BLOW BY BLOW: Two biographies of Isabella Blow are in the works, and they’re taking very different views of the talented and troubled fashion stylist, who committed suicide in 2007. Lauren Goldstein Crowe, co-author of the upcoming “The Towering World of Jimmy Choo” (Bloomsbury, 2009), is penning a book that will focus on “the industry side of things, Isabella’s role as muse and her life — and career — in the greater context of luxury goods,” according to the author. Crowe believes Isabella may have been the last of a dying breed. “There are fewer and fewer roles in fashion for a purely creative persona,” she said. Her book will be published by St. Martin’s Press in December 2010.
Blow’s widower, Detmar Blow, and Tom Sykes, author of “What Did I Do Last Night?” (Ebury Press, 2007), are collaborating on a more personal account of Isabella’s life, according to Sykes, who met the subject through his sister, Plum Sykes, in the mid-Nineties. Their proposal is hitting publishers’ desks this week. Sykes said the book will draw on Detmar’s numerous diaries during the couple’s two decades together, and will also delve into Isabella’s colorful ancestry, unhappy childhood and experiences in America. Sykes said the challenge will be to “broaden the story and make it clear the book is not just for fashion people,” he said. “It’s really a love story: Romeo and Juliet meets Gormenghast in a Philip Treacy hat,” he said, referring to the British Gothic fantasy books from the Fifties.
This story first appeared in the March 17, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
So far, the rival authors are taking a gracious line toward each other. “There’s definitely room for two books,” said Crowe. “Mine will be a more detached, academic biography.” Sykes says his and Detmar’s book will be “the definitive biography of a British fashion icon,” but concedes an “outsider” is capable of telling Isabella’s story, too. “The fact that two books are being written just shows Isabella’s story is an amazing one,” he said. — Samantha Conti and Miles Socha
NEW LEADERS OF THE PACKS: The major change behind Hachette Filipacchi Media’s recent restructuring promotes publishers at Elle, Metropolitan Home and Woman’s Day to expanded roles as chief brand officers, now overseeing both the business and editorial sides of each brand, as well as the advertising for their Web sites and new ventures. The editors in chief, however, maintain the same responsibilities, but were given fancier titles of vice president, brand content. For example, Elle’s publisher, Carol Smith, was elevated to senior vice president, chief brand officer, Elle Group, which means Elle editor in chief-vice president brand content Roberta Myers now reports to Smith. Smith also oversees Elle.com and any new books, spin-offs, products or branded entertainment opportunities.
Most companies have editors and publishers report to separate bosses to preserve editorial integrity, but Smith believes, “fashion is more suited than almost any category to have this structure. So often, the person I’m selling ads to is the same person that is calling [creative director] Joe [Zee] saying, ‘Let me show you my spring collections.’ A v.p. of communications sits on both sides of the desk. In some ways, this is a very logical next step.” And while there are those who might still wave the flag of “editorial integrity” and raise their eyebrows at Elle’s new reporting structure, Smith stressed she won’t be micromanaging Myers’ reign over Elle’s pages. “I would never as a chief brand officer say ‘Robbie, you must run this so we can get the advertising,’ or say to Robbie, ‘If you run this dress, maybe we can get the advertising.’ I do not have the publisher’s title, so in no way will anyone think that Robbie is reporting to a salesperson.”
Indeed, Smith has appointed a publisher and brand development director to spearhead the day-to-day sales and marketing functions. Associate publisher Anne Welch will become vice president, brand publisher, and Brent Allen was named vice president, brand development. Welch has been with Elle for seven years, while Allen joined Elle two years ago as executive director, marketing. She previously worked at In Style and Vanity Fair. — Stephanie D. Smith
PALIN’S TURN: The latest cover of Condé Nast Portfolio is, depending upon whom you ask, gutsy and counterintuitive or simply irrelevant. As the financial crisis grinds on, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is on the April cover, editor in chief Joanne Lipman confirmed. Palin apparently did not cooperate with the story by best-selling author Joe McGinniss, and the photographs are drawn from a Vogue shoot with Jonathan Becker for that title’s February 2008 issue (in which, it was later reported, she concealed her then-secret pregnancy with a parka). The move to put Palin on the cover met with some staff resistance, according to sources.
In an e-mail, Lipman described the story as being about the former vice presidential candidate and “Big Oil, which is especially relevant now given plunging oil prices and increasing questions about Obama’s handling of the economic crisis.” She added, “We’ve been breathlessly following the saga of Bristol and Levi, too, but alas, you won’t read about that in the pages of Portfolio :).” The issue also contains a story called “Exxon vs. Obama,” by Peter Waldman. The issue hits newsstands Wednesday. — Irin Carmon