It’s onto the next for Stefano Tonchi.
The former editor of W — where he reigned for a decade before a conspicuous fallout last year with its former owner Condé Nast that led to his ouster, his filing a lawsuit and Condé a countersuit (both ongoing) — has a new role at the nearly 100-year-old L’Officiel, founded as a French fashion magazine. Tonchi this week will become its chief creative officer, a first for the company, now operated by chief executive officer Benjamin Eymère, part of the Jalou family that still owns the publication.
“It’s quite an adventure,” Tonchi said, speaking from Milan, where he’s working on an exhibition coming in February for the Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana. “I love legacy brands. It’s an interesting challenge because there’s incredible potential in the digital and social space, but so much to be done.”
Serving as a consultant for L’Officiel since he left W last summer, Tonchi said he’s going to focus first on coordination between the magazine’s publications in 31 countries, most of which are currently operated through licensing deals. Efforts around content coordination have already begun, but Tonchi wants to create a L’Officiel with “a unique and global voice” that emphasizes its Eurocentric and particularly French sensibility and point of view. But also a publication that’s creating more original content, and more social content that’s easily shared between brands. He’s also looking to bring his known mix of high fashion, contemporary art and Hollywood to the content.
“That’s always been my recipe…it’s now about coordinating all this creativity,” Tonchi added.
Currently at work on a number of projects to celebrate L’Officiel’s 100th anniversary next year, including a book, a podcast, a documentary and plans for online content, and planning to get to work overseeing the magazine’s disparate editors and make some additional hires at some point, Tonchi is not giving up his ability to do side projects. There will be more exhibitions and he will continue to consult with a few brands, a flexibility that’s been worked into his deal with L’Officiel.
“The rules of the game are changing…we have to define our positions,” Tonchi said. “Nothing is what it used to be.”
But this is fine with ceo Eymère, who said he’s been wanting to work with Tonchi for some time, having known him for several years. He had zero hesitation about working with Tonchi, even after he sued Condé Nast regarding alleged issues with his severance pay.
“His leaving was the best news ever,” Eymère said lightly, speaking from his holiday in the Canary Islands. “When I found out, I soon saw him in Paris and I told him, ‘I’ve dreamed of working with you.’ I saw this as a great business opportunity.”
Eymère added that his mother and L’Officiel co-chair Marie-José Jalou was also excited about getting Tonchi on board, as was financial backer and co-chair Christopher Brown, founder of Gem Investments.
“With Stefano, as a person and his experience, he’s as American as he is European,” Eymère noted. L’Officiel two years ago launched in the U.S. and is looking to build its presence here through a fresh investment of several million dollars from Gem. The company previously invested to help launch L’Officiel in the U.S., putting its total backing of the company somewhere between $5 million and $10 million, according to Eymère.
“For Stefano, this is an even bigger opportunity than W,” Eymère noted. “He’ll be overseeing more editors, a bigger community and one that’s more international.”
With the new investment from Gem, Eymère is looking to add even more direct operations to the business. Currently, L’Officiel only operates six editions directly — France, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil and U.S. — with the rest done through local licenses. But four new direct operations are set to launch in the next two years. First Japan, then the U.K., Australia and Nigeria. And the new types of content L’Officiel is diving into for the anniversary are here to stay, as well, so Tonchi will have plenty to keep him busy in 2020.
“The way we’re looking at the anniversary,” Eymère said, “is almost like the footprint for the next hundred years.”
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