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Nina Garcia Takes the Reins at Elle

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Nina Garcia Takes the Reins at Elle

She (and her millions of Instagram followers) will start September 18

BY WILLIAM BUCKLEY

NEWS  -  SEPTEMBER 13

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Photo: BFA.com. View more at BFA.com.

Times they are a'changing (if you hadn't noticed). But to all those for whom their rock has been just too darn comfortable to come out from under, there are some monumental moves in the industry. One of these tectonic shifts was the announcement of Graydon Carter's departure from Vanity Fair after 25 years, but this year we've also seen British Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman replaced by Edward Enninful, also after 25 years in the position.  

On Monday it was announced that the editor-in-chief of Elle, Robbie Myers, would be leaving after a mere 17 years (Elle fashion news editor Anne Slowey left earlier this year after 18), and the general consensus was that Nina Garcia would be replacing her. Well, ladies and gents, congrats to the general consensus for being spot on as usual. It was just announced yesterday that Garcia will indeed be taking the reins at Elle, starting September 18.

For anyone who wasn't born yesterday, you might remember all the Elle dramz from just under a decade ago—fashion mag history as juicy and convoluted as the scripted "reality" TV of the era that ultimately caused the telenovela-esque tumult that saw Garcia ousted from the magazine in 2008. The Harvey Weinstein-produced Project Runway, a project Elle's then-publisher Carol Smith saw as a golden opportunity to promote the magazine and bolster what were flagging newsstand sales and slow web traffic, was something to which most mag staffers in the fashion department were opposed. You'll remember reality TV had (has) a well-deserved reputation as low-brow schlock, and fashion back then strived to be anything but. Back when Runway launched in 2004, Elle's creative director was the distinguished French photographer Gilles Bensimon, whose fashion career was forged in Paris. I'd imagine Parisian high-style sensibilities wouldn't have leant themselves well to reality TV back then, and he and his team largely shirked Runway responsibilities. In season one, then-Elle fashion director Garcia switched in and out of judging duties with Slowey, but for whatever reason (Slowey is more fashion's hipster, if you will, while Garcia is more high-society), Runway preferred Garcia. 

As the show's ratings soared, so did Garcia's placement as a prime Elle asset. She became the public face of Elle, presumably much to the rancor of its EIC, Myers, and apparently others at the magazine like, say, Slowey. When Runway's contract with its native network Bravo came close to an end, negotiations got nasty. The show's partnership with Elle was under scrutiny, too, and as the pieces fell into place, it became clear Elle was out. Jealousy, the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on, was poised to pounce, and before you could say "Jack Robinson" (or, ahem, Joe Zee), Elle cut ties with Garcia. She had the last laugh, though—after all, she was the talent, and along with Runway's new residence at Lifetime, competing magazine Marie Claire came on as the new media partner. Garcia was given the fashion director position there, and anyway, Elle had its sights set on a new show.

You many or may not remember Stylista on the CW. It only ran for one season, a reality TV show centered on Slowey as The-Devil-Wears-Prada-type top brass-slash-bitch, and a gaggle of good-looking twentysomethings, all "aspiring editors vying for a position at Elle magazine." Actually, I was one of those aspirings. The experience was wonderful, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Watching Slowey strut around the fake Elle office in heels so high she could barely walk in them, and hearing her razor-sharp snark as she rebutted any back-chat was magic. She and Zee, or, more accurately, the producers, kicked me off halfway through. I think it was largely because I wouldn't play ball. We had one-on-one on-camera interviews twice a day, in which the producers would feed us all lines—“You must think Megan's an absolute bitch?" they asked me once. "No," I said, "Not particularly." "But go on, say that," they coaxed. I told them I wasn't saying that, and two episodes later, my head on the proverbial block, I was chopped.

I only met Myers once—at the premiere party for Stylista. I was the only person in the show's cast who'd actually held editorial positions, and as such, I was invited by premiere event sponsor Kiehl’s to attend the party. They had no idea I'd actually been on the show, and we, the cast, had explicitly not been invited to the event, I'm still not sure why. Anyway, I went, and when I arrived, after some snaps on Getty's step-and-repeat, Myers asked me icily, "What are you doing here?" I'd had no other interaction with her at all. I knew who she was, but she wasn't involved in the show. "I was invited," I said. I flicked my imaginary hair back over my shoulder and hugged Slowey—I like her a lot. 

So, le dénouement, Garcia gets another "last laugh," and will be back at Elle, but this time, running it. While some of the better reality TV shows from back in the day have survived (Runway being one of them, entering its 16th season, renewed for two more, and with its All Stars spin-off showing no signs of slowing either), the golden age of reality TV has thankfully passed us by. One thing that the genre is at least in part responsible for remains, though: society's obsession with celebrity. In a statement released by Hearst, the company president David Carey noted that Garcia is "known to millions around the world for her role on Project Runway and the dynamic, behind-the-scenes life she shares with 4.5 million engaged followers on social media.” Joanna Coles, chief content officer at Heart Magazines, added, "She understands the multi-platform world and embraced it early on, becoming one of fashion’s first social media influencers with the largest following of any editor-in-chief.”

Myers was more about "real" writing and reporting, and was credited with directing the magazine's more intelligent, thoughtful, lifestyle elements, a balance to the visual fashion the magazine was more known for during Bensimon and his team's tenure, which included style director Isabel Dupré, and fashion editor-at-large Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele. And while it may be lamented by some as a sign of the times—an era of clicks and fickle digital fads and quasi-celebrities famous more for their Instagram accounts than their achievements—Garcia is intelligent, stylish, and incredibly successful. Elle is currently the best-selling magazine in the world, and Garcia's goal is to amplify even that. Honestly, given that stated social media reach, chances are, she will. 

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