ESSENCE VENTURES’ NEW HIRE: Corey Stokes has a new gig.
The longtime Highsnobiety fashion director and noted stylist has joined Essence Ventures as senior vice president of creative, overseeing the creative direction of not just Essence magazine but Afropunk, Beautycon and all of Essence’s umbrella brands and festivals.
With Stokes’ past editorial work and celebrity clients, executives no doubt want him to elevate the brands’ fashion offerings and he’ll be working with the relevant teams to build a creative strategy for each brand, as well as develop fashion partnerships.
“My first project is Essence and that’s on both the print side and the digital side, as well as the festival,” said Stokes over the phone from New Orleans, where he was on a site visit and sponsor walkthrough for Essence Festival, which is back for the first time since the pandemic began. “I’m excited for the challenge, I’m excited for the opportunity and I’m excited for the growth.”
Of his decision to join the company, the fact that Essence is now completely Black-owned spoke to him the most. “Being a Black man myself who was raised and surrounded by Black women, I always had a bit of a soft spot and love for the Essence brand,” he added. “So to have the opportunity to step into this space and really think how creatively it shows up to the world, it was a no-brainer for me.”
As for his fashion styling and creative consulting agency, he’ll continue to work with clients. He’s styled the likes of Kid Cudi, A$AP Ferg and Michael B. Jordan, as well as having worked with brands such as Hermès, Burberry and Louis Vuitton.
Essence began life in the late 1960s and since 2018 has been owned by entrepreneur Richelieu Dennis, with the parent company being named Essence Ventures. In September, it acquired Beautycon out of foreclosure. — KATHRYN HOPKINS
STYLE SETTERS: The latest installment of the International Best Dressed List will be unveiled via Air Mail on Saturday with a more inclusive lens.
All of the categories that were previously defined as male and female have been wiped clean and replaced with a more of-the-moment gender-neutral view. This applies to the “Best Dressed,” “Fashion Professionals,” “Originals,” “Hall of Fame” and “Couples” categories. Created in 1940 by the fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert, the IBDL has always had a global spin.
The 81st all-digital edition of the IBDL will go out to Air Mail subscribers Saturday but non-subscribers can access it by registering their emails with Air Mail. Following Lambert’s death in 2003, the list was bequeathed to Amy Fine Collins, Graydon Carter, Reinaldo Herrera and Aimee Bell.
“The IBDL has always been a very elastic apparatus, since Eleanor Lambert set it up that way to accommodate shifts in the culture,” Collins said. “Part of the fascination of fashion, and by extension the list, is seeing what people are wearing. And who we are most noticing in their clothes changes from year to year depending on what’s going on in the world.”
Men were first added under the Fashion Professionals category in 1966 and then they received their own official category in 1968. The Fashion Professionals category was introduced in 1948. “As much as it was revolutionary at the time to start putting men on the list, now it’s a moment where it makes more sense to fuse the two lists and not just to have men and women. Binary divisions in gender don’t seem right for today’s world especially when we’re discussing fashion. We’ve seen how fashion shows have combined menswear and womenswear. And the distinction between menswear and womenswear is disappearing,” Collins said.
The winners remain top secret, but Collins did say that the 81st edition will feature a trans person for the first time. In 2015, the first gay couple landed on the list to coincide with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage federally. “All these breakthroughs in the culture end up being mirrored in the list,” Collins said. “With the Civil Rights Act [of 1964], you saw more people of color coming on the list, although the list was surprisingly diverse from the early years.”
As for what led to some of the livelier discussion and debates related to this year’s list, Collins said, “There’s always a question, when you’re talking about well-dressed celebrities, whether they look as they do, whether they carry their clothes or choose their clothes as well as they do because they have a great stylist or because they have some innate style themselves. That is always a little bit difficult to parse out. They all use stylists. The difference is — is this a person who cares about clothes, fashion and self-expression of fashion, when they are not on a red carpet? Do they have a strong enough presence as a style entity that they will dominate the look as opposed to having the clothes wear them? That shows.”
Referring to a recent past list-maker, Rihanna, as an example, Collins said, “No one would ever give Rihanna anything but full credit for how she is able to carry herself to express who she is by what she wears. It’s obvious and public knowledge that she works with a stylist, but she’s not just a paper doll that somebody’s dressing for a particular occasion. She does have her very own distinct style.”
Regarding other celebrities, Collins allowed “there’s nothing wrong with not caring about your clothes, when you’re not on the red carpet. But that does not make the IBDL contender if you have no interest except for when it’s professionally necessary. You’re just kind of playing the character of the person at the awards ceremony and the character of the movie star, as opposed to living it.”
IBDL Hall of Famers — who are out of the running for yearly voting — like Nicole Kidman “clearly has a great fashion presence and people are influenced by her” and the Duchess of Cambridge “has a very clear, distinctly influential manner of expressing who she is and what her purpose is, when she is getting dressed,” Collins said. “That’s different than a celebrity, who is somebody’s Barbie [doll] to get dressed going out for a public occasion.”
All in all, the most amazing thing is that disparate people, with disparate points of view and backgrounds, finally reach a consensus, Collins said. There is an informal group of about 20 people who are consulted. André Leon Talley, who died in January, was always “a significant contributor to the discussions for years, going back to the ’80s at least,” Collins said. Fashion scholar and curator Harold Koda has been pitching in on the committee for years. Bethann Hardison is another contributor. Miami-based influencer Danie Gomez-Ortigoza “is a woman of great style, who, of course, brings another perspective to the decision-making,” Collins said. — ROSEMARY FEITELBERG
BAQUET’S NEW ROLE: Last week’s big news was that The New York Times named managing editor Joseph Kahn as successor to longtime executive editor Dean Baquet, who is about to turn 66 — the typical age that masthead editors step down from the role.
This week’s big news from the Gray Lady is Baquet’s next move.
In a memo sent to staffers Tuesday, publisher A. G. Sulzberger repeated that Baquet will remain at the publication and revealed that he will lead a new local investigative journalism fellowship at the newspaper.
“As I’ve said several times in the last week, Dean is perhaps the finest editor The Times has ever known. He has a deep passion for local and investigative work, and this initiative pits his relentless journalistic mind and ability to nurture talent against one of our industry’s most urgent needs,” Sulzberger said.
According to the memo, the yearlong fellowship, targeted especially at applicants with backgrounds that are underrepresented in newsrooms and investigative reporting, will produce investigative projects “focused on the state and local level, where deeply reported accountability journalism is most needed.”
As well as being mentored by Baquet, the budding journalists will have access to a group of veteran investigative editors who he’ll handpick.
“The decline of local investigative reporting is a national tragedy. It means that fewer and fewer people across the country have access to essential information about their communities — too often there is no one to track school board meetings; comb through court dockets, or reveal the significance of everyday developments in towns, cities and states,” Sulzberger added. “No watchdog to keep local governments honest. No one to pursue a tip or unearth hidden information. As a result, it’s almost certain that corruption, injustice and wrongdoing go unnoticed. It’s our hope that this fellowship can play a small role in addressing this dangerous and growing societal gap.”
For his part, Baquet, who got his start as a reporter for The States-Item and The Times-Picayune in his hometown of New Orleans and later, at The Chicago Tribune, said: “I care deeply about investigative reporting. And I fear a future where there’s less of it as more and more news organizations have to cut back. I would love to have the chance to help train a new generation of investigators.” (Where these investigators will publish their stories remains a question. According to numerous studies and reports, more than 2,000 local newspapers have closed or merged since 2004, and about 6 percent of U.S. counties don’t have a local newspaper.)
Kahn, meanwhile, will step into his new role on June 14, overseeing all aspects of The Times’ global newsroom. Since taking on the role of managing editor, Kahn has led a modernization and expansion of The Times’ newsroom by introducing hubs in London and Seoul, and a digital-first editing structure. More recently, he has been a coleader of the newsroom’s diversity, equity and inclusion action plan. — K.H.