Stephen Gan is looking back to his roots as he navigates the media landscape during the coronavirus crisis.
The founder and editor in chief of 20-year-old V Magazine wants to build the glossy fashion tome’s subscriber network, with the majority of sales newsstand-based. Gan has experience in this area, having cofounded Visionaire, the pricy in-between fashion and art publication that was almost purely subscription-based.
“Twenty years later, I’m slowly returning to that model,” he told WWD in a phone interview from his SoHo, Manhattan apartment while looking out onto the usually bustling but now empty streets.
“[Newsstands] were already all suffering before the crisis and now that this has hit we are going to need to turn to subscribers more and people who can preorder the copies at home,” he said. “I’m hoping that the loyal following and group of supporters out there who may have for a while got used to picking up issues on the newsstand are going to return to being subscribers.”
It’s partly for this reason that on Thursday evening, V, which started life as an offshoot of Visionaire, is hosting a special newsletter subscriber-only launch event for its upcoming summer issue where its 15 covers (yes, 15) will be revealed for the first time live on Zoom to the models they feature. Kaia Gerber, Lila Moss and Adut Akech will be among the gaggle of models in virtual attendance, while the covers’ photographers, duo Inez and Vinoodh, will host. Subscribers will be sent a special link on the day with all the details.
The covers were shot during New York Fashion Week, before the coronavirus swept through the U.S., and they highlight the next generation of models, according to Gan, who likened it to a debutante ball.
“In the realm of the fashion modeling industry, how often do you get to stop and actually say, ‘hello world here’s a new generation of girls,’” he said, adding that he’s passionate about developing new talent.
While some, like Gerber, are from what could be described as “new,” there are also lesser-known models who are more recent arrivals to the scene and he believes boosting their profiles could help them during a difficult time.
“[Inez and Vinoodh] said the world sees these 15 models as being beautiful, confident and strong, but it’s been also a time when we all feel very vulnerable and models are freelancers. Therefore who’s to say when it will all start up again for each of them,” he said. “When Inez and Vinoodh expressed that concern to me via Zoom call a week ago, I just felt like yes that’s total affirmation that this is the right thing to do right now.”
Teasing the event and the covers on social media has already had a positive response in terms of preorders, added Gan.
As for what the next issue of V could look like, he is still hoping that more shoots will be able to happen by the end of next month. “The period between Memorial Day weekend and July 4 weekend is the craziest time of year in shoot production,” he said. “My wish is that every day in the month of June we’ll be shooting and we can make up for lost time.” If that’s not possible, Gan doesn’t have a contingency plan, but stressed that he will by that time.
There will of course be some COVID-19-related content in the next issue, although most of that will be online, including a creativity search program launched for musical talent, models and photographers and digital artists. “I feel like we can address this period better on the web site,” he said. “I do feel like print issues that come out closer to the fall, they have to acknowledge what has gone on in the world. But I think the bigger mission of a print magazine toward the fall is to sort of help revive and celebrate the fashion industry again.”
And there will be print for V — six issues a year still and two for V Man — with Gan not planning to make any changes. Some other independent magazines like Dazed have pressed pause on a summer print issue against a backdrop of falling advertising revenues across the industry due to COVID-19.
“I think there’s no other way to say it: Things are at a standstill,” Gan said of advertising, even as he is hopeful that it will improve. “It’s been a time of showing mutual support to each other from magazine to brand and vice versa, so I have a feeling that nurturing certain relationships that you’ve built over 20 years will only result in mutual benefits more toward the end of this year.”
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