As Glenda Bailey celebrates her 15th year at the helm of Harper’s Bazaar, the magazine is enjoying one of its most successful phases. With a fresh approach to print, an ever-expanding digital universe, and a growing e-commerce operation, Hearst’s fashionable glossy is getting better by the minute.
What are your greatest accomplishments from the past year?
I’m incredibly proud of our newsstand sales. I must be one of the very few people who can say that. Our ABC [Audit Bureau of Circulation] figures were down by only 3 percent, so we’re really bucking the industry trend—I believe the average is something like 30 percent down. So 3 percent down is the new up.
What are your online numbers?
In just two years, we went from 2.4 million unique monthly visitors on harpersbazaar.com to almost 10 million. In our category, we’re No. 1 on Pinterest and have No. 1 engagement on Facebook. That’s something to be proud of. We’re in the top 5 on Instagram, and I intend for us to get even higher.
Why do you think you’ve had such a successful year?
It’s purely about editing. Everybody goes online for their news, so for the magazine, it’s really important that we show something that is unique, something that you can’t get online easily. You come to a magazine because of the creativity, the originality, the spirit—you just can’t replicate that online. And when you do, it’s a different experience.
What are your proudest moments of the year?
The collaboration with Cindy Sherman. We met at the shows, and for three years I’ve been asking her if she would participate in a Bazaar story, and she finally agreed. I wanted her take on street style. We produced limited-edition covers, which went online and sold out in a matter of hours. It was spectacular. I always love collaborations with artists.
Is there one story over the past 15 years that you’re the most proud of?
That’s like being asked to choose your children! You’re only as good as the last magazine you produce, the same way a designer is only as good
as his or her last collection. I’m addicted to what’s new. I love change and love trends—and so I’m constantly renewing. You can predict the fact
that Harper’s Bazaar is unpredictable. We try to surprise and delight everyone. That’s why people keep coming back.
Who was your first hire?
Stephen Gan. We met by chance at Iman’s birthday party and started chatting. We never stopped. It was a lovely night. Then the next day, when I came into work, I got a phone call from him saying, “We have to meet. We have to meet now!” He’s a man of action. I like that! We met for lunch and chatted and chatted, and it was obvious. Stephen is a person who is very fast, and that’s my pace. He has a passion for fashion, knowledge of fashion; he has a very modern sensibility, but he really understands the history of fashion, and he’s great fun! We laugh a lot.
When you walked in the door, what were the changes that you wanted to make with the brand?
The obvious first thing to do was put back the logo. Bazaar had lost its exquisite logo.
What did you bring to Harper’s Bazaar that wasn’t there before?
A sense of humor. Very rarely do people use the word fashion and the word humor in the same sentence. I brought a bit of wit and whimsy to Bazaar.
How have you kept the job fresh?
The joy of working in fashion is that it constantly changes. I love the excitement and the thrill of fashion, and I’ve always said that the day that I go to a fashion show and I feel jaded, then that will be out for me—I won’t be able to do the job anymore. But I’m still very engaged and very excited, and thrilled to be in this position. It’s the best job in the world of fashion.
Are the subscriber covers more quintessentially Glenda than the newsstand ones?
Yes, of course. They have to be, because they’re more fashion, and they’re more about imagery. I’m very, very hands-on, as you know, and I’m particularly hands-on when it comes to covers. But one thing I will say is I’m very, very fortunate to work with Elizabeth Hummer, who’s our design director. She’s really like the Ruth Ansel of now. We have a saying—we never let bad art get in the way of a good cover. She has a great eye.
What have some of the memorable shows been over the years?
It’s almost impossible to choose. Saint Laurent’s last show, the Lanvin shows, the last Valentino show of couture, Comme des Garçons in the ’80s and Karl’s Chanel shows are only a few.
Any predictions for the future of fashion?
As someone who loves to look at where fashion is going, I like to study people who are doing very well in the industry, and I like to study why. I also look at people who aren’t doing well and consider why. It really isn’t brain surgery. If you look at a fashion house like Brunello Cucinelli, they’re doing incredibly well. Why are they doing incredibly well? Look at Silicon Valley—the entrepreneurs there look like they’re wearing a gray T-shirt and easy pants. And well, they are. But they’re the best T-shirt and the best pants that money can buy. There’s a reason that Brunello has been asked to give talks at so many tech companies.
Have you gotten into Snapchat?
I love that it goes away, but I also don’t like that. I like longevity, and producing something that people can treasure for a long time. Evan Spiegel has done an amazing job, and I’m very inspired by him. I was at a Louis Vuitton dinner when I was sat next to Miranda Kerr, and I introduced them. Now, they’re engaged.
Famously, you avoided e-mail for a very long time.
I hate wasting time, and the one thing I can’t stand is when everybody’s copied on everything, and nobody gives a proper answer, nobody reads it, and then you’re going round and round in a circle. I hate that. When I get an e-mail, if I can, I will call up the person and deal with it. You get things done if you can talk to people directly. And I firmly believe that the power to pick up the phone and, even better, to go and see someone is much quicker in the end. Of course, you can’t do business today without using all forms of social media. I’m the first to text my friends. I have a rule at Bazaar—after 6 p.m. on a Friday night, I hope that no one is going to hear from me until when I come in at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, and vice versa. It’s very, very important to give your team opportunity to enjoy their free time. That’s how they rejuvenate and become loyal, and we all strive for our work-life balance.
You’ve been here for 15 years and over the years you’ve faced rumors that you are leaving. How have you dealt with those?
Fact is way more interesting than fiction, so I never really care about rumors.
Do they annoy you?
No. Fashion is not a popularity contest, you know. I’m here to do a job; everybody should judge me by my results.
What has the support of your main man, Stephen Sumner, meant to you?
I was very lucky to meet Steve when I did, and I have so much to thank him for. In those very early years, we’d only been together for a year when my mother died of cancer, and then my father became very ill, also with cancer. We both gave up our jobs, having just come out of university, to go back to Darby and nurse my father until he died. To have that support from a young man…you never forget it. It becomes something so special, and I’ve been lucky enough to have all these years him. Next year will be our 40th anniversary. We share everything. He’s fabulous and I love him. I feel very fortunate.
Read the full issue HERE.