Behind the September Issue with ELLE Canada

Behind the September Issue with ELLE Canada

While most industries look to the summer months as a welcome break, those in the fashion industry spend their summer days furiously working on the collections and issues that will leave a lasting impression come fall.

What goes into those all important September issues, you wonder? ELLE Canada gives us an exclusively look into the brainstorm and planning process behind their biggest issue of the year.

Can you tell us a bit about the editorial conference?

The #ELLEEditCon is a day of strategy, conversation and dreaming about big-picture ideas and editors’ wish lists of content for the coming months. It’s a new era at ELLE Canada because we have a new editor-in-chief and a new art director, and we kicked it off with an editorial meeting to brainstorm the September issue, fashion’s most important issue. This took place live on Facebook at the Toronto Facebook offices—the first time this has ever been done in Canada. We then headed went off site to plan issue themes and new mediums through which to engage our readers. [Ed’s Note: This planning just happened to take place at our Toronto location at 96 Spadina]

What kind of preparation do you do beforehand? Is this a first-time thing or an initiative you revisit every so often?

Typically, we hold these large-scale brainstorming sessions about twice a year. And, yes, a lot of legwork goes into this day! Editors from each section of the magazine—fashion, beauty, culture—must come with pitches to present to the editor-in-chief. (No pressure.) But there’s also a lot of off-the-cuff idea generation too, which we do in smaller groups and then present to the team.

What’s the ultimate goal of the day?

Inspiration and team building. We also wanted to create a lineup for the September issue and generate overarching ideas for in-book, video and online content that will engage the ELLE Canada reader.

What does your offsite process look like?

There’s a ton of food and coffee because you can’t be productive on an empty stomach or when you’re lacking caffeine. Typically, we break the ice with a fun activity. Editor-in-chief Vanessa Craft raided a Michaels craft store and had each of us design a personal magazine cover that spoke to who we were at the age of 12. It helped us learn a bit more about each other and get the creative juices flowing. We then broke into smaller groups for discussions, after which we presented issue theme ideas to the team. And it’s tradition to finish the day with a champagne toast.

What is your usual editorial decision-making process like? How is this different from a usual editorial meeting?

To be honest, it isn’t that different. At our all-day editorial conferences, we take a more high-level approach, waxing on larger editorial themes. But the vibe is the same. There’s lots of discussion and debate, people talking over each other and riffing on each other’s ideas while someone frantically scribbles down all our thoughts.

ELLE is one of the country’s leading fashion magazines—what office-wear trends are big with the team this season?

Because we work in fashion, we have a lot more creative freedom than most offices. So we could definitely roll up to work in Vetements Frankenstein jeans and no one would blink an eye. That said, this season, you can’t go wrong with a power suit. We also love pairing a floral dress or skirt with gorgeous flatforms.

Where do you find inspiration for each issue?

Obviously, the runway is a huge source of inspo. But we find ideas everywhere— whether it’s celebrity or street style or the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

How far ahead do you plan your issues?

We’re always thinking ahead—sometimes as early as six months for certain sections. But, of course, these lineups are always in flux because we want to be as current and fresh as possible.

How do you decide what content will be compelling and interesting for your readers?

A mix of experience, knowing our readers and being open to new ideas and taking risks. We also study the data from our focus groups—we have a very vocal readership. We’re also constantly scouring social media and reading and listening to see what people are talking about—or NOT talking about…yet. Sometimes it’s things we’re interested in! For example, the idea for our recent article “The Chicest Plants for Your Home and How Not to Kill Them” came out of a casual pre-meeting discussion about why we so many of us were embracing our previously buried green thumbs.

Advice on the best way to collaborate with your team?
An open, trusting and respectful environment breeds good collaboration. Practically, collaboration also works best when everyone has a clear objective, role and responsibility. Also, we’re never not talking. We are constantly shouting to each other over our cubes, chatting about story ideas on our treks to Whole Foods or messaging each other on Slack. Respect plays a huge part in collaboration—everyone’s ideas are valid and discussed. And we are encouraged to dream HUGE.

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