Silke Friedrich has been head of digital at VOGUE for four years. With her seven-strong team, she presents the latest trends from the international catwalks – on the website as well as on all social media platforms. With Vogue Fashion’s Night Out (VFNO) in Vienna imminent, we interviewed Friedrich about how digitalization has changed both fashion journalism and the world of fashion itself.
Users want live experiences online instead of post-event reporting. How is that development changing journalism?
Journalism has changed a lot, particularly over the past five years. Thanks to social medial platforms, we have many more opportunities to tell our stories. Every single one of those platforms serves different topics and formats. The number of followers is surging on every platform. Sometimes Facebook. Then Instagram. Currently it’s our Twitter following that’s growing.
Are behind-the-scenes and making-of stories still interesting?
Now, when we have a fashion editorial for the print magazine, a lot takes place on the social media platforms of the stars it features. The behind-the-scenes format is nowhere near as successful as it was only five years ago because the users can get a much more up-close-and-personal insight via Instagram.
You mean readers can follow what’s going on directly, via the people involved?
Exactly. We recently had a beauty feature with Ana Ivanovic – including a video shoot. She took behind-the-scenes photos for her Facebook page and also posted them on Instagram. At the same time, we put things on Instagram, too. And for a younger target audience, Snapchat is currently the up-and-coming platform. And in turn, that gets us more followers – because we can benefit from what the models are doing.
Fashion bloggers are particularly successful because readers find it easy to identify with them. Is journalism also developing in the direction of personal testimonials?
Before, it used to be more common for journalists and fashion critics to make anonymous appearances. But we’re opening up a bit. We’re making appearances via writer’s profiles, we’re giving the articles a face. Writers testing products themselves and writing personal reports about them is much more common now than it used to be, but I think that blogs and fashion magazines can coexist and that they benefit from each other more than they compete with each other.
How is it possible for a magazine to fulfil its role as an opinion maker when it feels like you can find information on everything everywhere?
Expertise – regardless of the field – will always be relevant, even if we have to change with the zeitgeist and evolve.
Even brands have to be ever more inventive in order to attract attention. Which brand would you say is particularly exciting at the moment?
An example of a particularly innovative and strong digital strategy is Burberry. They regularly surprise us with the way they present themselves on a wide range of platforms.
Now that brands are doing their own media, how has that changed VOGUE’s role?
It used to be the case that the media – and the VOGUE brand, too, of course – was the intermediary between a brand and its customers. Nowadays, the brands communicate with their fans directly. To the extent that they sometimes even live-stream their fashion shows themselves. Which used to be broadcast via the media brands. But that’s precisely where VOGUE still functions as a kind of filter: we continue to be a neutral observer and offer a different perspective. More and more, our task is to classify things for the readers and point them in the right direction. Filtering what’s out there is one of our biggest tasks.
How do you organize fashion shoots with people who are constantly drawing attention to themselves anyway?
Let’s take, for example, Gigi Hadid or Kendall Jenner: they’re social media phenomena. The new supermodels are very active on social media and they present themselves perfectly, and we’re keeping an eye on that, of course. Those models are very important to us, as you can see with our cover model Gigi Hadid for the March edition and the five social media cover models for the August edition. And we feature those women on VOGUE.de, too, but in a different way from how the net is used to seeing them.
The call for a sea change was unmistakable during the latest fashion weeks …
Whether in London, Paris, Milan or New York, you can tell that this is an incredibly exciting time to be alive. With very interesting and fast developments. It’s a time to try new things, and that’s not just true for fashion brands and their shows, but also for media brands like VOGUE.
Christiane Arp said in an interview about Berlin Fashion Week that fashion hasn’t yet become a true part of the German lifestyle. What about Austria?
I’m afraid I spend far too little time in Austrian towns to be able to pass judgement. But when I’m in Vienna, I always see great, style-conscious women of all ages. The number of Austrian hits on our website has been growing continuously. Compared to last year, 2015, the readership has increased threefold.
More and more, fashion and shopping are moving online. Is the experience of going to a physical shop coming back into fashion?
Yes, I certainly think so. It’s still quite balanced. We’re all women who like going shopping. Of course we also shop online, because it’s practical and saves time, but the experience of going into a shop is something very valuable that will continue to be very important to us. And that’s something that we’re supporting and celebrating with VFNO.
Is that VFNO’s message for Vienna?
Yes, precisely. It’s about making fashion and the VOGUE brand something you can experience and celebrating shopping.