Q&A: A journey with Nancy Pilcher behind the cover of Vogue Australia

What is a typical day-in-the-life of your job?

My job is now quite diverse from when I was an editor. There isn’t one specific part of my job that I like more than others, because each day brings new challenges. Because I work with so many different countries, there are aspects from each that are different, but underlying each area of my work are my associations and collaborations with the cultures respective to each of the Asian countries I work with: China, Japan, and Korea. Although the nature of the publishing business is similar in each country, it is the approach taken by the different countries that I find fascinating. Some are much more clever in different areas than others, and it’s the unique innovations that appear that are inspiring.

There is no such thing as a typical day in my job. The only constant is the fact I spend a great deal of time on an airplane for the long haul journey to one of the Asian countries I work with. Hong Kong airport is similar to my local village where I live. The people in the shops at the airport know me by name – especially those that sell cameras and all types of computers and gadgets.

In your experience, who are pioneers in the publishing world?

Tyler Brûlé – A true pioneer in publishing from the onset of creating Wallpaper Magazine to his concept of a creative company called Winkreative, and now with his creation of the magazine Monocle and the shops that are an offshoot of the magazine. Tyler created a market for a new generation of young people, and I totally believe in his vision for now and the future.  Tyler is truly unique in the creative marketing field.

Bentham Liu – The Chinese gentleman that launched the first Vogue magazines in Asia — first in Taiwan and then in Mainland China. The preparation for launching Vogue in China was a mammoth task because, five years ago, the name Vogue was not synonymous with a magazine. With his foresight and understanding of the Chinese psyche, he was able to marry the international Conde Nast company with a Chinese partner in order to launch the title. Not only is Bentham steeped in the culture and understanding of the Chinese world, he is a global pioneer with an understanding of international business.

Y. M. Park – The chairman of one of the largest companies in South Korea who, as one of his minor businesses, publishes five titles related to Conde Nast Publications: Vogue, W, GQ, Allure and Vogue Girl. Mr. Park is perhaps one of the most outstanding businessmen in the world today. His company, Doosan Corporation, employs tens of thousands of employees to run the variety of businesses he owns. Considering the vastness of his empire, he considers his employees the jewel in his world. He would know each and every one of them, and ensures they are valued beyond the work tasks they perform for him. It is very rare that anyone would leave Doosan Corporation once employed by Mr. Park.

Who are some of the greatest talents you have worked with?

In my career of 38 years working for Vogue, the list could be enormous, so I will have to just highlight a few, both Australian and international:

Patrick Russell – My first mentor and creative talent I had the honour of working with at the launch of my publishing career. Patrick is an artist, but we worked together when he was taking pictures. He has the most incredible eye, and when we worked on Vogue Australia together, we collaborated in making wonderful pictures with very little resources 35 years ago. The bodies of work he created for Vogue Australia are, to this day, the most iconic of images reflecting Australian life.

Norman Parkinson – The Royal photographer who visited Australia in the early ’80’s. The most perfect English gentleman who photographed a series a fashion images at what was then Ayers Rock that mimicked some of Australia’s famous painters.  A unique and wonderful concept. Parks, as he was known, was far from a diva and revelled in the rough and dusty landscapes we had to work with. I also took a trip with him to Greece where he encompassed the colours and life with his irreverent manner.

Herb Ritts – In the early ’80’s, I had the wonderful opportunity of working with Herb Ritts. This was prior to his enormous rise to fame. We collaborated on a few issues for Vogue Australia, photographing them in New York, and remained in contact via his agent at the time, Vernon Jolly, and my good friend and former collaborator in Australia, Max Pinnell.

As far as Editors, I only ever worked under one person in Australia and that was June McCallum.  June had a vision for making Australian Vogue more modern and a voice for what was going on in the country. She achieved this by employing Patrick Russell as Creative Director and, as I said above, I had the opportunity of collaborating with Patrick for many years.

Because of working for Conde Nast Publications for 38 years, I obviously knew some of the international Vogue editors of the past and know the current editors.

It’s obvious that Anna Wintour is a force in the fashion industry today. Her influence is pervasive globally. She can make or break someone’s career or business. It is important to have someone with such influence and power as a reference point for the fashion industry. Years ago, it was Diana Vreeland, and today, it’s Anna Wintour.

Carine Roitfeld is also a strong force in the fashion world today. As Editor-in-Chief of Paris Vogue, Carine creates true fashion where commercialism is not a consideration. Without Carine’s Paris Vogue, the world of magazines would be a series of catalogues.

The mere fact of his existence — that of Karl Lagerfeld — is a force. His global influence, his persona, his design talent, especially for Chanel, makes him relevant to the world of fashion. Karl’s eccentricities make him unique and, however obvious, a strange character for those not involved in the industry.

Who is your favourite designer?

For most of my career, I was a true devotee of Yves Saint Laurent. I have a collection of his ‘Smokings’ that spans almost three decades. Currently, I suppose I would have to say my favourite would be Alber Elbaz for Lanvin. He is such a charming looking man, and his attitude to making women always look beautiful is so right for now. I have always been a fan of some Japanese designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe.

Who is your favourite fashion photographer?

At the moment, it is is Mikael Jansson.

Do you distinctly remember any fashion shows in particular?

Always the Yves Saint Laurent show in Paris when Yves was designing. His awkward walk to the end of the runway would always bring tears to my eyes because I felt so honoured to be in the same room as such a genius and unassuming man.

Just recently, I had the opportunity of being at Tom Ford’s launch of his new woman’s collection in New York. This was an amazing event with perhaps only 100 people at a salon showing in his store. Tom introduced each special ‘real woman’, i.e. Beyonce, Lauren Hutton, Julianne Moore, Marisa Berenson, etc. Each personality was wearing a unique look created by Tom.  There were no photographers allowed, and any visuals of the show will not be released until January 2011. This show was the talk of New York and possibly for the entire fashion season this year.

How do you see the magazine and publishing world evolving?

This is an area that I’m very interested in because I don’t feel that anyone has yet hit the mark on how to integrate the digital aspect of a magazine to complement the printed version. There is still so much more work to be done and it is truly in its infancy stage now.

What’s your best style tip?

I don’t need to give anyone styling tips. I only like to think of what Coco Chanel said: “If you look at a woman once, she is well dressed; if you look twice, she is over dressed. Oh, how true this is in our day and age!

What are your favourite stores in New York?

Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Ricky’s, Bed Bath and Beyond and Zara.

What is your favourite bar and cocktail of choice?

Lounge at the Mercer Hotel in New York. Cocktail – dirty martini.

[For more of Nancy’s Travel Tips, CLICK HERE]

Nancy Pilcher’s Slice of Advice:

Be as bold and confident as you can be, and be ready for the competition because it is tough in the Big Apple. It used to be that you couldn’t get a visa unless you could prove you could do something better than any American could. Although it’s not the case for visas now, the premise still holds true. You have to up the ante to make a mark. The positive is that there is a great posse of young Australians in New York now who have proven that it is possible to make your mark.

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