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Q the Runway for When Executives Go Rogue (& @timschroederCHI)

As a Quinlan community member, you may already be familiar with Tim Schroeder. He was featured in a Quinlan Q&A last summer:


Tim is currently contributing to this semester’s MARK311 Market & Consumer Survey service-learning projects to explore the intersection of fashion trends and artisan goods from emerging economies. However, Tim and I tend to queue conversations with the latest buzz surrounding the business of fashion. I was delighted that Tim was willing to explore an industry headline – as seen below – with such an editorial angle. You’ll quickly see Tim is built for this industry as he navigates the importance of executive leadership in an industry fixed on fluctuation.

When Executives Go Rogue

All good things come to an end. Whether that end is welcomed or not, it happens. As Carine Roitfeld’s left her cushy position as Editor-In-Chief of French Vogue over a year ago, the farewell was abrupt and unquestionably followed by a storm of controversy. Was the editrix fired, or did she opt for the transition? It’s still not clear today, but what is clear is that Roitfeld is probably not regretting her departure. Since she left, the Russian-born grandmother has made some serious moves in the industry. Shaking things up is putting it lightly as she has started her own bi-annual fashion magazine, signed an endorsement deal with MAC Cosmetics, and lastly and most controversially accepted the newly created position as Global Fashion Director at Harper’s Bazaar (a direct competitor of Vogue and its parent company, Condé Nast). Roitfeld definitely did not peak at Vogue, but are her successes post-Condé Nast really that respectable? Leaving the publisher after ten years, and going on to start her own project and then sign with a former direct competitor seems all to be a bit too harsh… or is it just fashionable survival mode?

Like Roitfeld’s eye makeup, French Vogue has the reputation of being dark and a bit over the top with an attitude to match, and that has always been attributed to Roitfleld; she gave the magazine its edge. Not only did Roitfeld sharpen the pages of the glossy fashion magazine, she also fueled controversy beyond the fashion spreads. While sitting on top of the masthead at Vogue Paris, she was also consulting with fashion brands with on creative projects, but that little conflict of interest that stirred up much controversy in the world of fashion is actually not what enflamed the mise à pied rumors – the December 2010 issue containing a fashion spread featuring young girls in provocative clothing and makeup is really what gave way to the change in power at the magazine. The magazine’s biggest advertisers, LVMH were appalled by the editorial and threatened to pull all of theirs ads across all of Condé’s magazines. Naturally this was not well received by the Condé executive board, most likely marking Roitfeld as a serious flight risk.

If Roitfeld wanted no one to answer to, what better way than to start her own magazine, where she could make all the creative decisions without having to answer to a company who with stockholders and boards of directors to be overseen by? And that is exactly what Roitfeld did; she took her ball and went and played by herself. She founded the CR Fashion Book – a bi-annual fashion magazine, jam-packed with advertisements (a magazine financial lifeline) from some of the biggest brands in fashion and more controversial editorials to match. The magazine debuted during fall’s New York Fashion Week to stellar reviews and even more speculation about Roitfeld’s urge to compete with her former employer. The longevity of new magazines has always been less than impressive, but is it really permanence that Roitfeld is looking for? Or is it revenge on Condé Nast? Hard to say, but only time will tell.

As if Miss Roitfeld didn’t have enough on her plate already, her new six month-deadline quickly reverted back to every month when it was announced that Roitfeld was named the Global Fashion Director of Harper’s Bazaar (a Hearst publication and direct competitor of Condé Nast). The headlines was were fueled with speculation, not only questioning her move from publishing house to publishing house, but what exactly was a “global fashion director”? The position was completely new to Hearst Magazines, but the publisher showed off its new staffer proudly and dodded her as linking all of the international issues of Harper’s together to make a more cohesive family. As if the fashion industry wasn’t already globalized enough, there are now positions to create globalization across the page – literally.

Fashion isn’t about looking back; it’s about looking forward. And in fashion’s spirit of constant change and evolution, Carine Roitfeld took that to heart and moved onward and upward. It’s quite hard to say whether Roitfeld made her recent career moves in spite of a possibly forced-exit at Vogue Paris, or was she merely working with the hand she was dealt? What is clear to see from this saga is that there is always opportunities for people post-departure, and those opportunities may directly conflict with that newly cleansed company’s business. So when an employee leaves your company, whether forced by the company or elected by the employee, it could very well mean that person is able to go on and do bigger and better things, without even the slightest regard for the alma mater.

Thanks for the #qtherunway post, Tim!

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