NEW YORK, United States — They are the most recognisable faces at any major fashion show. They fill out a prime block of the front row, one kept sacrosanct, awaiting their arrival. (They are unfailingly, unfashionably, on time.) They are the top editors of Vogue, which remains, to its competitors’ chagrin, the most powerful magazine in fashion.
They have been in their roles, in some cases, for longer than their assistants have been alive. At last, those roles have begun to shift.
Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, announced to her staff today that two of Vogue’s longest-serving lieutenants — Tonne Goodman, the magazine’s fashion director, and Phyllis Posnick, its executive fashion editor — will be leaving their staff positions and becoming contributing editors.
As well, Lisa Love, the magazine’s Los Angeles director and a major wrangler for the celebrity-jammed Met Gala, a 28-year veteran of the magazine, will shift to working with CNX, Condé Nast’s in-house creative agency.
Word of their departure was first published in Business of Fashion on July 13.
Virginia Smith, another longtime Vogue hand, will assume Ms. Goodman’s duties as fashion director. “I’m very happy that Virginia Smith’s promotion to fashion director recognises her many years of hard work and dedication, and just as thrilled that Tonne Goodman and Phyllis Posnick, two of our longstanding — and outstanding — image makers will continue to work their magic in Vogue,” Ms. Wintour told The Times in a statement.
Everyone knows Ms. Wintour, as recognisable as Santa Claus, whose trademark look — that thickly fringed bob and those windshield sunglasses — is so long-established that it could more or less attend shows in her place. But any publicist with hopes of career longevity must know, too, Ms. Goodman, with her regular uniform of turtlenecks and white jeans, sensibly loafered; Ms. Posnick, dark-haired, never flashily dressed but never without jewelry; and Grace Coddington, the magazine’s creative director at large, who herself moved from a staff position to a freelance one in 2016.
Condé Nast, which owns Vogue as well as magazines like The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and GQ, is consolidating staff with fashion and beauty “hubs” that work across several magazines and moving expensive, salaried staff members to freelance positions. Condé Nast expected $100 million dollars less in revenue in 2017 than it enjoyed in 2016.
Historically the company was known for free spending and the lavish, chauffeured lifestyles it allowed its top editors — providing clothing budgets and securing mortgages. Even the imperious Vogue has seen its budgets cut and its fortunes shift.
“One of the things that I quickly became aware of when I left Condé Nast,” said Tom Florio, the former publisher of Vogue who departed the company in 2010 and who is now the chief executive of the company that owns Paper, “is the pay scale at Condé Nast was easily double or three times what the market is.” (One former Condé Nast top executive, who was granted anonymity because he was not allowed to speak for the company, said he expected that Ms. Goodman and Ms. Posnick’s total compensation combined would be about a million-dollar expense.)
Ms. Wintour, the editor of Vogue and the artistic director of Condé Nast, has sat atop her masthead for 30 years this June. Sub-editors have come and gone. But the handful of top editors who work on the magazine’s fashion features — who put starlets in gowns and on surfboards for the all-important covers, who decide which trends get spreads and which are deemed “not Vogue,” who minister to the temperamental greats of fashion photography — have been in place for years. Ms. Coddington joined the magazine in 1988, one of Ms. Wintour’s first hires. Ms. Posnick predated Ms. Wintour by a year. The most recent arrival of this group is Ms. Goodman, who came in 2000.
“I think congratulations is in order,” Ms. Goodman said in an interview. “That’s the way I feel. But bittersweet is also the way I feel. It’s both. Vogue is so much a part of my DNA.”
Ms. Goodman made clear that she expected very little to change: Like Ms. Posnick, she will continue shooting for the magazine and attend fashion shows with Vogue.
“It was just time,” Ms. Posnick said over cappuccino at her home. “It really was. Tonne and I were the only two fashion editors in the world who couldn’t do other work.” (Their new freelance positions will allow them to pursue outside work.) She acknowledged that “it probably works well for Vogue, too.”
Ms. Goodman handles the bulk of the celebrity covers, as well as many of its fashion shoots, and in so doing, has quietly set the fashion tone of the magazine. Ms. Posnick focuses on the evocative, often surreal images that accompany the magazine’s beauty coverage, as well as some of its portraits. She is especially well known for her long collaborations with some of the greats of fashion photography, like Helmut Newton and Irving Penn, who for the last years of his working life would not collaborate with any Vogue editor but her. The walls and floors of her apartment are lined with photographs by them. (The Demarcheliers and Steven Kleins, she said, are at her home in Connecticut.)
In an era of personal brands, Ms. Goodman and Ms. Posnick have not pursued individual fame.
“Neither of them sought the limelight,” said André Leon Talley, the former creative director of Vogue. “But they were both passionate about their work. They were the connection to the golden age of magazines, steeped in the tradition of what an American fashion magazine should look like. It’s a species that seems to be going extinct.”
A look at the magazine’s September issues, its largest of the year, paints the picture: The issue has been slowly, but steadily, decreasing in size, dropping from its record-breaking 2012 issues, with 916 pages, to 856 pages in 2014 to 774 last year. The September 2018 issue is due on newsstands Aug. 14.
“As print shrinks, they need to rethink where they’re going to invest their money and what the brand’s going to mean to a new generation of people,” Mr. Florio said. “These people have had extraordinary careers. But it’s like a great film editor. If everybody’s doing things digitally, do you need a great film editor?”
Ms. Posnick said Vogue had neither pressured her nor asked her to contribute to its digital products, which she acknowledged was not her strength. “I wish I could,” she said, and that she hoped to explore them going forward. She freely acknowledged the landscape had changed over the years. Working with Irving Penn, she said, might take six weeks from initial meeting to the shoot. “If you rushed him, he’d say, ‘Let’s not do it,’” she said. “Those days are over.”
“Everybody can see every magazine changing these days,” Ms. Goodman said. “Vogue is not unique in this happening.”
Of particularly keen interest is the ongoing murmuring that Ms. Wintour may step down from Vogue or from Condé Nast entirely.
Those hoping to read today’s moves as tea leaves will likely find themselves stymied: It is as possible that Ms. Wintour is giving her longtime staffers graceful exits before her own as it is that she has perceived the need for change and evolution. The company remains steadfast in its denials that she is leaving.
“I am happy to tell you there is no truth to the rumours of Anna’s departure,” Robert A. Sauerberg Jr., the chief executive of Condé Nast, told The Times in April. A company spokeswoman reaffirmed Mr. Sauerberg’s comment today.
So for now, Vogue is evolving, but observers cautioned against expecting immediate changes.
Ms. Goodman and Ms. Posnick “contributed hugely,” said William Norwich, an editor at Phaidon Press and a former editor at the magazine. “As long as these people are contributing, going to the collections and going to the fashion meetings, I don’t expect to see that huge a change,” he said.
Vogue, he said, is “like the mafia — even if you’re out, you’re in.”