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Role Call | Justine Picardie, Editor-in-Chief

Justine Picardie, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country, says "You need to discover your own true voice, rather than trying to copy anyone else’s."
Justine Picardie | Photo: Oliver Holms
By
  • Kati Chitrakorn

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

LONDON, United Kingdom — Justine Picardie is the editor-in-chief of the UK editions of Harper's Bazaar and Town & Country. Formerly features editor of British Vogue, Picardie has held a number of editorial leadership roles across glossy magazines and newspapers, including the Observer, the Independent and Independent on Sunday. Picardie worked on the launch of Marie Claire with Harper's Bazaar US editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey, and as a consultant on the launch of Hearst-owned lifestyle magazine, Red. She is the author of five books, including 'Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life,' published by Harper Collins, and 'Dior by Avedon,' her latest book, published this month by Rizzoli. Picardie has been with Harper's Bazaar since September 2012 and launched Town & Country in 2014.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

As the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country, I am responsible for the editorial excellence of both magazine brands, as well as ensuring that they are successful in commercial terms, both through circulation and advertising revenue.

BoF: What attracted you to the role? Did you always know that fashion was going to be your beat?

My first job in journalism was as an investigative news reporter for the Sunday Times — I was 21, had studied English Literature at Cambridge, and then done a postgraduate course in journalism at City University. So I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but at the start of my career, I wasn’t exclusively interested in fashion. That said, I’d always loved fashion, and the way it reflected the wider culture, including politics, literature and art. I believe that a good magazine is made up of a series of conversations, between readers and the editorial team, and also with the wider fashion industry. Bazaar has a unique voice and a remarkable readership of sophisticated and intelligent women, so the chance to be part of that conversation was very inspiring.

BoF: What is your vision as editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar? 

My vision has its starting point from the words of one of Bazaar’s greatest former editors, Carmel Snow, who described it as a magazine for ‘the well-dressed woman with a well-dressed mind.’ Bazaar has an extraordinary heritage, that encompasses fashion, beauty, art, literature and much more besides, and my ambition is to be true to that legacy, while also bringing it alive for a contemporary audience. The greatest writers of the 19th and 20th centuries contributed to Bazaar — incuding Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Nancy Mitford, Evelyn Waugh, John Steinbeck and Truman Capote — so I have continued that tradition, by commissioning Margaret Atwood, Ali Smith, Andrew O’Hagan and Jeanette Winterson, amongst others. Bazaar’s commitment to art — and the art of fashion — is also integral to the brand’s identity; this was the magazine that published Cocteau, Man Ray, Avedon and Warhol, amongst others, so I hope to sustain that vision, with consistently creative photography, and contributions from artists including Tracey Emin and Bridget Riley.

A magazine has to exist in many different ways in this era — in print and online, but also in the experiential world of events.

BoF: What is the most exciting product or initiative you have worked on?

There are so many! I’ve loved working with the V&A on limited edition covers of Bazaar, which are only available at the V&A shop (several of these covers have become valuable collectors’ items). We’ve also shot fashion stories at the V&A and the Serpentine Gallery, exploring the links between art and fashion in a very inspiring way; and curated events for our readers at these and other museums and galleries. I’m also very proud that we’ve launched Bazaar Art in the UK as an annual supplement, as well as Town & Country as a quarterly.

BoF: How is your role changing? What forces are driving this change?

A magazine has to exist in many different ways in this era — in print and online, of course, but also in the experiential world of events. I’ve collaborated with cultural institutions in order to create events for our readers, and with luxury fashion brands as well. For example, this year, we’ve organised a host of private views and reader events, including talks at Chanel’s exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, Louis Vuitton’s exhibition in the Strand and the McQueen show at the V&A. The other big change is that our editorial and commercial teams work far more closely together at Bazaar than ever before; we sit alongside each other in an open-plan office. That’s been a great source of ideas as well as building a very loyal, committed and united team, that isn’t divided along traditional lines.

BoF: You’ve spoken out in the past about empowering women in the workplace. How can fashion develop more women leaders?

I think that female leaders are already out there, working in their chosen fields in fashion — but the big corporations need to recognise those talented women, and promote them to board level. Luckily for me, the chief executive officer of Hearst UK, Anna Jones, is a woman, and she is very supportive to other women in our industry. Anna's executive team, which runs all the magazines under Hearst UK, is predominantly female, which is unusual in any industry. Anna, a great example, has set up Hearst Empowering Women, a website and a series of events, which aims to give a voice to British women about issues that matter to them. She is also a member of Women in Advertising and Communications London (WACL), which works to encourage more women to get into senior positions. Hearst is 70 percent female, so its culture is very supportive of women — and that comes from the top down.

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?

If you love it, you’ll find a way — but you need to discover your own true voice, rather than trying to copy anyone else’s.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

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