and with other photographers,” he says. “I am really loyal to this magazine and this company. I’ll ways have that GQ thing inside of me.”

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