Stefano Tonchi never thought he’d be putting together a magazine without stepping foot into an office, much less without printing out a single page proof.
“It’s a completely new experience, let’s put it like that,” Tonchi said, speaking from his home on Long Island, where he’s been essentially every day since spring due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. He began his new job as contributing global creative director of L’Officiel at the start of the year, but it was only a few weeks before lockdown in the West began. Still, he’s been putting together a reimagined version of the magazine for its new fall issue.
“I’ve only seen it in digital so I’m dying to see a print copy,” Tonchi added.
The new issue is one of four main print editions a year for L’Officiel, with another two editions for men and two special ones. This is a much scaled-back plan for L’Officiel, owned by France’s Jalou Media, as it’s not gone unscathed by the economic fallout of the pandemic. It decided to cut back print issues and had trouble paying scores of freelancers, many who turned in work long before Tonchi joined and the pandemic began. A company spokeswoman said L’Officiel is working to pay all freelancers that are owed over the next six months in installments. Current freelancers are said to have been paid in full and on time.
But some former freelancers are claiming that, while they are being offered payments, they are not for the full amounts owed. So they’re calling it a “delay tactic” and one that L’Officiel has used before, allegedly with no results for freelancers. While the issue is said to be being addressed, with an aim to getting all freelancers paid in the next six months, the spokeswoman only allowed that she’s “Not privy to specifics as they relate to discussions with various individuals.”
But it’s been up to Tonchi to oversee the updated look of L’Officiel and it’s the first magazine he’s put together anywhere since early 2019, when his tenure as editor in chief of Condé Nast’s W ended in dramatic fashion.
“I wasn’t sure I’d be talking about doing a magazine again in my life,” he said. But he is and, even without being produced amid a pandemic, Tonchi’s L’Officiel marks a departure. There are models and actors draped in luxury fashion (mostly advertisers, as usual), but the magazine is more cohesive, with a theme running throughout. There’s also a new typeface and some more bold names involved, like photographer Cass Bird and Vanessa Seward.
Tonchi found some new people to help update the magazine, too. On board now are Anthony Cenname, formerly publisher of WSJ magazine and vice president of luxury at Dow Jones, who’s been tasked with pumping up ad pages as L’Officiel’s global chief revenue officer. Joshua Glass, formerly digital director of CR Fashion Book, has come on as global digital editorial director in order to broaden social and digital. And Trey Laird of his agency Laird + Partners led the creative direction of the new U.S. fall issue and worked with Tonchi to figure out things like a new “language” and “vocabulary” that would be the foundation of L’Officiel’s 30 global issues. Most are operated through license agreements.
Finding “a common ground” allowed stories in the magazine to be produced by teams all over, Tonchi said. A jewelry spread came out of Mexico, a beauty spread out of Malaysia. Meanwhile, a conversation between Pierre Cardin and Simon Porte Jacquemus came out of France and most of the pages were actually put together in Italy.
“We would all talk on video together and then someone, somewhere would execute,” Tonchi said. “It’s the future for companies that want to work on a global scale — you can’t afford anymore to have one originator of all the content.”
But the language the global team is operating on is not that of W, which Tonchi led for a decade and which was long before that a source of all that was new and revelatory in fashion.
“This is not something revolutionary in any possible way,” Tonchi said of the reimagined L’Officiel. “It’s not something to make only the hip fashion people in Paris or New York happy. It’s for people all over, in Ukraine and Turkey. And it’s not that they are behind at all, it’s just different.”
“L’Officiel is a brand that’s always served the fashion industry,” Tonchi added. “It started as a house organ for French couture. I’ve been looking through the archive a lot and there’s not a famous stylist or editor or photographer leading things, but an almost collective story of what fashion has been for the last 100 years. That’s what I want to bring back to the brand.”
He also admitted that he’s been pushing the magazine to feel “more elegant, grown up” — inside and out.
“What the company needs is some common sense and some common ground,” he said.