GAME ON: Unlike during her White House tenure, Desirée Rogers was in a particularly chatty mood in the front row of the Jason Wu show Friday afternoon. Seated across the runway from the requisite starlets in attendance (Diane Kruger, Elisa Sednaoui and Katie Cassidy) and wearing her own Lanvin jersey dress instead of one of Wu’s designs (“I love his eveningwear”), Rogers was clearly projecting a down-to-business demeanor and with good reason: The former White House Social Secretary was recently named chief executive officer of the Chicago-based Johnson Publishing, owner of Ebony and other titles, whose ranks she had joined earlier in the summer as a consultant.
“[My] major goal is to take a look at the trends and just see everything obviously and really to just kind of get to know the scene a little bit better. We really are enlarging our space in Ebony in the fashion and beauty segments, so we really want to be current, we want to have the best stuff, we want to be a little edgy, so I’ve got to be here to see everything and meet everybody,” explained Rogers of her fashion week presence, which will include stops at Rodarte, Thakoon, Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenberg and possibly Chado Ralph Rucci. Ebony has quite the fashion legacy to uphold, considering the late Eunice Johnson, a co-creator of the magazine with her husband, John, and of the successful traveling Ebony Fashion Fair, was also a huge couture collector.
This story first appeared in the September 13, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“We’re looking at bringing [the fair] back,” said Rogers, who will be making the fashion week rounds for the first time in a media capacity after sitting front row a few seasons ago as a White House emissary. Though she doesn’t see much difference in her mind-set now versus her previous White House persona, her stylish appearances earned her plenty of flack.
“It’s enjoyable, but to me it’s always been about the business as well and being in tune with what is happening from a design perspective,” she said. “Whether it’s organizing events or creating a magazine or beauty product, you have to see what the trends are, you have to see what people are doing, you need to be around creative people to see what’s happening on the front end. And so hiding out in an office to me was never a way to see everything, be able to represent what was happening in this country,” said Rogers, adding, “Really being close to the artists is always important to me, even though I took big heat for it.”
— Vanessa Lawrence
PUSHY OR PRECOCIOUS? Halfway through the interview process with Tavi Gevinson, The New Yorker’s Lizzie Widdicombe discovered that the pint-size fashion blogger had hired her first publicist. It was a sign the 14-year-old was ready to assume grown-up dimensions. For the magazine’s latest Style issue, out today, Widdicombe visited Gevinson at home in suburban Chicago, at her school and on the road. She also observed fashion’s rock star, Karl Lagerfeld, speaking to Gevinson following his Chanel couture show in Paris. “She has a fresh eye,” he said to the camera (for a Canadian TV show). “She’s not ruined by zillions of bad collections.” And some magazine editors such as Teen Vogue editor in chief Amy Astley even envy her touch. “Sometimes I say to my staff, ‘Wow, I had more fun reading the blog of this teenager than reading professional copy that we wrote.”
Gevinson is courting a certain reader for her Style Rookie blog, more i-D and Pop than those that watch, say, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (which she’s turned down) or “Good Morning America.” “I guess that’s just not a crowd whose eyes I want on me,” she said. But apparently she does want the readers of Harper’s Bazaar. She accepted an assignment from the magazine to review the spring collections, a fact that irked Elle’s Anne Slowey. “Is it gimmicky to hire a 13-year-old au courant ‘sensation’ to write about fashion when the mean age of your reader is over 40? Maybe.” While Joe Zee added, “Let’s say Tavi’s 14, versus someone like Cathy Horyn” — of the Times — “who’s done this for x amount of years and can say, ‘When I was at the Galliano show ten years ago, this is how it was.’ Tavi can’t say that, because she was 4 ten years ago.”
Be that as it may, Gevinson is used to having detractors, and it’s not affecting her ability to get ahead, it seems. She was hired as a stylist for a BlackBook shoot. And her publicist has been charged with getting advertising for her blog. Gevinson submitted a list of preferred design houses (Marc Jacobs, Prada, Balenciaga, Lanvin) and the publicist is proposing banner-ad deals as well as less traditional forms of advertising. “She crossed over into becoming a product,” said articles editor Susan Morrison. “She’s suddenly not this strange little kid anymore. Even while we were working on the piece, we watched her pictures on the blog: She went from a kid to this curvaceous, young teenager.”
Also in the issue: an interview with J. Crew’s Mickey Drexler and a conversation with Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. “He’s so private, so to go to his house, meet his girlfriend, you will see a picture of Zuckerberg that is very different than the one that will be in “The Social Network,” said Morrison.
— Amy Wicks