Over the last year, The New York Times’ Styles department has undergone a serious changing of the guard. The paper lost three of its biggest names—fashion writer Eric Wilson, chief fashion critic Cathy Horyn and International New York Times fashion critic Suzy Menkes—even as several new hires, including Style.com’s Matthew Schneier and Deadspin’s John Koblin, were added to the roster. But the biggest addition, announced last month, is Vanessa Friedman, who has led the Financial Times’ fashion coverage for more than a decade. Friedman will assume both Horyn’s and Menkes’ roles when she takes over as the Times’ (and INYT’s) fashion director and chief fashion critic at the end of May.
In your new position at the Times, you’ll be assuming the duties of both Cathy Horyn and Suzy Menkes. Why combine those roles?
To me, fashion is increasingly a global industry. One of the interesting things about brands is that they often represent the same set of values no matter where you go in the world, and that goes for high-street brands like H&M and Zara as well as high-end brands like Chanel and Dior. It seems very logical to me that you would combine these two jobs because I think the consumers that I would be speaking to, be they in France or the U.K. or Asia or America, are very much the same kind of consumers, be they consumers of information or consumers of fashion.
How do you plan to make the Times’ coverage more global?
I think that in the same way that the Times covers international political, business and economic news, it can cover international fashion news. People who look to this newspaper, website or mobile platform as their filter for what’s important in the world want the same thing from its coverage of fashion. One exciting thing that we’ll be doing is moving the fashion page of the INYT from Tuesday to Thursday [to coincide with the Times’ Thursday Styles page] so that news stories can run globally at the same time.
At the FT, you also covered fashion from the retail standpoint, not just from an artistic point of view. Is that something you’ll be doing at the Times?
If you look at what’s happened within the fashion industry over the last five to 10 years, what’s been really notable is that the corporate and the creative sides of the business have become ever closer together. Christopher Bailey, who was the creative director of Burberry and is about to be the CEO, is a prime example of that. Fifteen years ago that never would have happened.
Will you be covering more fast fashion in addition to the higher-end designers?
Absolutely. It’s all part of the industry, and it’s become so fluid. To create distinctions between those things would be a false response.
How do you see coverage changing at the Times versus the FT?
The FT had a very specific slant on the world, and that was financial and European and very luxury, whereas the Times has a broader remit as a newspaper.
What is the Times’ reader looking for in his or her fashion coverage?
I think it’s really about understanding fashion in terms of how it fits into their world. There’s an interest in clothes as an expression of identity politics on the part of every reader. Even at the FT, I’d get emails from guys who ran hedge funds about what they thought about what Michelle Obama or David Cameron were wearing.