Architectural Digest’s Editor in Chief Talks Expanding Digital Content in the Time of Covid-19

Looking for home design inspiration has never been more on-trend these days, with nesting in place at an all-time high. Architectural Digest Editor in Chief Amy Astley is acutely aware of this need for Covid-related content, both for the Condé Nast publisher’s consumer and business audiences. Read on to hear how Amy is reimagining AD’s editorial, along with a look at how she ascended to the role of top editor and advice on how to own your happiness.

How are you pivoting AD's strategy during this health crisis?

We’ve been exceptionally busy across all of our digital platforms. For AD Pro, we are updating coronavirus-related design news daily. We're also creating features that address the challenges facing small business owners and the potential recession. We've removed our AD Pro paywall for pandemic-related content to ensure it's open to everyone. For Clever and, we have practical Covid-related stories ranging from designing a high-functioning work-from-home space to design-related ways to get crafty while staying home.

Certainly, this time is an extremely anxious one and challenging from a business point of view, but I do believe that there is a real opportunity for the category in the near future as consumers renew their commitment to their homes as a refuge. It's going to continue to be a category where people feel good spending.

Preview of new IGTV series AD Visits
For the first episode of new IGTV series AD Visits, Nikolai Haas of the Haas Brothers invites AD inside the L.A home he shares with his fashion stylist wife, Djuna Bel

Are there any new projects you’re really excited about?

I am always working on the digital extensions of AD, such as AD Pro and Clever. I’m very ambitious for both sites to really grow in 2020. I am also thinking about AD's YouTube channel all the time—it's at more than 3 million subscribers in a very short time span and you must feed the digital beast daily! I am really proud of the prowess AD has shown on that platform. … Plus, I am always pushing myself to think like an entrepreneur about AD's potential. I would like to see AD become active in the streaming space. Another project I'm really excited about is AD Visits, a new weekly social-video series from AD’s editors. It debuts April 17 on IGTV and additional social and digital channels.

What do you see as the major opportunities and challenges for women today?

There is more respect for female workers and for mothers and certainly a lot more practical support with things like improved maternity leaves, nursing rooms, and just enhanced awareness of the sexism, harassment, and injustices that women have endured historically.

Of course, there are challenges. A big one is society still has an oppressive and outdated set of behavioral expectations. People-pleasing is a real trap that women are encouraged to fall into—the woman who makes everyone feel good maybe socially rewarded for that but could find it a career hindrance. I also feel that because our culture overvalues youth and beauty, women (but also increasingly men) can be encouraged to focus too much of their time, energy and financial resources on their appearance. Also, women lose prominence and promotions in the office by doing "housework"—the unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work that needs to be accomplished but receives little glory or credit. We all have to keep diligently working to release all people, not just women, from oppressive gender roles and outdated notions.

How are you championing for women in media?

Architecture has been a traditionally male-dominated field, as has design in general, and I really want to champion and support voices that may not have been heard. Inclusiveness is a priority in selecting our projects and especially when compiling AD’s annual AD 100 list in which we name top architects and interior and landscape designers worldwide. I’m very proud to say that since I have been at AD, we have featured more women architects, designers, and female-led firms than ever before in our 100-year history.

What advice or tips can you share?

"My biggest tip is to honestly assess what you require to be a happy..."

My biggest tip is to honestly assess what you require to be a happy, healthy, high-functioning employee and human being. And then do your best to make those things happen for yourself because no one else will do it for you. I have seen a lot of great employees run themselves into the ground, or just be hugely miserable about a co-worker or a situation, and then they get angry at the company instead of taking control of their circumstances.

For me, I need to get a lot of exercise and adequate sleep. How do I fit that into my day, and when it all falls apart due to overscheduling, poor health, etc., what can I do to rectify the situation and get myself back in balance? Then I start to unpack my work week and realize that I need to delegate more, or I need to say no, or I need set realistic deadlines. It's better to be proactive and make a change than remain and become toxic to yourself or others.

How did you get to where you are today?

I have put in the time to become an editor in chief. I started my career after college (English major) at House & Garden where I spent five years working my way up from an assistant to a junior editor. Then I worked as an editor for nearly a decade at Vogue, followed by becoming the founding editor of Teen Vogue in 2003. I ran Teen Vogue for 13 years and really learned how to find the best talent and nurture them. I also learned how to build a digital brand and how to work with the business side of the magazine.

In these jobs, I have purposefully honed my own skills as a storyteller and creative person and also as a business person, manager, digital visionary, and entrepreneur. Additionally, over the decades I never stopped building my network of contacts in art, design, architecture, fashion, beauty, social, entertainment, ballet, and the sports worlds.

Amy Astley reflects on her career path, from junior editor to founding editor to editor in chief.

Any pivotal moments along the way?

"It's okay to drift off the path, you just need to course-correct."

Pivotal moments for me happened when I was very young. I trained seriously to be a ballet dancer but at age 18 I really just had to face that I was not going to have the kind of professional career I wished for. That experience has always helped me to just be very honest with myself and to keep realistically accessing my progress, my situation, and that of the people around me. It's okay to drift off the path, you just need to course-correct.

Who has helped you in your journey and how did they shape your thinking?

My many strict but supportive ballet teachers, my parents (especially my amazing feminist mother) and then important bosses like Wendy Goodman and Anna Wintour have been critical mentors to me. Every single one demanded total excellence from me and in turn demonstrated their own excellence. As a boss, I expect the best from my own staff but they see that I demand it from myself, too. I would never ask an employee to work harder than I do.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, money or talent would be no object, what would you be doing?

I certainly did not enter journalism because I thought I would make a lot of money! That has never been a motivation for me. And if I had succeeded in my first love and become a ballerina I would have been retired by now so, I guess I dodged a bullet.