My Mentor: Dolly Jones on Alexandra Shulman
'she's not afraid to take on the controversial – she positively embraces it'
Monday 05 May 2008
Meeting Alexandra Shulman was as frightening as you might expect. I had crept around the office trying desperately to avoid her gaze during three weeks' work experience, and then was forced to meet her when my professor commissioned me to interview her.
Having edited GQ, and then taken on Vogue to put her own stamp on such an established brand, it is Alex's adaptability that inspired me – the fact that her only remit is compelling journalism, no matter the subject – and that she was kind enough to say to a bumbling student whose tape recorder had just broken: "Well done, good question."
Weeks later, I was filling in for Alex's PA when she arrived in a cream dress that someone in the street had just accidentally splashed coffee over. She was laughing – but we had to get it dry-cleaned in time for a meeting with the designer who'd made the dress. We managed it – and I've always remembered her gratitude for my help and also her cool attitude, even in the face of a possible fashion disaster.
With Vogue, Alex insists upon pushing the boundaries to maintain cutting-edge status – often in the face of adversity. Coleen McLoughlin styled as a Hollywood starlet and Victoria Beckham's recent reincarnation for the cover were not necessarily popular ideas until they were proved to be such good ones – both by sales of the respective issues and the ensuing public debate about their inclusion in the magazine. She is not frightened to take on the unexpected or controversial – in fact, she positively embraces it.
When I started working on Vogue.com nearly nine years ago as an internet novice, Alex was a brilliant example – and has been more than a little helpful considering the online world isn't traditionally one welcomed by editors protective of their brand. Her most recent ideas for the site were the result of a discussion over the weekend with her 13-year-old "internet obsessed" son. She can still be a little scary, but new ideas never will be.
Dolly Jones is the editor of Vogue.com. Alexandra Shulman edits Vogue.
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