party lines

Q&A With Sally Singer: ‘The Great Thing About T Is It Doesn’t Compete With Anybody’

Despite Thursday evening’s torrential rains, a slew of people turned out at T Magazine’s party welcoming Sally Singer as the new editor-in-chief. Well-wishers included a smattering of celebrities like Charlie Rose and Maggie Gyllenhaal; fashion bigshots like Donna Karan, Reed Krakoff, and Simon Doonan; and also a host of Singer’s former Vogue colleagues, including Anna Wintour, who stopped by to offer congratulations. Singer took a break from being the center of attention to speak to the Cut about her first couple of months on the job, the different cultures at the New York Times and Condé Nast — including which has the better cafeteria — and why the Vogue folks aren’t giving her the cold shoulder after she jumped ship.

Congratulations on this new job. You started in July — how do you think it’s going so far, in your opinion?
I think it’s going, um, swimmingly. Particularly tonight, with the monsoon.

You were at Vogue for a long time. What’s been the biggest challenge so far in the transition to T?
I think, you know, the hardest part of moving from one job to the next is just that you love the people you worked with; it’s like moving families. But I’m very fortunate in that the family of fashion travels around the world together for a solid month, so I get to see all my old colleagues and all my new colleagues every day for the next month. And I think the really good thing for me is that at T, I’m not doing Vogue. And my old colleagues know that and my new colleagues know that, and so it’s just a kind of bigger community of people who are interested in a certain kind of storytelling and a certain kind of imagery. I think it would have been different had one moved to a book that competes against [Vogue]; the great thing about T is it doesn’t compete with anybody. It’s the New York Times, and that is the great blessing of it, that it’s a complement to any other type of publishing agenda.

Funny you should say that, because we were going to ask you if it’s been strange to see your former Vogue colleagues every day at the shows.
No, it’s been fantastic. It eases my social obligations because I get to see everybody every day.

Can you sum up what T is going to be like under your leadership vs. what it already is?
No, I can’t. I sort of think the pictures, and the text, will sort of have to speak for itself. People have to wait till December to see the first issue, which will be a holiday issue; and that’s a kind of smaller issue. And then till February, when I do the first women’s issue, and I imagine that’s the one that will be most scrutinized because it’s about women’s fashion, and it’ll be the first season I wasn’t at Vogue, and that I looked at the clothes from possibly a different seat.

Stefano Tonchi said that T is a newspaper culture and Condé Nast is a magazine culture. Have you felt that difference at all?
Well, I haven’t been there long enough to know what a newspaper culture is. But the difference is, at the New York Times, I think that the magazine that I do has to relate to what happens on the third floor in the newsroom in ways that at Condé Nast the other magazines have to relate somewhat to what Vogue is doing, or The New Yorker or the flagship properties in that building as well. The New York Times, the paper, is a flagship property, and I feel that T is one component of that property.

Which cafeteria is better, Condé Nast or New York Times?
Well, the New York Times has a smoothie bar at all times, which is terribly exciting to someone like me. But my youngest son, Oscar, who is 7, came to visit at the Times and said, “Ugh, Condé Nast is so much cooler, mom!” And I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I think it was those curvilinear Frank Gehry panels that he seems to be missing. I pointed him to the large views and the kind of gleamed building shades that go up and down, of course, but I don’t think he was convinced.

Have you been getting a lot of people approaching you for jobs?
I think in a way whenever there’s a shake-up, people approach you, but I have a really nice staff, so there’s not a lot of movement right now. And I am not a promiscuous person, so I never flirt. I don’t have any ability to flirt with anything or anybody. So I think that we’re pretty solid.

Any hints you can give me about what we’ll see in the December issue? Any changes in format?
Well, I think I’ve worked long enough to know that everything changes at the last minute, so you should never announce anything. [Laughs.] Sorry.

Q&A With Sally Singer: ‘The Great Thing About T Is It Doesn’t Compete With Anybody’