MODEL CEO: Marcus Schenkenberg has nothing to worry about — at least, not yet. Charles Townsend, president and chief executive officer of Condé Nast Publications (owner of WWD), has made his modeling debut. No, Townsend didn’t pull strings to land in the fashion pages of GQ, Details or even Portfolio. Instead, he’s featured in the latest catalogue of Vineyard Vines, the company made famous by its colorful, off-beat ties. Townsend didn’t think twice before donning a Bermuda pink micro gingham shirt and lime green shorts — as did the entire crew for his boat T-Squared. And while his leisure look probably won’t be repeated within the halls of 4 Times Square, Townsend told WWD, “I would do anything for those guys,” speaking of brothers Shep and Ian Murray, the company’s founders. In fact, Townsend rang in the New Year with Shep in Florida. No word yet on whether he’ll model again for the brand, but it’s said he also wore the outfit at the New York Yacht Club’s annual cruise. As the catalogue entry says, “Chuck might be a mover and a shaker, but in his heart we know he’s a sailor.” — Amy Wicks
ZEE AT WORK: Though Elle creative director Joe Zee won’t execute his full vision until the Hachette monthly unveils a redesign in September, his influence has taken hold in the magazine’s June issue. Zee oversaw his first cover with Jessica Biel, who wears a mix of heavy gold accessories and brightly colored dresses and jackets in the photos accompanying the profile inside. Zee said via e-mail that his mission was “to bring that strong energy and a strong point of view of fashion back to Elle.” Although Zee oversaw the cover shoot, international creative director Gilles Bensimon shot the photos. Zee also tapped photographer Alexei Hay to shoot the Technicolor-filled fashion story, “The New American Revolution,” and oversaw the quick-paced fashion spread “Tour de France,” which Bensimon also shot. The fresh perspective of new talent, said Zee, will help “resurrect that strong Elle point of view: bold uses of color, a strong sexiness, a unique fashion sensibility that reflects the Elle girl and a kinetic energy to the pictures.” By September, Zee expects to attract other new talent to the pages, though Bensimon is still expected to shoot most of the covers. — Stephanie D. Smith
MANAGEMENT SHIFT: The two chiefs who took over urban music monthly Vibe have now both left the company after less than a year in charge. The magazine said Friday that chief executive officer Eric Gertler would leave to start his own online venture. Gertler took the ceo post when investment firm The Wicks Group acquired Vibe last July, and Ari Horowitz became president. Horowitz and Gertler also managed Black Book Media, publisher of style monthly Black Book. But sources close to the magazine said staffer discontent with both Horowitz and Gertler began the moment they joined the company. Horowitz was pushed out of Vibe in March. Former Meredith executive Bob Mate will step in as chairman, overseeing the day-to-day operations until a new ceo is named. A Vibe spokeswoman said the title would lay off a total of eight people on both the editorial and business sides, but sources close to the magazine said the number could be as high as 25. Vibe and Vibe Vixen group publisher Len Burnett and editor in chief Danyel Smith are still with the magazine. — S.D.S.
LUXURY LOG-ON: Tally up more defectors from magazines to a Web startup, this time one with a luxury bent. Melissa Biggs Bradley, who spent 12 years at Town & Country and launched its travel spin-off before leaving last July, is close to launching Indagare.com, a subscription-driven luxury travel site. Described on the teaser site as having been launched “out of [Bradley’s] frustration” with the limitations of travel planning resources, Bradley’s offering will be “a club for passionate, like-minded travelers, so you can trade opinions and share discoveries.” A full launch is expected at the end of May, Bradley told WWD. Bradley said she had secured funding last fall through venture capital and other investors in New York and London and on the West Coast. She eventually took with her two Town & Country Travel staffers, Eliza Harris and Simone Girner, both of whom previously worked at Departures. (Heidi Mitchell is now the editor of Town & Country Travel.) The site will include their work, as articles by freelancers and “tastemakers” on cities they know well — for example, Vivienne Tam on Shanghai. There will also be user-generated and wiki content.
But this is no populist utopia. The teaser site bluntly proclaims its elite connections in a section called “Friends,” which lists a few dozen names that include Tory Burch, Frédéric Fekkai and Tiffany Dubin. Membership will be by invitation or application only and will cost between $250 and $1,200 a year. “The application is not meant to be discriminatory — the idea is to figure out if people have the same ideas about what they want out of travel,” Bradley said. (It includes questions about one’s top three destinations and three favorite hotels.)
Connoisseur membership, the most expensive, includes “a dedicated phone line and e-mail so you have direct access to Indagare experts, who will give you advice and referrals for your specific travel needs,” as well as special rates on private air travel and villa rentals. Bradley said she expected membership to drive revenue, and to have very little advertising except possible sponsored e-mails.
Indagare will be competing with established travel brands like Condé Nast’s Concierge.com and, in particular, Quintessentially, a well-established luxury travel membership service founded by Ben Elliot, whose Web site’s design is strikingly echoed by Indagare’s. — Irin Carmon