The Devil Wears Allbirds
New York magazine|August 30 - September 12, 2021
Silicon Valley companies are sucking up all the fashion editors.
Emilia Petrarca

TAPED TO THE SIDE OF Aya Kanai’s standing desk in her Brooklyn apartment is a list of acronyms. She received it last September after she had left her role as the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire to become the head of content and creator partnerships at Pinterest. The list, which came inside her onboarding packet, would help Kanai decipher the shorthand that comes up in meetings—abbreviations like care, which represents the categories of CPG (consumer packaged goods), auto, restaurants, and entertainment, and raft, which stands for retail, fintech, and telco (and further translates to retail, financial technology, and telecommunications).

Kanai, who had worked in fashion for over two decades, was fluent in a different insider language. She could probably tell you all about GOTs (going-out tops, not Game of Thrones) or why you should buy a PF21 MNZ LBD on TRR (a pre-fall 2021 Maryam Nassir Zadeh little black dress on the RealReal). This, in part, is why Pinterest poached her. The platform, at first popular among sorority girls and brides-to-be, was copying YouTube and Instagram and trying to strengthen its relationships with creators and influencers from the worlds of fashion and design. Kanai’s job was to translate between the two species: She would help the fashion people and other content creators understand how to use the platform, and she would help the designers and engineers better understand the desires of the influencers.

Kanai was, in some ways, following the latest trend among fashion editors. In January 2020, her predecessor at Marie Claire, Anne Fulenwider, took on an executive role at a health-tech start-up called Kairos. In February, Carolyn Kylstra, the editor-in-chief of Self, left for Google, and in April, Allure’s fashion director, Rajni Jacques, left for Snap Inc. After spending lockdown glued to TikTok, Vanessa Craft, the editor-in-chief of Elle Canada, decided to just go work for the platform in October. A month after that, Sally Singer, who had been at Vogue for 20 years, said au revoir to Anna Wintour’s inner circle and, after a hiatus, announced that she had joined Amazon as fashion director. (Two other staffers followed shortly thereafter.) And this summer, Netflix poached two Condé Nast editors: Michelle Lee, the editor-in-chief of Allure, and Whembley Sewell, the editor-in-chief of Them, both of whom joined the publishing and editorial team.

“Once upon a time, editors-in-chief of glossy magazines would only vacate their posts if they were fired, died, or retired,” wrote Chantal Fernandez in The Business of Fashion in a piece about the magazine-to-tech “brain drain.” “But today, editors often see their spot at the top of the masthead as just another stepping stone.” What awaits them in the world of faang and IPOs isn’t just a fatter paycheck. (Guessing what exactly that salary might be is a masochistic game oftentimes played by media folk. My reporting suggests anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million with equity, though no one would confirm on the record.) For editors who have made their careers spotting the hottest new trend, tech also offers them the chance to feel like they have arrived at the beginning of something rather than a dead end (even if they are ten years late).

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