Tells us why there is nothing contradictory about finding sensible ways to be indulgent in the luxury publishing business.
“I know a shoot has been successful when there’s a flurry of twittering and blogging feedback around it. The internet is a great way to know when a cover issue has done well on the newsstands,” says the woman who chooses which luxury brands A-list celebrities and supermodels wear in some of the world’s leading fashion magazines.
“I’ll never forget when we photographed Anne Hathaway right during the release of The Devil Wears Prada. I think I saw the movie the day after we photographed her. The shoot was a huge success and it ended up on over 30 of our covers around the world. Talk about good timing.”
As fashion & entertainment director at Hearst Magazines International, a division of the media empire which publishes a stable of upmarket titles including Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and Esquire, Kristen Ingersoll helps shape the tastes of the global luxury goods consumer. Her wardrobe choices and styling ideas reverberate across many of the 100 or so country markets in which the publishing house operates its popular magazine franchises.
With red carpet style still the most potent form of publicity for many fashion brands today, this means substantial power – especially considering the reach of the covers Ingersoll produces for Hearst’s editions in lucrative emerging luxury markets like Russia, Dubai and South Korea and upstart territories like Australia, not to mention mature markets from North America to Japan.
“ It is the ricochet effect of Ingersoll’s prerogative which makes her all the more formidable ”
Ingersoll dresses celebrities and supermodels as diverse as Chloë Sevigny, Pierce Brosnan, Victoria Beckham, Chanel Iman and Sienna Miller for Hearst’s covers
Nevertheless, it is the ricochet effect of Ingersoll’s prerogative which makes her all the more formidable. How she dresses stars like Hathaway when they are rising up the celebrity ranks also influences their marketability as potential luxury brand ambassadors and campaign models in the future.
Yet despite her considerable impact – and in contrast to the big egos which many of her peers in New York’s publishing establishment both bruise and brandish in equal measure – this Boston native has remained as affable, exuberant and approachable as the day she first touched down in New York from Paris 20 years ago.
“I started my career as an intern at French Elle in Paris by sending my résumé in a huge box of confetti. The working relationship started immediately; I absolutely loved it there and felt right at home,” she says.
“I tried nearly every department at the magazine, including the international office, which was a great way to see all aspects of publishing. After a year there, a position opened up in New York with American Elle where I stayed for an additional six years until I met my current boss, Kim St. Clair Bodden from Hearst who was so incredibly dynamic and convinced me to join her team.”
Corresponding with celebrity publicists, being on set and scanning designer showrooms is what dominates most of her work week, Ingersoll suggests, but she is also regularly dispatched to many of Hearst’s international outposts, working closely with local editors to help them develop their fashion pages within the parameters set by Hearst headquarters for each of its magazine brands.
With so much time spent on the road or in negotiations, it makes opportunities to nurture her raw creative inspiration that much more precious than they might otherwise be in a slightly different role.
Earlier this year, Ingersoll’s fashion shoot of Chloë Sevigny made the cover of the Russian edition of Harper’s Bazaar and many other international Hearst editions
“I try to pack in as much as I can, as something will ignite into a bigger idea at some point, which will eventually lead to a cover shoot or fashion story. I’m forever looking for clues, ripping out pages from newspapers or wherever."
“Who will we photograph next? What will the theme be? Music, movies, books…everything is an inspiration. My walks to and from work I call ‘touching base with the street’ and are super important, as I might be inspired by a group of school kids or a bum sorting through the trash.”
Being the beast that it is, fashion publishing has always been inherently fickle and, given the turbulence felt by the luxury industry in recent years, it is no surprise that Ingersoll sees discipline and adaptability as character prerequisites instead of virtues.
“I think it’s always important to take a step back from the big wave, whatever the economic trend may be so as not to get totally swept away, however good or bad it may be. Having a tight budget is very important and I’ve always followed that,” she says. “No matter how full the well is, it’s always good to ration carefully and have a backup plan and not be too indulgent.”
Another aspect of publishing where the adaptable nature of editors like Ingersoll will soon be needed is the convergence of editorial content and online commerce, something which is already shaking the foundations of the business models upon which publishers operate as magazine brands morph from mere curators to fashion merchants in their own right.
“Bring it on,” says Ingersoll. “There’s already a greater link between sales and editorial as it is now. I think it’s wonderful; I also see it as a way to further our creativity.”
Besides having to get acquainted with the nuts and bolts of new digital platforms and working in new financial realities over the past few years, Ingersoll has had to continue anticipating the changing attitudes of Hearst’s diverse global readership with regards to luxury as well as to publishing itself.
“I suppose it’s like evolution, we slowly change into a new shape or form that reflects what the readers want and need. Everyone adapts pretty quickly thereafter without even realizing the change until someone points it out."
As far as her personal perspective on what constitutes luxury and how to express it is concerned, Ingersoll believes that the great recession only reinforced an ethos that was formed at a very young age – a time when she was “already very particular.”
“I can always return to a classroom scene from my childhood as a friendly reminder, if ever I needed to,” says this francophile, who spent much of that childhood globetrotting from one university campus to another where her father did research; visiting Paris with her grandmother and lounging around her father’s archaeological excavation sites.
Behind the scenes at a recent shoot Ingersoll did with Pavel Havlicek and Hana Soukupova as our tribute to Alexander McQueen for global Harper’s Bazaar editions
“One year, we had to go to my great uncle’s home on Long Island, which had been the estate of my great grandparents and their ancestors before them so it was the perfect setting for our family reunion."
But shortly after the reunion when she returned to school and was asked to participate in “Show and Tell” in front of her class, Ingersoll says that in her youthful naivety she didn’t think twice about telling her nine-year old classmates all about her luxurious adventure.
“I recounted all the cars my uncle had, starting with the Rolls Royce and Bentley, and told them how I played hide and seek with the servants’ children in the secret passages in one wing of the house and had pinball competitions in the grand foyer next to the butler. I think I even mentioned the helicopter used for transit but at that point I was already in deep trouble with my teacher who called my parents to see if I had problems with lying."
“It’s quite funny looking back now of course but, at the time, I was devastated to be falsely accused of something like that. From that day forward, luxury has always been something I cherished and greatly appreciated, but from a very quiet perspective.”
Published on Dec. 8, 2010 under Leaders
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