When Lauren Chan joined Glamor as a fashion editor in 2015, she was thrilled to write stories and attend market dates. After three years at the magazine, she had risen through the ranks to fashion editor-in-chief, but beneath the veneer of her dream job lay an uncomfortable truth.

“I was surrounded by straight-waisted peers who were actually able to wear the designer clothes we were all talking about,” she says. As 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 sleek plus-size staple line that includes oversized blazers. , bodycon skirts and bodycon 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 on track to transform her editorial experience into a billion dollar beauty brand, but the number of publishers who had ditched publishing to design clothing or cosmetics remained negligible. (Betsey Johnson and Vera Wang, who served as editor-in-chief at Miss and Vogue respectively, are notable exceptions.) An investor once remarked to Chan that she was learning to build an airplane at the same time as she was teaching she was piloting it.

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

But the net of journalists and publishers leaving the industry to form their own brands has now become a constant stream. The same year Chan launched Henning, former UK Vogue editor-in-chief Lucinda Chambers created the colorful and eccentric Colville Official alongside former Marni design director Molly Molloy. Over the past two years, Coveteur co-founder Erin Kleinberg has launched Sidia, a range of kaftans suitable for working from home; Canadian fashion journalist Anya Georgijevic introduced the luxury “slow fashion” line Anushka Studio, and former Vogue editor / writer Jane Herman launched the jumpsuit brand The Only Jane. This summer, Isabel Wilkinson, the former digital director of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, launched Attersee, a relaxed line of sleek basics that looks like a slightly less austere version of The Row, and Kristen Bateman, fashion journalist. for Vogue and the New York Times, presented Dollchunk, a kitsch-cute line of plastic jewelry.

“When you’re an editor and an entrepreneur, you’re in this constant phase of market research,” Kleinberg explains. “Editors are really like investigative journalists who are able to identify what is missing in the air. It’s their job to listen to the comments, to dig into what the readers want, what they don’t want.

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

Isabel Wilkinson, former digital director of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, pictured at her 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 practitioners have 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 another realm. “At Attersee, it’s a remarkably similar idea, although the medium is different,” she says.

There is also the issue of starting a business. The once glamorous publishing industry has undoubtedly lost its luster, and relatively meager wages, once bolstered by perks like auto services and clothing budgets, have remained stable for decades.

Creating a brand offers the possibility not only to earn more than one’s previous career, but also to recover social capital. “There is a certain sensuality and appeal to being a founder of successful start-ups,” says Susanna Kislenko, a researcher at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. “We give the founders high status in society as a whole. In a way, it makes sense to me that people who are experts in storytelling and storytelling are drawn to creating an outward looking brand.

Having a public career already can be a major advantage when it comes to building a brand. Many of these journalists have an integrated audience that they can convert into clients. “Literally 100% of my sales come straight from my Instagram and TikTok, where I built an audience based on my work,” says Bateman. Chan agrees that her time as a copywriter gave her the credibility she needed to build a brand. “Our first clients were people who had read my pages in Glamor. I would go so far as to say that a lot of the success of the company rested on the fact that I had the opportunity to be an open-to-the-public fashion editor with content focused on plus size fashion.

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

While turning its public platform into a successful brand can be a balm for low wages in publishing, it is a risk for those who don’t have the family money to support the business. “I’m trying to get comfortable with being in the red,” Kleinberg says. “In the past, I ran companies, I was always focused on profitability, but the whole idea [with Sidia] is to grow and evolve. Georgijevic, which is self-funded, has recovered 80% of its initial investment after releasing its first collection and hopes to break even next year.

There might not be a singular factor that prompts publishers to put down the red pen and pick up the ratchet scissors, but it helps that the barriers to entry to starting a clothing business have never been. as low. “You can hire someone who’s really good at digital marketing and build your customer base that way,” says Chan. “It’s much easier to start. “

Fashion itself has also fragmented to the point where the mainstream megatrends that once shaped the way people dressed have been replaced by micro-trends (low waist pants) and aesthetic niche subcultures ( “Cottagecore”). Even the smallest brands can be successful if they are able to 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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