Stephen Gan’s tenure at Elle magazine is said to be nearing its end.
Sources said the creative director of the Hearst title since 2018 is being pushed out by Nina Garcia, the editor in chief of Elle, who pulled him over from Harper’s Bazaar soon after she got the top job. Gan also spent 15 years as creative director at Bazaar under its editor Glenda Bailey, who has just been succeeded by Samira Nasr, so he’s been with Hearst for close to 20 years.
A representative of Hearst declined to comment. Gan and Garcia could not be reached.
According to sources, it’s been decided that Gan will no longer have any work with Elle or Hearst going forward and that his contract, up in several weeks, will not be renewed.
Gan, whom Garcia has praised as a “creative visionary,” is being ousted over recent complaints about comments he’s made over the years, allegedly showing not only racial insensitivity but misogyny.
Gan, after this story was initially published, insisted to WWD that he is still working with Elle and on September issues. September issues typically close in early July.
“It’s sad for me that many have fallen prey to vicious rumors that say otherwise,” he added.
Several instances of Gan’s workplace conduct claimed by anonymous sources were recently outlined in a post by Instagram account Diet Prada, all of which related to his day-to-day operation of V magazine, the oversize glossy he’s been running for 20 years. But Garcia’s decision is said to have had reasons beyond that post alone, including complaints she’s heard from staff and industry people that Gan has worked with on shoots. It’s understood that there have been a number of complaints over the years, and much murmuring, some recently brought up again.
It remains to be seen what effect, if any, Gan’s alleged comments and professional impropriety will have on V. It, like all magazines, depends on advertising revenue to survive. In an April interview with WWD, Gan said advertising was at a “standstill” due to the pandemic, although he was hopeful it would improve.
There have been rumblings for months that Gan’s departure was on the horizon. One source told WWD earlier this year that Garcia was unlikely to renew Gan’s contract this summer, although the reasons why were not made clear. Others speculated that stylist Alex White, hired as Elle’s new fashion director in February, was being lined up to take over some of Gan’s responsibilities.
Gan is not the only media executive to have been pushed out in recent weeks as the protests over the police killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people have led to a global movement focused on addressing continued racism in all kinds of institutions. Many people working in media have come forward, typically on social media, to speak of negative and often racist experiences as people of color working in the media industry.
In just a few weeks, the public outcry has resulted in the ousting of Refinery29’s editor in chief Christene Barberich, Bon Appétit’s top editor Adam Rapoport and Condé Nast’s vice president and head of programming for lifestyle and style Matt Duckor. Leandra Medine also took a step back from leading the fashion and lifestyle site she founded, Man Repeller, after being called out for a lack of diversity on staff. Jane Larkworthy has been suspended from New York Magazine’s The Cut after a comment on the brown face photo that led to Rapoport’s exit. And James Bennett, the opinion editor of the New York Times, was ousted after publishing a piece by a Republican senator calling for military force to be used in order to quell the ongoing public protests in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing. A number of Times employees took public issue with the op-ed being published, saying it endangered the lives of Black people, thousands of whom have been protesting in public.
The issue of diversity has even come to the doorstep of Anna Wintour, who has only in recent years made an effort to make the pages of Vogue more diverse, along with some other parts of Condé Nast in her relatively few years as artistic director of the publication. The speculation that the current movement would lead to her resignation led to Condé chief executive having to clarify on Friday that renewed rumors of Wintour’s imminent exit were untrue.
Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include the stance of Gan after its initial publication.
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