Nina Garcia and Stephen Gan Share Their Vision for the New Elle

by Eddie Roche

What happens when two of fashion media’s most seasoned powerhouses finally join forces? We’re about to find out. Elle’s new power duo — editor-in-chief Nina Garcia and creative director Stephen Gan — reveal their plans for media domination. 

How long have you known each other?
Nina Garcia: Intimately? Not so long, but a good 15 years, at least.
Stephen Gan: We’ve seen each other sitting front row at shows during Fashion Week for many years, and we’ve exchanged pleasantries, but we didn’t really know each other. There’s been mutual respect and admiration. It’s a really good foundation.

How did this partnership come together?
Garcia: The matchmaker was the Marc Jacobs show last September. We were seated next to each other and started making small talk. He was talking about photographers, and said that if I needed any ideas, that he was happy to help. All of a sudden, the lightbulb went off. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Stephen would be the creative director?”

Stephen, why was it an attractive opportunity for you?
Gan: Because it was a challenge. The more I thought about Elle, the more I thought about its possibilities. I spent a lot of nights reading up on its history. I had no idea it was such an institution. It felt like a sleeping dragon. About once a day, someone will ask me why I went to Elle, and I’ll tell the story about its founder, Hélène Gordon-Lazareff, who started a magazine after the [Second World] War that was the first to do color photography. Nina told me that we want to speak to the millennials, and there’s so much power in this generation of young women who are ready to embrace fashion. Nina’s honesty, her openness, and her willingness to rewrite the formula of how things are done…that is so necessary right now.

Elle’s first issue, published in 1945

What’s your Elle going to look like?
Garcia: What’s interesting about Elle is the strong DNA. Most people will agree it’s positive, bold, colorful, inclusive, and healthy. We’re going to be amplifying that vision.
Gan: I agree. We’re working with a brand that has so much reach, and has been, in the past, a vehicle for discovering new things. How we capture that, and how it will appear on the page, that remains to be seen. It’s early days. I’ve just come off my first couple of shoots. Colors and positivity are needed in fashion right now—everybody wants to see images of glamour and joy. [Talking to you about the future of Elle] is like describing food that hasn’t been served yet—it’s very difficult!

When will your first issues come out?
Garcia: March will look different, but it will be a year of firsts. You’ll be seeing many firsts this year. By the fall, there will be a strong presence of both Stephen and myself.

As you two get to know each other, we thought we’d ask you some classic Proust questions to speed up the honeymoon period. Here we go! What are your greatest fears?
Garcia: Missing a shipping deadline. That keeps me up at night.
Gan: I’m a purist, and I feel like every day of my life is dedicated to creating the perfect image. Mediocrity is my greatest fear.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?
Gan: The perfect marriage between the perfect images that speak to millions in print, digital, and social media. Once in awhile, you come across an image that will work on all platforms.

Where would you most like to live?
Garcia: I love where I live now, but I often fantasize about living in Rio, surrounded by water, beautiful beaches, and wonderful music. It doesn’t get better.

Nina, what is your most treasured possession?
Garcia: Right now, my Oribe dry shampoo! I’m into practicality.
Gan: My eyesight! My vision is everything.

What are your most marked characteristics?
Garcia: My South American roots.
Gan: I have a reputation for being a workhorse and going from one shoot to the next.

What do you consider your greatest achievements?
Garcia: Having my family and my work complement each other so well.
Gan: On certain days, when I walk down 57th Street, I think I’ve found a place in this city.

Who are your favorite writers?
Garcia: Gabriel García Márquez and Roald Dahl.
Gan: I don’t have any favorite writers, but I love reading interviews. I was just talking to my team this morning about how great it is to read a good interview. I love it when celebrities interview each other for a cover story.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Garcia: All those women who have come out lately to share their [#MeToo] stories are pretty heroic.
Gan: Karl Lagerfeld. He’s just so wise and so fair. He can be snappy sometimes and sharp, and then flip around and say just the kindest thing. He’s got a great way of communicating. He’ll always be a hero to me.

What is your greatest regret?
Garcia: Not learning more languages.
Gan: When you send an issue to the printer, I wonder, “Did we do our best or not?” Every couple of days, I have regrets about not reaching the artistic peak that I wanted.

What’s your motto?
Garcia: Teamwork makes dream work.
Gan: I don’t really have one, but it would be along the lines of never giving up on creativity and pushing the wheels of fashion forward, but that’s not really a motto. Those are my goals to live by.

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