As the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue since the magazine’s inception 10 years ago, Amy Astley has a guiding mantra when it comes to interacting with her readers.
“It’s a big mistake to underestimate today’s teenagers, as I think adults often do,” she said. “The truth is that kids have access to all the information out there. You really have to up your game.”
And that has been the challenge for Teen Vogue, which was launched in the era before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Now every teenager has quick access to all the latest looks and celebrity fashion via social media and a smartphone.
“We try to be leaders instead of followers,” said Astley. “We have our own point of view on fashion, which comes from the people we work with, who are artists. We put our own spin on fashion for our teen reader and inspire her, lead her with something different from everyday life.”
That may explain why Teen Vogue – a print publication with an additional digital presence – has outlasted most teen magazines (the other survivor is Seventeen). Astley worked at Vogue as beauty director and was then handpicked by the magazine’s editor, Anna Wintour, to launch a magazine geared toward a younger generation.
Though Vogue may emphasize high-end designers and couture fashion, Teen Vogue – with its tagline “Fashion Starts Here” -- is decidedly democratic.
“Girls drawn to Teen Vogue are all about personal style,” said Astley. “It’s not about a lot of money. There’s so much fashion out there. H&M, Forever 21, Aeropostale, American Eagle. You can get so many good looks at such a good price. You do not need a lot of money. But maybe you could mix it with a Chanel bag. Something that you can dream about or find in Grandma’s closet or buy it vintage.”
With magazine production three to four months ahead of the current season, Astley is already working on the magazine’s fall issues. But she shared her thoughts on the big trends for summer fashion.
“We always see it’s between the tiny miniskirt and the maxi dress for the girls,” said Astley. “Lots of white, it’s a huge trend. Denim is looking amazing for summer, and printed denim is so great. There are so many good choices in it. And actually punk because of the Met is something that’s really still percolating,” she added, referring to the recent celebrity-laden Met Ball to open the exhibit “Punk: Chaos to Couture” at New York City's Metropolitan Museum.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of kids getting into punk and grunge. It was big on the runways for fall and they can re-interpret it all summer,” she said.
Though many of the fashion spreads feature professional models, Astley said Teen Vogue balances that by “showing real girls in the magazine. Lots and lots of real girls such as musicians, singers, athletes and girls involved in charitable activities.” That’s especially important for its core group of readers, ages 14 to 24, for whom body image is a sensitive issue. Covers featuring “real girls” such as Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner have done very well for the magazine, according to Astley.
But Teen Vogue is not only about fashion. For a media- and technology-saturated generation, Astley said the stories with the most impact for her readers have been “low-tech, evergreen stories,” such as critical mothers, binge drinking and coping with alcoholic family members or boyfriends.
“Their issues and problems are exactly the same as they were for our mother’s generation,” she said. “I think a Teen Vogue girl, to me she’s not just a fashionista. She’s a creative soul, and I think that’s why she’s reading our magazine and trying to make a creative life and make the most of herself, which includes being a good person.”
As the mother of two daughters, including a 14-year-old, Astley’s advice for her teen readers is simple.
“Respect yourself, that’s my No. 1 advice,” she said. “Take care of your body, take care of your health. Respect yourself and then you can respect the others around you.”