Travelling to Paris and Milan for the shows and being surrounded by beautiful clothes day in and day out sounds like a dream for those who love fashion, but for Edwina McCann it’s just a day in the life of being Vogue Australia’s editor-in-chief. Ahead of one the masthead’s biggest signature events, Vogue American Express Fashion’s Night Out, I caught up with Edwina to chat about going from newspapers to glossy magazines, why she wasn’t a very good stylist and her plan to live her life in reverse…
You have the most coveted position in fashion in Australia, as Vogue editor-in-chief. How did your career journey in fashion begin?
Edwina: My first full time job was at Vogue. I was in the fashion cupboard for seven years as a stylist. I wasn’t a very good stylist at all.
I don’t believe you because you look very stylish always!
No I was not. We’re celebrating 60 years this year, so I’ve had cause to look back at some of my work and I can guarantee you I don’t think I was a great stylist. But I loved Vogue and I loved fashion and I loved the brand. So I had seven years there. Then a little bit later I had seven years on The Australian as their fashion editor, which was at News Corp which is now the publisher of Vogue. When I came back to Vogue as editor almost eight years ago now, I really understood the power of News Corp as a company. And I had a really clear idea, I felt, on how we could use the power of Vogue and the brilliance of the Vogue brand within that bigger family of News Corp. And, to be honest, I think that’s been part of this successful transformation of the brand.
How do you think social media has impacted the magazine world?
Every platform and the development of it has impacted the business. Fortunately for Vogue, in a very positive way. Social media I see as almost like a huge billboard for the Vogue brand. It’s a way that we can communicate with our audience to invite them to, Vogue American Express Fashion’s Night Out, for example. It’s a way that we can tell them about what we’re doing at Vogue Codes. Social media to us has been a really useful tool. We tend to use many platforms. Clearly Instagram, and Stories in particular, is a good medium for fashion because it’s so visual. But Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat are all platforms we use. I think the other thing is social media, ironically, has driven the experiential market and the growth of that. So people in a digital age want something to share on their social media platforms and want to go attend events together and share that experience. So ironically, it’s grown realtime content opportunities for us and an opportunity, again, to engage directly with our customers in real life. So yeah, social media’s really transformed everything.
You mentioned Vogue Fashion’s Night Out. It’s coming up soon. What can we expect?
Yes, we’re celebrating 10 years this year, so a decade of this event. Which is extraordinary. It’s almost 200,000 people coming to the city of Sydney. We usually get around 180,000 in Melbourne. I’m hoping this year it’ll grow even further. This year, David Jones [in Sydney has] transformed their store and so we’ll be experiencing that. But I don’t think anything beats the Amex Lounge—
Yes, I’m excited to go to the Amex Lounge!
It’s the best!… It’s hugely popular, and that is for good reason. Because they put on fantastic champagne and food and there’s always really fascinating people and celebrities in the enclosure. There’s always great DJs. It’s just such a fun vibe and I think even better by the fact that they have this offer of $20 off on every purchase over $50 three times on the evening. You can get some really great deals on fabulous fashion.
Yes, it’s so exciting. What is the Vogue and American Express partnership with Vogue Fashion’s Night Out?
We work with Amex to work with the retailers to promote the particular items and offers that they will have in store. Obviously, Amex works very hard to work with their card members, but also the retailers who support Amex to really make sure that the card members can find those offers. And that’s our role, is to help them communicate all of that.
And in terms of the partnership, I think it’s worked because it’s authentic. Both of us really want to drive great retail sales and have people, Amex cardholders and the public shopping like Vogue VIPs for the night and make it a really fun night out. And to remind people that bricks and mortar shopping is still a great experience.
What is it about Vogue that you love so much?
I think it’s the power and influence of the brand I’m constantly amazed at. But really, the beauty of it. The fact that we can shine a light on all walks of life. We made studying esteemed subjects, and women in science fashionable. We can really leverage the brand, I think, to have a positive impact on society in general. And supporting and heroing the incredible Australian women, in particular, across all fields. Directly in the arts and politics and sport, but particularly passionate about women in male-dominated codes. Sustainability, we had Emma Watson guest edit an issue… We’re still the only Vogue in the world that has a sustainability editor. I feel that editing Vogue comes with great responsibility because we do have a really broad audience and we are very influential. I know when we put Billie Eilish on the cover recently, we really saw an upbeat in the teen market.
What sets Vogue Australia apart from the other Vogues around the world?
I guess this is something we’ve been looking at with our 60th year. And I feel that perhaps there’s a spirited nature to what we do. So, I would say almost 80 per cent of our content now is original. We don’t syndicate much from our sister publications.
We shoot all of our own covers. Which I really think people don’t realise sometimes. So all of our covers are original and shot exclusively for Vogue Australia. So I would say that we are held in reasonably high esteem if we’re accessing the level of talent we are. But, I guess, we do try to tell our stories in a uniquely Australian way and think about, for example we have Margot Robbie on our cover this month. Quentin Tarantino interviewed Margot for our issue, but we also interviewed her mother. Tarantino was really interested in her history and how she was the girl on the Gold Coast to Neighbours to Hollywood in such a short space of time. And then, through her mother, you can really see how she’s kept her feet on the ground.
Do you have a favourite Australian Vogue cover?
I really loved the Billie Eilish one we did recently. I love the series of the Margot Robbie covers… Just feels so modern and exciting. It would be really hard to pick actually, a favourite. I’d have to say Nicole Kidman when we took her to Uluru. It was gorgeous. And that was very much about celebrating Uluru being handed back to the traditional owners. It wasn’t done to promote a film or for any other purpose.
So for Nicole to place that trust in us and then for us to be able to take her and her mother and her daughters to that wonderful Australian environment. And for everything that she and all of our crew learnt by celebrating Uluru in that way was really, really special. I’ve got a deep respect for Nicole. And I think she really does represent what’s so great about this country.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I’ve kind of come to the conclusion that there really isn’t one. And sometimes you’re doing one thing well, and sometimes you’re doing another well. And you just have to forgive yourself and move on. I think sometimes I’m being a really dedicated, great mum, and then sometimes work is really busy. And I feel like I’m perhaps failing more on the home front. But I’ve kind of learnt to forgive that and to stop striving for perfection, because it can never be achieved and in fact, the brilliance often comes from the mistakes.
What is it like to be the mother of twin girls?
Yes, I’ve got twin girls who are 13 and I have a step-son who’s almost 13. In a minute, actually. And a step-daughter who’s 10. And a gorgeous nephew who’s about to turn 16, from New York, who lives with me on the weekends. He’s boarding (at school) during the week. So it’s a very, very busy household. I love being a mum. And they keep me on my feet, I knew who Billie Eilish was before most 46 year-olds. So pretty good.
Will any of your children follow in your footsteps?
I really don’t know. They’re definitely interested in it, but not overwhelmingly so. They’ve been to Paris a lot and they’ve been to Milan a lot. I took them with me when they were little because it was just too much time away. They go through phases. Sometimes thinking it’s super cool, like when Billie Eilish was on the cover and sometimes less so.
They must have an amazing wardrobe to raid!
They’re really not into it yet. I’ve kept all these great ALAÏA dresses… I’ve got this amazing Missoni skirt that I’ve deliberately kept because I was like, “This is going to be heaven to a teenager.” And they’re like, “Oh, no Mum. It’s not really me.” I’m like, “Oh!” They’ve got their own style…
What do you like to do during your time off?
Pretty much spend it with family. I try to do some exercise in the morning with my husband… We run and walk a lot and spend time with the kids. I think I travel so much anyway, that it’s best to not move around too much. Having said that, my husband and I just got married two or three weeks ago at Kokomo in Fiji.
How was your wedding day?
It was heaven. Everything I wanted, everything I could have wished for. Absolutely private. All the kids spoke and made beautiful speeches on a beach. I wore Valentino, which I love… it was just all really perfect and great. So I’d love to say in my spare time I love to go to Kokomo. The whole family does because we all cried when we left.
Oh, do you have a favourite moment from the day?
Straight after the ceremony, these wonderful guys on the beach played touch football with all the kids. And that was pretty special. Just to watch them all be so happy. It was really lovely.
Can you describe your dress?
Yes, it’s really simple, actually. It’s just round-necked, white to the knee and it’s got little laser cutout on these beautiful flounce sleeves. Really simple.
Do you have a favourite travel destination, besides Kokomo?
I love skiing, so I’ve been going to Colorado, to Aspen in particular. For years and years and years. And because that’s my favourite thing to do I keep saying I’m going to live my life in reverse. And one day I’m going to become a ski instructor. Or just a ski bum!.. Going to go and do what I should have done straight after uni.
If you weren’t editor-in-chief of Vogue, what would you be doing?
Not sure. I think the strategy part and brand development is what interests me most, now. So I guess, I would go into that area. I like working for a brand. I like working within big companies, as well. I like working with a lot of people, collaborating across departments and I love learning… Every year I learn and changes in the media environment means we have to. We have to re-look at our strategy, re-look at our business plan, challenge ourselves, try new things. And I think that’s a really exciting workplace.
What would be your biggest advice to someone starting out in the fashion industry?
I guess, it depends which area they’re going into. I think people are probably unaware of all of the opportunities. It’s not just about necessarily becoming a fashion designer. But I would say that fashion is one of the most exciting industries to work in… So it would be to go with it. And to embrace change… and not to fight it, when it comes along. And to keep learning, definitely. And to see opportunity where others see challenge. Yes, there are challenges, no matter what level you’re at but if you turn the challenge into an opportunity, that’s where the magic is.
What are your go-to fashion brands?
I’m obsessed with Fendi at the moment… And Valentino. And I mean, obviously I love all my Australians as well. But I’m particularly obsessed with Ilona Hamer’s brand Matteau which is just really great playsuits and beautiful swimwear. And she’s doing a really fabulous job.
WE WENT TO: Catalina, Rose Bay
WE ATE: Freshly shucked Sydney rock oysters, snapper, Burrata salad and Glacier 51 Toothfish.
WE DRANK: Sparkling water
KATE WORE: Dion Lee dress, from David Jones
EDWINA WORE: Fendi and Martin Grant