To say it was a seminal year for fashion publications may be an understatement.
Beyond media organizations experimenting with new technologies — including everything from VR and chatbots to drones — many decided to take an unprecedented political stance, in response to proposed policies and statements made by President Donald Trump. While some editors sought out ways to walk a delicate line of galvanizing readers without alienating Trump supporters, others opted for bold proclamations decrying the administration.
From appointing new columnists with a feminist slant to going completely dark on International Women’s Day, several media organizations took on a stronger political stance than ever before. At the same time, many were dealing with internal turmoil and finding new ways to profit in a difficult media landscape.
We took a look back at some of the biggest moments across fashion and style publications in 2017.
The year brought the departure of several top editors at major fashion publications — Cindi Leive stepped down from Glamour after 16 years, Robbie Myers left Elle after 17, and Graydon Carter and Alexandra Shulman bid farewell to Vanity Fair and British Vogue, respectively, both after 25 years.
In turn, their departures ushered in a new era of leadership for the publications they left behind. Appointments like Edward Enninful as editor-in-chief of British Vogue and Radhika Jones as top editor at Vanity Fair were celebrated for bringing more diversity to publications with a traditionally white leadership base. Enninful has already made efforts to hire a more diverse staff and contributing editors, an initiative supermodel Naomi Campbell lauded, after calling out the homogeneity under the Alexandra Shulman administration on Instagram.
The year had an explosive start for many editors, as they strategized around how to plan coverage for the Women’s March, a nationwide protest held on the day of President Trump’s inauguration. Publications like Glamour and Refinery29 planned special features and chartered buses for reporters covering the event, as well as for employees participating in the march.
For many, Women’s March coverage built upon their increased political reporting leading up to the 2016 election. Given that the readership of fashion publications is largely female, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy proved popular fodder among the usual array of beauty product reviews and sex tips. Even Anna Wintour decided to take a stand: Vogue endorsed Clinton, then proceeded to make elusive comments about whether or not it would feature First Lady Melania Trump on its cover, per tradition.
As the year went on and the efforts of women around the nation continued onward, media organizations like New York Magazine’s The Cut went dark on International Women’s Day. The decision to completely eschew content was an ode to “A Day Without a Woman,” an unofficial follow-up to the Women’s March movement that encouraged women to stay home to make a point about the pervasive pay gap.
In order to maintain the momentum of the Women’s March, Teen Vogue brought Lauren Duca on as a columnist, debuting “Thigh High Feminism” after the success of her piece “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America” in December 2016. Adding to that effort, the magazine launched “The Woke Letter,” a newsletter that builds upon its existing daily news and politics roundup to keep readers in the know. For its last print issue, it tapped Hillary Clinton as a guest editor and contributor, and put her on the cover.
Capping off the year, Glamour hosted a summit that focused on how to fight sexual harassment and assault in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
As media conglomerates like Condé Nast and Hearst continue to downsize and consolidate by shuttering print publications and optimizing digital teams, finding ways to stand out has become vital. As a result, brands are testing emerging technologies in an effort to woo readers and get eyeballs on their site. This year W magazine launched its first VR issue, and Hearst looked for ways to integrate drone technology into brands like Elle and Harper’s Bazaar by using them for editorial photoshoots. Others, like Esquire, experimented with voice technology, testing ways to reach consumers through Amazon Echo’s Alexa and Google Home.
Fashion brands tested new revenue streams in 2017. New York Magazine, for example, teamed up with a streetwear company on a line of apparel in honor of its 25th anniversary, building upon the work done on its e-commerce vertical, The Strategist. Meanwhile, Marie Claire launched its first retail pop-up, using a “store of the future” model to sell merchandise in partnership with tech-savvy brands like Rebecca Minkoff and Neiman Marcus.
Taking a cue from New York Magazine, GQ decided to throw its hat into e-commerce as well, launching a “Best Stuff” vertical and newsletter to spotlight editor reviews in tandem with affiliate links. “We looked around and realized we were a place that guys were already coming to for product recommendations,” said GQ’s digital editor, Jon Wilde.
As print readership and circulation have declined, fashion publications have continued to find ways to shake up their desktop and mobile presence. The Cut launched a revamped website, which editor-in-chief Stella Bugbee described as a “luxury experience,” with optimized visuals designed to lure advertisers. Other publications opted to launch new verticals in an effort to capture a wider audience: Hearst launched a wellness-focused vertical called Glo, while Architectural Digest kicked off an attempt to go beyond its upper-class, 50-year-old reader, with the launch of a millennial-focused site called Clever.