Former Harper's Bazaar Australia editor in chief Kellie Hush, co-founder of new accessories line The Way

SYDNEY – Harper’s Bazaar Australia editor in chief Kellie Hush said Saturday she will step down from her position after six years to launch “a unique fashion brand.”

Hush will leave the magazine on Aug. 31, with the September edition her final issue.

Deputy editor and beauty/features editor Eugenie Kelly will take over as acting editor.

A representative for publisher Bauer Media confirmed Hush has resigned but declined to comment further, noting the company will be releasing a statement on Monday.

“I’m not Anna Wintour,” said Hush, “but I think people start speculating about [editors] moving on and I made the decision, it was a personal decision, I’m doing something really exciting which I want to do.”

She added of her abrupt exit, which surprised the fashion industry, “When I spoke to my publisher Fiorella Di Santo [after resigning on Friday], I was very clear I wanted to control the message. The business is in great shape, we have just smashed our September budget for advertising. At this stage our sales are up 13 percent on budget, which in this kind of market is smashing it. I wanted to leave on my own terms.”

Hush declined to disclose any other details about her new venture, other than confirming it won’t be in the luxury space and that it is unrelated to a new company called Kleeh Pty Ltd, which WWD can reveal was registered by Hush with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission in January 2017.

Further information is due to be released in a fortnight, she said.

Hush backtracked on her comments reported by The Sydney Morning Herald that “Bazaar is a luxury magazine that can’t be published on the smell of an oily rag, so I’d like to finish my tenure while that rag still smells like Chanel No. 5,” quelling speculation that Bauer may be planning to cut staff and merge the editorial teams for its prestige fashion titles Harper’s Bazaar and Elle into one centralized editorial hub — along the lines of what the company revealed for its entertainment division in June.

“At this stage, there is no plan for Elle and Bazaar to merge,” said Hush. “I had that discussion again with Fiorella on Friday. That is not being envisaged at this point in time.”

In late 2016, following double-digit circulation declines at a number of publications — which has seen the axing of a plethora of titles — Bauer Media, along with Australia’s two other major magazine publishers, Pacific Magazines and News Corp’s NewsLifeMedia, withdrew from the Audited Media Association of Australia’s circulation audit.

This leaves readership metrics published by Roy Morgan and Ipsos as the only independent publishing data.

According to Roy Morgan research, Harper’s Bazaar’s magazine readership declined 13.4 percent to 116,000 in the 12 months to March 2018, following a 21.8 percent gain in 2017, and 23.1 percent and 25.5 percent declines in 2016 and 2015, respectively.

Harper’s Bazaar’s cross-platform audience grew 50.7 percent to 339,000 in the 12 months ending March 2018.

Elle’s magazine readership grew 5.1 percent to 164,000 and cross-platform readership 49.2 percent to 443,000 in the year to March 2018.