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06-03-2009
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Kate Betts - Editor, Time Style & Design
source | time



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Kate Betts is the editor of TIME Style & Design, a special issue published six times a year in the United States and Europe. Betts is also a regular contributor to the weekly print edition of TIME. Betts was named editor in 2003.

Previously, Betts was the editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar from June 1999 to June 2001, where she completely redesigned the 134-year-old fashion title. She moved to Bazaar from Vogue, where she was the fashion news director from 1991 to 1999. At Vogue, Betts was responsible for developing and producing all fashion features, including runway reports, designer profiles and popular culture stories. She was editor of many of the magazine's most popular sections, including "Vogue's View" and "Vogue's Index," a special shopping section that she created in 1995.

Betts was also a reporter for and later the bureau chief of the Paris office of Fairchild Publications from 1988 to 1991. In Paris, while she managed daily trade newspaper Women's Wear Daily and W and M magazines, she also helped conceive and launch W Europe. From 1986 to 1988, she held various positions including Paris editor of Metropolitan Home and jobs at the International Herald Tribune and European Travel & Life.

Betts was recently named one of the top 10 fashion editors by Forbes, and she has appeared on network and cable television regularly since 1993. She was also the subject of a Lifetime documentary, Putting Baby to Bed: Wife, Mother, and Editor in Chief, about her experience as the youngest editor ever to take over a fashion magazine.

Additionally, Betts is the co-author of Diana Vreeland: Bazaar Years (Universe Publishing, 2001).

A graduate of Princeton University, she resides in New York with her husband and two children.

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06-03-2009
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source | mediabistro interview from 2003

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Kate Betts has been remarkably successful: She was Fairchild's Paris bureau chief by 27, Anna Wintour's protege at Vogue, and then editor of Harper's Bazaar at 35—the youngest editor ever to take over a fashion magazine. But she's also faced remarkably intense scrutiny, even for the catty world of fashion glossies. She was called a traitor when she left Vogue, and at Bazaar she had to fill the shoes of beloved editor Liz Tilberis, who'd died months earlier. Her redesign was widely criticized, newsstand sales slipped (they'd been declining even before Betts took over), and she was fired in 2001.

But if there's anything the magazine industry likes better than a spectacular failure, it's a spectacular comeback, and Betts is ready to make hers. After a year and a half spent freelancing for the New York Times "Style" section, she just bowed her first issue of Time magazine's new, biannual Style & Design supplement (one previous issue was published in February). She spoke to mediabistro.com last week about starting from the bottom, surviving the spotlight, and coming out on top.

Birthdate: March 8, 1964
Hometown: New York City
First section of the Sunday Times: "I'm embarrassed to admit it's the real-estate section."


You've taken over an established magazine and now you're essentially rolling out a startup. How are the pressures different?
The pressure of Bazaar was, obviously, that venue existed for so long, in such a high-profile way, under Liz Tilberis before I got there, and this magazine didn't really have that high of a profile or that strong of a footing in this market. They'd only done one issue in the U.S. before I did this one. And the pressure was to create something that was going to be interesting to the Time reader and also to the fashion industry, two very different audiences.


I wanted to give the Time reader an inside look at fashion but not make it too obscure and too over-the-top or detailed in a way that wouldn't reach them. And, to be honest, that's always been my interest in fashion—I've always been interested in more of a journalistic approach, even when I was at Vogue. When I started writing for the "Style" section, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who actually read the section. So it turned me on to writing for a much larger audience than I was used to. The excitement and pressure of this job is to speak to millions and millions of readers, as opposed to people who were just looking for fashion information.

You say you want Style & Design to appeal to the Time reader and also the fashion industry. What about the readers of fashion magazines?
Well that, to me, is the fashion industry, or an extension of it. When I say "the fashion industry," I mean the industry but also people who are looking for fashion information and who already have a lot of fashion education.


What was it like going from writing for the Times as a freelancer to starting something practically from scratch?
I had been working at Time Inc. full-time since January, so I wasn't like, getting out of my pajamas for the first time in two years. Almost! But I had to put together a little team. I brought the art director, Terry Koppel, with me, and I brought Andrea Ferronato, who I'd worked with at Vogue, as the photo editor. So we had that capsule team, and we had some great people here at Time who were assigned to help us move the issue through the system, because the system here is really gigantic and different. The most exciting thing for me, as a writer, was being able to use some of the writers at Time who I love, like Richard Lacayo and Michele Orecklin and Joel Stein, and to draw on the global bureaus. No other magazine that I've worked for has that kind of resource.


Are there other ways that the culture at Time is different from those at Vogue and Bazaar?
There is a great camaraderie here that I've never experienced. At fashion magazines, there's a very distinct kind of ambience. Everyone who works here is, first of all, incredibly smart, which was sort of a shock. And, second of all, they're all really helpful, and you do get the feeling that everyone's working together toward the same goal—it's not like this sort of backbiting thing. It creates a really nice can-do spirit, and Time staffers have worked together on much bigger and more important projects, and pulled together as a team in ways that are incredibly impressive.


Do you have a lot of give and take with the editors of Time, or does Style & Design have its own team?
There is a lot of give and take. All the editors here have been extremely helpful. The thing about the writers here is that they're pulled onto all different stories at any time of day, so it's hard to get their time. But the people that did end up writing for the issue were incredibly quick and professional about it.

Style & Design comes out twice a year. Will it occupy you full time, or will you be doing other work?
I've also been writing for the weekly edition of Time. At first I just did little trend things in the "Personal Time" section, and this week I have a story about Sofia Coppola in the "Arts & Movies" section, and I'm working on a few other things. We're thinking about doing more frequency for Time Style & Design—we're meeting on that right now.


One thing I found interesting about Style & Design was its meta approach: You're covering the fashion magazines in a way you would never see elsewhere—you'd never read in Vogue about the photographer who shoots covers for Bazaar.

Yeah, it's an interesting place. That is something we discovered as we were going along. I've always worked at either Vogue or Bazaar, so I didn't really think about being in the middle or above those two. So it suddenly dawned on us that we were in the position to cover everyone.

Had you maintained a lot of your connections at those magazines, or did you have to go back and rebuild bridges?
I'd been in touch with a lot of the people I worked with at Bazaar, and some of them contributed to this issue. Mostly I just had to get back into the business. I was out of it for a year and a half, and I hadn't gone to that many shows. I went to the menswear shows for the first time in Milan in June, and I went to the couture shows.


You know, it doesn't change that much, the fashion business. It's a business predicated on change, but the people in the business don't really change. So everybody was pretty much in the same place as when I left. And I'd kept in touch with a few people just from writing for the "Style" section. It's weird—I've always felt like an outsider inside the business, and so I've always taken that approach to covering it.

From your bio, it seems like you never had to slave away at an entry-level job.
No, no, no, no, no—let me just disqualify that right away. First of all, when I started at Fairchild in Paris, I was a reporter. I was reporting on the lingerie business and perfume launches—what everybody at Women's Wear Daily has to start off with. That's where you learn about the industry; that's the baptism by fire. You learn about fabrics, you have to cover Premiere Vision, which is the big fabric fair in Paris, and you have to figure out who the perfume nose is at Christian Dior and the difference between the fragrances. You have to learn a lot about the people and processes of each industry within the fashion industry. And that's the best way to learn about fashion.


When I went to Vogue after three years at Women's Wear, I couldn't believe that the market editors didn't know about fabrics. I mean, of course the big editors, Andre Leon Talley or Polly Mellen, they all knew about fashion, but these junior editors, they had no way of learning the way that Women's Wear editors learn: from going to fabric fairs and actually having to know what they're talking about. So that was a great way to learn, and it's definitely starting at the bottom. If they decide they want to cover something at the last minute in Dusseldorf, you have to get on the plane and go to Dusseldorf. It sounds glamorous, but it's this gigantic trade show and everyone speaks German, and there you are: Find a story. But it was really fun too.

And then when I got to Vogue, when I started off, my office was literally a closet. Nobody would talk to me, and I remember sitting in there and crying for the first three months. It was pathetic. But the people there were these giant personalities. Especially at that time, because it was 1991—Carly Cerf de Dudzelle, and Andre, and Candy Pratts Price—it was like the '80s were still going on. And I was writing captions for fashion portfolios and "Vogue's Point of View," that page of writing before the well. So these were not glamorous jobs. But I was lucky because Anna was a great boss in the way that she let me do whatever I wanted. There was always room to create and write and do new things.

You've had amazing success and also endured a tremendous amount of criticism and setbacks. How do you bounce back?
I don't look at it as an amazing career, funnily enough. I look at it like, I've always worked really, really hard. I remember one summer at Vogue, I worked every weekend the whole summer. Covering the collections is a lot of work. I mean yeah, it's really glamorous and you meet Tom Ford and blah blah blah, but you're running around like crazy and reporting and it's a lot of work.


But you've been watched so closely, both as Anna's protege and then taking over Bazaar after Liz Tilberis. What advice would you give others facing adversity in their careers?
Well, it's hard. The Bazaar situation was a very particular confluence of events—following in the footsteps of Liz Tilberis, taking over a magazine that was not doing so well, having a baby three days later, having a large turnover on the staff, and dealing with all that in the spotlight is a lot at once. It was one of those things where it was a job you can't say no to, even though I was nine months pregnant. I think the most important thing in careers, and I think this a lot in my own career now, is you have to do what you want to do. I felt for a long time a tremendous pressure to do things other people wanted me to do, and when you're young, that is probably the case. But you really do have to go with your heart. It's weird, all the criticism and all the tough calls at Bazaar, and getting fired ultimately, those were all hard things to experience, but with hindsight, which is always 20/20, they were great experiences. I don't regret any of it at all. It was an amazing opportunity to learn how to edit a magazine in two years, and get it over with. There are a lot of lessons there, but the thing I always come back to is, if you're doing something you really believe in, you never regret anything you do.

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06-03-2009
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source | time

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Friday, March 6th 2009

The Party's Over



Somebody tell Christophe Decarnin, the achingly hip designer of Balmain who has singlehandedly brought the 1980s trashy look back into vogue that it's time to move on. His afternoon show yesterday, in the Ritz swimming pool where Gianni Versace famously showed, looked like an early morning walk of shame circa 1989 with models in tousled hairdos strutting along in deshabille t-shirts and rhinestone-smothered mini-skirts. When Versace did this look over twenty years ago at least it had some culture behind it, a sense of reverence at least for his craft. But in the harsh light of day -- and in this difficult moment -- the Balmain glitz looks provincial.

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06-03-2009
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source | time

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Friday, March 6th 2009

Theyskens Takes a Final Bow at Nina Ricci



The powers that be at Nina Ricci did not want any of the clothes in designer Olivier Theyskens' last collection for the house photographed backstage. And that is too bad because ironically it was probably one of the stronger collections he has done for this brand (save for the really terrifying shoes, or shall I call them hoofs?). Even stranger still, the collection--full of sharply tailored Claude Montana-esque jackets and some very dramatic evening gowns--it was the closest to his true goth heart. Over the last few seasons Theyskens has seemed adrift stylistically in a wishy-washy romantic mood that had more to do with the heritage of Nina Ricci than with his personal point of view. Oh well, another turn on the fashion merry-go-round. No doubt the strength of this collection (and Theyskens unusually strong editorial ties) will land him another job soon. Although it has not been officially confirmed yet, the head of Louis Vuitton's women's wear studio, Peter Copping, is replacing Theyskens. Stay tuned.

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25-07-2009
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I really admire her writing, and didn't find her Bazaar too bad; it was really difficult having to follow in the footsteps of Liz Tilberis who is just so revered.

I think she's perfect at Time.


Last edited by Cicciolina; 04-12-2010 at 05:27 PM.
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04-10-2010
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Harper's Bazaar under Kate Betts: 1999 - 2001
During her all too brief tenure as Editor-in-Chief of American HARPER'S BAZAAR, Kate Betts made some radical changes which I think Liz Tilberis would have been very proud of but apparently the masses weren't so crazy about (the majority can be idiotic ).

The magazine under Betts' influence upheld BAZAAR'S colorful, engaging and cutting-edge heritage with an emphasis on both visual and editorial excellence which made it a pleasure to view, read, discover and learn from.

Quote:
KATHERINE BETTS NAMED NEW EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF HARPER'S BAZAAR MAGAZINE

Veteran of VOGUE, WWD, W Moves to Renowned Fashion Title

NEW YORK, June 24, 1999 -- Katherine (Kate) Betts, 35, former fashion news director of Vogue magazine, was today named the new editor-in-chief of Harper's BAZAAR magazine, announced Hearst Magazines President Cathleen P. Black.

Betts, who succeeds the late Elizabeth (Liz) Tilberis, will join the company immediately. Her first full issue will be the December issue, and will appear on newsstands in mid-November.

"Kate's reputation in the fashion magazine industry is extraordinary -- both here in the U.S. and in Europe," said Black. "She has been an innovator in covering fashion beyond the design world and on the runway. Her view extends into the home, into arts and entertainment, and every other aspect of our 21st century lifestyles. Kate is the obvious choice for a new generation of BAZAAR readers. As we head into the next century, I know that BAZAAR is in excellent hands with her."

"I am thrilled to have the opportunity to build on BAZAAR's rich history of style," said Betts. "My goal will be to extend the focus of the magazine by establishing it as the style source for readers -- adding fashionable people and writers with engaging voices to the very modern mix of fashion, design and photography that BAZAAR has come to represent in the marketplace. I want to offer readers the best service pages in the business."

"Kate has spent more than a decade covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle trends both here and in Europe," said Jeannette Chang, vice president and publisher of the magazine. "She has the contacts, the international experience and the creativity to take BAZAAR into the next century."

Betts has worked at Vogue since 1991, most recently as fashion news director. She was responsible for developing and producing all fashion features including runway reports, designer profiles, and popular culture stories. Betts was editor of many of the most popular magazine sections, including "Vogue's View" and "Vogue's Index," a special shopping section which she created in 1995, and the magazine's onsert supplements.

Prior to Vogue, Betts, a Princeton graduate, was a reporter and later the bureau chief of the Paris office of Fairchild Publications from 1988 to 1991. While she managed the Paris office of the daily trade newspaper WWD, W and M magazines, she helped conceive and launch W Europe. From 1986 to 1988, she held various positions including Paris editor of Metropolitan Home and stints at The International Herald Tribune and European Travel & Life.

BAZAAR's overall circulation is up 3 percent versus the first half of 1998, according to Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) figures. Subscriptions have been growing steadily, with bonuses up 40,000 copies against BAZAAR's rate base. On the advertising side, BAZAAR is up nearly 15 percent year-to-date. Advertising revenues have set records in five of the past six years, including the past four years. This year will again see record ad revenues.

Harper's BAZAAR is published by Hearst Magazines, a unit of The Hearst Corporation, and the world's largest publisher of monthly magazines, with 16 U.S. titles and 96 international editions distributed in more than 100 countries. Of these, Hearst publishes nine monthly magazines in the United Kingdom through its wholly owned subsidiary, the National Magazine Company Limited.
hearst.com


Also check out Kate's Charlie Rose interview from 2000.


Kate's February 2000 cover shot by Craig McDean



Here's one of my favorite Betts era editorials. They hit it out of the park on this one:

"Master Class"
Harper's Bazaar December 2000
Photographer ~ David Sims
Models ~ Kara Walker, Inka Essenhigh, Michelle Lopez, Jenny Saville, Shahzia Sikander, Vanessa Beercroft & Mariko Mori
Fashion Editor ~ Melanie Ward
Make-up ~ Diane Kendal
Hair ~ Kevin Ryan


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04-10-2010
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" The High 80s "
Harper's Bazaar August 2000
Photographer: Craig McDean
Model: Ana Claudia Michels
Fashion Editor: Melanie Ward
Make-up: Aaron de Mey
Hair: James Brown




( The second to last page is missing )

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05-10-2010
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you're right. i loved the direction she was taking but not very many people in the mainstream were very appreciative of her efforts. i guess because people felt it was a little polarising for such a mainstream publication...maybe they felt she needed a more commercial balance like liz was able to. but she did take on liz's championing efforts in giving attention to young talent to a new level and featured most of them on those pages.

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05-10-2010
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I adored Kate Bett's work for Bazaar, she started just as I was getting interested in fashion and I was struck by how unique Bazaar was compared to other magazines competing in the same market. Thanks for starting this thread!

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05-10-2010
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Her covers
1999



2000








iconography
...

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2001


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05-10-2010
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Kate Betts produced interesting content, but I never got the sense that she was truly an editor-in-chief.

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05-10-2010
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" Portrait of a Lady "
US Harper's Bazaar November 2000
Photographers ~ Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin
Model ~ Charlotte Gainsbourg
Fashion Editor ~ Melanie Ward
Make-up ~ Dick Page
Hair ~ Kevin Ryan

Undeniable magazine greatness all around. Sure it's Charlotte but celeb shoots do not have to spell artistic suicide.
( Now if Charlotte made the cover instead of Uma, that would have blown my circuits.)



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05-10-2010
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^i loved that charlotte story. agreed about the cover. i think that's the only thing i really had a problem with...the covers never seemed to meld with the type of content she went for.

btw,there's another great story i loved too. the one i believe was in the issue with carolyn murphy on the cover...had all the much-buzzed talents of that season...branquinho,balenciaga,chalayan,adrover and bruce. if anybody can find it i would be greatly appreciative

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06-10-2010
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^ really? scott, one thing i liked about Kate's covers were they actually reflected the editorial content found inside the magazine. are you referencing the overall mood, theme of the magazine?
altho i personally loved the issues she produced, i think her vision of making HB more user-friendly, street-smart actually worked against her, esp the way she went about it. Featuring of the minute, yet to be established movers and shakers from the art and fashion world and independent power suit types may have alienated many readers and reflected in circulation. Like you said Kate lacked that commercial balance Liz perfected. Also even when Liz did feature more avant-garde high brow art types she always injected a sense of glamour and fantasy which made it more accessible and exciting for readers. Kate went too Art and not enough Pop, which apparently did not translate into a more street-wise, "of the people" fashion magazine. gee. granted her magazine was more user-friendly!

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