For much of their history, fashion publications were only able to exist because brands and houses would buy tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising space within their pages. But when the pandemic ravaged economies everywhere, ad spend was the first thing to go for most companies, causing as much as an 80 percent drop in budget. Additionally, now that brands have access to digital technology that provides them with specific insights into the performance of their ads and their audiences, many are wondering why they should still invest in traditional platforms, especially when they are significantly lagging in embracing diversity and overall social progress. And as fashion has been unsuccessful in attempting to capitalize on traditional media’s move from print to digital subscription, what’s next for these legacy brands?
To break it down, there’s a choice of two paths forward. For publications that don’t care to shift their purpose, for a period of time, they will be able to coast on a recognizable name and make some changes to content. For some legacy brands with several generations of readers, there’s an opening for an e-commerce angle. Through brand partnerships replacing advertising, the curation of shopping experiences and product guides could give traditional publications a new niche. The other option, which I hope proves to be the predominant one, would be to follow in the footsteps of Harper’s Bazaar. When Hearst appointed Samira Nasr as editor of chief, making her the first woman of color to hold the role at its fashion leader, the publishing giant took some major action that many of its peers have failed to even discuss. In many ways, fashion media has been built on aspiration, and under Nasr’s leadership, that aspiration is moving toward social progress, not fame or fortune. In the next decade, fashion media will be categorized by those who lend their platforms to brands based on price tags and those who prioritize purpose.
Schuyler told Business of Fashion, “‘I want to be able to love the fashion industry more purely. The more I learn about it, I think, ‘Well this needs to change.’ It needs to change so that I can keep loving it.’” This is the energy all facets of the fashion industry, especially the media, need in the 2020s.