Fishbowl Five: Brandon Holley’s New Women’s Fashion Platform

Lucky's former editor dishes about print vs. digital.

brandon-holley

Magazine veteran Brandon Holley, whose resume includes the top editor job at Elle Girl, Jane and, most recently, Lucky, has finally found her place — in the digital space. Her first major stint working at a digital media company was as general manager and editor in chief of Yahoo’s first foray into women’s content, Yahoo Shine, from 2007 to 2010. There, she catered to more than 24 million readers (as of October 2010), according to comScore. Holley’s latest role is CEO of Everywear.com, a new fashion styling app with a software platform, launched this month. It uses Tinder-like swiping and live chats with some of her fashion editor colleagues to help women, akin to Lucky readers, put looks together:

As a magazine editor, I had access to amazingly talented fashion editors who would go into my closet and create outfits from the clothes I already owned. Then they’d tell me exactly what pieces I needed to buy to maximize my existing wardrobe. It was such a fantastic, empowering and effortless way to dress and shop that I felt passionate about bringing this service to the online shopping experience.

Here, Holley answers five questions on her latest venture, how she thinks print mags are adapting to digital and more.

FBNY: Let’s step back a bit. In your career, you took over for some iconic editors; namely, Jane Pratt and Kim France. Was there some pressure that came along with stepping into their roles?

Holley: Well, I was attracted to the titles that those women developed, and I loved what they did. Each did a different thing and each was not really just about straight-off-the-runway looks. And I’m always attracted to what women wear in their daily lives and what they think about, so both titles were really exciting for me to take over. You know, the staff on each magazine was amazing. Having developed some of my own magazines, it’s a different thing when you inherit a magazine. You have to work within the confines and make better what you can and stay true to the mission where it makes sense. That was a fun challenge. But I’ve always enjoyed much more starting my own thing.

FBNY: Both Jane Pratt and Kim France moved on from Condé Nast magazines, whether by choice or not, to start their own digital ventures as well. How do you feel about your time at the publishing giant? Any hard feelings about being fired from Lucky?

Holley: No, I mean I think that was all just a matter of shifting direction for the magazine. It has nothing to do with me personally. I’ve been doing this long enough to not make it personal. It just the way things go. It’s part of the job that you take.

I loved Condé Nast. I mean I started at Condé Nast in ’97 at GQ, where I went to my first Europe fashion shows and learned from the amazing Jim Moore, who is an incredible icon. So Condé Nast is like family to me. I’m still in touch with people there, and, you know, our paths may cross again. Running a magazine is a very high pressure job, so that goes along with the territory, but that’s never been something I shy away from.

FBNY: So tell us about Everywear. How did you come up with the concept?

Holley: The concept came from years and years of having fashion editors help me with my style. I’ve always had good style, but I’ve never been a style genius. These fashion stylists that I worked with were amazing. They have this special sixth sense that allows them to see things that other people don’t see. Someone like a Laurie Trott, or Anne Keane from Lucky would think about my wardrobe and say, ‘Based on the stuff you already have, these are the things that you need.’ So, if you get this V-neck cashmere sweater pullover, she would lay out what it would go with and we would plan out outfits. If I was shopping with one of these editors they would say, ‘Don’t get that, get this.’ I wanted to make a service that would bring that kind of thing to every woman. So we came up with Everywear, which is the context of the things you already own and then finding things that match and creating dozens of outfits from it. Just like a Lucky magazine has done, but with your own clothes.

Then I started hiring some editors, like Kusum Lynn, who I’d worked with before. And then my product manager, Josh Helfgott, who built apps for Barneys, Gilt and JackThreads, came in and helped build this amazing product around it.

FBNY: Do you think print magazines are finally figuring out what they need to do to stay relevant in the digital era?

Holley: I think it weighs on their entire digital strategy. So that’s different for different brands, right? For Lucky, it probably means ecommerce, which is what they did. For Vogue, it means something different. For Vanity Fair, it might mean deeper [emphasis on] entertainment, which is the way they’re going. I think some magazines have a problem because they don’t have that thing that makes them relevant now. You [need] something that can have some extension beyond just content — unless you’re the New Yorker, which [focused] on getting their archives together and creating an insanely great content site. But then you think of a lot of women’s magazines, what is their relevancy beyond just fashion photos and text? I think that’s the harder question. It will be interesting to see what a lot of magazines do, what route they choose, because [you can’t just] put out cute Instagram photos. That’s not enough.

FBNY: Would you personally ever return to print?

Holley: Nope. [laughs] Never. I want to build something amazing that has a cultural relevance and I just don’t feel like my best use is in print anymore.

I love magazines, but the digital side excites me more because I can work one on one with women. It’s more of a feedback loop. You know, magazines you kind of send out into the world and then you do a focus group. But with a website and a platform, you can learn and you can change and you can move, and it’s just super creative and really exciting. I’ve always been less the fancy-pants fashion editor and more [interested in] what do women really need, where can [they] get information that will help them in their daily lives? So this is kind of me at my best. This is my favorite thing I’ve done.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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