IN AND OUT OF VOGUE: Within days of British Vogue naming Edward Enninful as its new editor, another game of thrones has unfolded at Condé Nast, with the abrupt ejection of Princess Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz and her replacement by Manuel Arnaut as editor in chief of Vogue Arabia.
Arnaut’s appointment makes him the third male editor in chief named at a Vogue title over the last few months, following Enninful’s appointment and that of Emanuele Farneti as editor in chief of Vogue Italia.
Arnaut’s appointment was revealed today by Shashi Menon, chief executive officer and publisher of Vogue Arabia. Arnaut previously was editor in chief of Architectural Digest Middle East, where he directed the launch of the title in 2015. He began his career at Vogue Portugal and then moved to GQ Portugal as editor.
His move to Vogue Arabia comes amid a tumultuous time at the title. According to multiple industry sources, the fallout between the princess and Nervora, Condé Nast International’s local partner (she’s gone on record confirming she was fired and that’s she calling in the lawyers), was inevitable.
The rift came just days after a party to launch the world’s 22nd edition of Vogue in Doha, Qatar, where Lauryn Hill performed for guests including Peter Dundas, Olivier Theyskens, Paul Andrew, Delfina Delettrez Fendi, Noor Fares, Laudomia Pucci, Guram Gvasalia and Zuhair Murad.
“It was a dream that someday we would get Vogue into the region, but never in a million years did I imagine I would be at the helm of it,” the upbeat Aljuhani Abdulaziz, a retailer-turned-editor, said on the night.
But she was already on thin ice with Nervora, a Dubai-based digital media start-up: Her relationship with the team at Nervora had always been fractious, while key editors and writers had quit the publication in past weeks, according to industry sources.
“They were difficult to work with, and she was always fighting with them,” said a source. Another source added that Nervora’s strategies and expectations were unaligned with those of Condé. A Condé spokesperson declined to comment on the editor’s departure.
The source said Nervora has an advertorial mentality and is used to raking in cash from brands who pay for play in the Middle Eastern titles. Apparently, they were surprised by the investment required for the launch, and the prospect of having to wait for the magazine to turn a profit.
Nervora could not be reached for comment at press time but in a statement praised Aljuhani Abdulaziz and glossed over any infighting.
“As the Launch editor in chief of Vogue Arabia, Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz has earned a place in the history of fashion and Vogue,” Menon said. “Following one of the most high-profile debuts for any edition of Vogue, Abdulaziz will move on from her role, having successfully fulfilled her commitment to create a platform from which to challenge perceptions of Arab women and present alternative narratives coming out of the Middle East, while exposing diverse audiences to the region’s rich past and contemporary design scene. All at Vogue Arabia wish to thank Deena for the visionary launch and for preparing the groundwork for the future of the brand.”
Nervora launched Style.com Arabia in 2011, and the partnership later morphed into Vogue Arabia, the inaugural issue of which hit newsstands on March 5. Its cover model was Gigi Hadid.
According to the Nervora web site, “Our team is young and ambitious, with backgrounds in Silicon Valley, Hollywood and premier consulting firms. Through our global expertise we have established ourselves as a leading voice in digital media for the Middle East.”
Arnaut clearly already knows the inner workings of Nervora given his stint at Architectural Digest Middle East. Now his task will be to stabilize the Vogue title.
“After starting my professional life at Vogue, and having grown up devouring each page of its international editions, I’m deeply honored to have the opportunity to come ‘home,’ at the helm of Vogue Arabia,” he said in a statement. “With the rich heritage of the Middle East as a starting point — and its eyes on the future — Vogue Arabia celebrates the region’s fashion and cultural identity, presenting it to the world in a luxurious, upbeat, and contemporary style. In an exciting climate of modernity and creativity, the team and I are committed to working towards a Vogue Arabia that is the proud voice of the region, representing the strength and allure of the Arab woman.”