While perhaps best known for whimsical fashion shoots as editor in chief of Harper’s Bazaar, Glenda Bailey is to test out her business chops as a global consultant for the title’s 29 editions.
“What I love the most is finding solutions to creative and business problems,” she told WWD on Wednesday, revealing that she would step down from her current role after a storied 19-year tenure, effective March 1.
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She is to work with editorial teams and fashion and beauty marketers “to develop partnerships and portfolios,” Hearst said. “In addition, Bailey will produce two special reports each year.”
Bailey had already done some creative consulting at Bazaar for clients including Tod’s, Tumi and American Express.
Her swan song as editor will be an exhibition devoted to the fashion magazine at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, located in the Louvre’s west wing. Titled “Harper’s Bazaar: First in Fashion,” it is slated to open on Feb. 28 during Paris Fashion Week. Bailey was proud to report that the gala dinner is already sold out and she finagled the sponsors.
Speaking exclusively to WWD, Bailey said she thought about stepping down two years ago when the magazine celebrated its 150th birthday, but she had a couple more things on her to-do list: lighting up the Empire State Building with fashion photography, which she did for the title’s anniversary, and an Arts Décoratifs exhibition. She didn’t give up after an initial “no” from the Paris institution.
“To have an exhibition at such a prestigious museum, which has always been my favorite, is the best compliment I could ever give to my team,” Bailey said in an interview. “I love Bazaar. It’s always been my favorite magazine and the most inspirational.”
She is to help identify her successor to lead the U.S. title, with this simple advice to whomever prevails: “Enjoy the journey because it’s fabulous.”
Hearst said the new editor in chief would be named “shortly.”
An exuberant fashion enthusiast with a can-do attitude and ready laugh, Bailey informed her staff Wednesday morning of the change — the latest shakeup in a magazine publishing world riled by digital disruption and a tsunami of brand-generated content.
The editor was known for her playful approach to fashion imagery, depicting Rihanna swimming with sharks, Angelina Jolie sipping tea surrounded by cheetahs or Lady Gaga stripped of makeup. She collaborated frequently with Karl Lagerfeld on fashion shoots, and invited artists including Cindy Sherman and Takashi Murakami to lend their touch to her pages. She also developed such editorial franchises as Fabulous at Every Age, long before diversity became a thing.
“I’ve wanted Bazaar to be a party that everyone is invited to, and I thank my incredibly talented team for helping me do just that,” Bailey said in a statement. “Fashion and beauty are my career and my hobby — there’s nothing that inspires me more. With the exhibition opening during Paris Fashion Week, the timing is perfect for a new adventure. I’m looking forward to working with brands to find creative solutions and with our global editors, to learn about their audiences and devise ways to surprise and delight them.”
Bailey has been dogged by rumors of an exit for years as mastheads everywhere traded highly paid cultural arbiters for younger, digital and social-media savvy professionals. With her departure from Harper’s, she represents almost the last of the long-serving editors at Hearst Magazines to depart as the company charts a new direction under the digitally driven leadership of its president Troy Young and chief content officer Kate Lewis.
Commenting on the change, Hearst president and chief executive officer Steven Swartz said: “Glenda Bailey’s Harper’s Bazaar has been a powerful voice for fashion innovation around the world. We are so pleased that she will remain with Hearst as she transitions to a role of global fashion thought-leader and brand ambassador.”
While not nearly as famous as her rival Anna Wintour of American Vogue, the British-born Bailey collected her share of accolades, earning a damehood from Queen Elizabeth II last year, an Order of the British Empire in 2008 and a slew of publishing awards, including nine ASME Best Cover Awards and 11 Lucie Awards.
“I’ve been ever so fortunate over the last 32 years to be able to have commercial and critical acclaim,” she said, trumpeting that her Bazaar outsold Marie Claire and Elle on newsstands.
Asked if stepping down was a move into semi-retirement, she retorted: “I have so many ideas, and I’m hardly the retiring type in every sense of the word. I’ll always continue doing something as long as it gives me pleasure. I’m so passionate about the industry.”
Bailey said one of her proudest achievements is training up people in fashion, noting that more than 15 of her deputies have gone on to become editors in chief, including Laura Brown, now at InStyle, and Kristina O’Neill, helming WSJ Magazine.
“I just like the idea of nurturing people and seeing them blossom,” she said. “I like knowing someone has talent and making the most of that talent.”
Bailey noted that her March issue is finished, April is in the works and she always worked with a six-month plan. “There will be no fear of empty pages,” she said with a chuckle.
Born in Derbyshire, England, Bailey studied fashion design at Kingston University and has been an editor in chief her whole career. Before Bazaar, she topped the masthead at the U.S. edition of Marie Claire and before that was at Marie Claire’s British edition, which she launched in 1988.
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