Tim Blanks Joins the Industry Website The Business of Fashion
AUG. 5, 2015
By MATTHEW SCHNEIER
Fashion’s never-ending game of musical chairs, a nonstop roundelay of personnel moves, tends to confine itself to those who create, rather than observe, fashion. Designers shuffle; those who file into the stands season after season to see their shows, less so.
But when New York Fashion Week begins in September, there will be familiar faces in new seats. The Business of Fashion, the wonkish website (also known as BoF) that began as a Typepad blog and has grown into an industry resource, is adding a handful of staff members, including one very high-profile new hire: Tim Blanks, the editor at large for Style.com since 2006, who will be joining the London-based BoF as editor at large this month.
Mr. Blanks, who in 2013 won the Council of Fashion Designers of America Eugenia Sheppard award for his contributions to fashion journalism, is a silver-haired mainstay of the front row.
One of the industry’s most-read and most-respected critics, he has been the most recognizable face of Style.com, known for the galloping cultural references of his reviews (which touch on everything from David Bowie to Hieronymus Bosch) and for his videos. From 1989 to 2006, he was the host of the Canadian television show “Fashion File.”
His departure arrives at a time of tumult for Style.com, a resource for runway photos and reviews since its debut in 2001. In April, Condé Nast, which owns Style.com, announced that the site would become an e-commerce platform.
Style.com’s runway coverage, as well as some of its staff and critics, including Mr. Blanks and the executive editor, Nicole Phelps, would move to a new website under the Vogue umbrella, VogueRunway.com, which is set to go live this fall. Mr. Blanks tendered his resignation early last week. (Disclosure: Until 2014, Mr. Blanks and I were colleagues at Style.com.)
“This is an age where transitions seem to be one of the driving social forces — this is my transition,” Mr. Blanks said by phone from London, where he lives. “With Style.com coming to the end, it did feel very much like a chapter ending. It seemed like an appropriate moment to open another chapter.”
Mr. Blanks’s arrival at BoF signals the site’s entrance into full-tilt runway coverage. To date, its coverage has been confined to postseason wrap-ups by contributing writers.
“There’s a clear opportunity,” said Imran Amed, the BoF founder and chief executive. “As the market is shifting and changing so fast, we’re the first to think about what opportunities that may present for us, whereas a couple of years ago, if you’d asked me, ‘Will we move into the space of fashion shows?’ I’d have been much more reticent about doing that.”
About Mr. Blanks, whose show he grew up watching in his native Canada, Mr. Amed said: “What I really appreciate about Tim is how he places fashion in this cultural context. He somehow connects it to music and art and film and the wider cultural landscape. He’s not shy to say what he really thinks. In a fashion media landscape where opinion has become increasingly watered down, I think voices like Tim’s have become more and more important.”
As he did at Style.com, Mr. Blanks will review men’s and women’s wear, and contribute to BoF between show seasons. He will also appear in video. Though the platform is different — BoF sees itself explicitly as a business-to-business resource, while Style.com was pitched somewhere between a business and a consumer publication — Mr. Blanks said his style will not change.
“The fact is, my voice is my voice,” he said. “I’m not going to suddenly start talking in a Donald Duck voice.”
The addition of runway coverage is only one of several new areas BoF is exploring. On Aug. 24, the site will introduce an Education section, based on its popular series of “Basics” blog posts on how to start a fashion business. It will include “courses” (in articles and videos) on business basics, marketing and public relations, and fashion history, as well as a new ranking of fashion schools based on surveys from graduates, recruiters and industry professionals.
The site has also made several other hires, including its first New York editor, Lauren Sherman, and its first full-time China-based editor, Queennie Yang. Andrew Barker, of the Evening Standard’s ES Magazine, will join BoF as executive editor in London.
Tom Florio, the longtime Condé Nast executive who was publisher of Vogue, GQ and The New Yorker, and who has been advising BoF for several months, will join the company’s board.
Financing this expansion is a mix of outside investment and site-based revenue. In 2013, BoF closed a seed round of investment led by Index Ventures (an investor in Net-a-Porter, Farfetch and Asos) and joined by companies including LVMH. In April, the site closed a second, Series A round of investment led by Felix Capital.
BoF offers advertising and sponsorship (Mr. Amed said that BoF’s daily email newsletter, reaching 150,000 people, is sold out through the end of the year) and hosts a Careers section where fashion-industry employers can advertise job openings and create company pages for an annual fee. Mr. Florio said that he anticipated “subscription product” and “broader digital sponsorship opportunities” would follow down the line.
A version of this article appears in print on August 6, 2015, on page D4 of the New York edition with the headline: A Fashion-Industry Website Deepens Its Bench.