Symposium Speaker: Q and A with Jade Beer, former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Brides Magazine
The September/October edition of Brides features personal highlights from your eight years at the helm. You must have sifted through hundreds of exclusive stories and anecdotes; can you share a couple that didn’t make it into print?
I didn’t have space in that issue to talk about our last Leap Year event, hosted at The Savoy. It was one of the most ambitious events we ever did. A dozen single women put through full hair and make-up and styled in evening wear by the Brides team. That night they sat down to dinner with their partners who had been told they were there to do a restaurant review. At the end of the meal, each couple was taken into our secret filming room and while the cameras rolled, the women proposed. I was hidden out of sight, helping to record all the reactions and it was, without doubt, the most tense four hours of my career. We had laughs, tears, songs, poems, some excruciating rejections and, by the end of the night, a campaign that achieved the highest ever digital reach for Brides. The following day I was up with the sun to make it into the Sky News studio to talk about how we managed to pull it all off. I also have incredibly fond memories of our first ever Brides The Show, when we had no idea whether the concept of bringing the print title to life was going to work or not. A huge investment had been made, not just a financial one but with the team’s time and efforts. I was sending writers on planes around the world to pick up celebrity wedding dresses and hoping that people would turn up on opening night to see what we had created. It ended up being one of the most exhausting but rewarding experiences of my career so far. During your career, you have worked with some of the biggest names in the bridal fashion industry. Who are your stand-out designers and which names are up and coming in your eyes?
When you work on a title like Brides, you develop an appreciation for many of the bridal designers, regardless of the sector of the market they work with. But there were always shows that I looked forward to more than others. Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and Elie Saab at New York Bridal Fashion Week always delivered something incredibly special. As we stood in their private ateliers in Manhattan, I would look at my fashion director and see the ideas bubbling up within her. I always had a soft spot for the delicate and daring ingenuity of Mira Zwillinger, the modern textures of Jesus Peiro, the understated chic of Delphine Manivet, the showmanship of Reem Acra, the expert tailoring of Lela Rose, the playfulness of Hayley Paige, the cool glamour of Temperley and the versatility of Kate Halfpenny. The emerging fashion shortlist the judges have announced for the inaugural Bridelux awards is a very exciting one and it will be very interesting to see who triumphs. Did you always want to work in the bridal industry?
Honestly, no. I was a newspaper journalist who made the switch to mainstream women’s magazines and was then asked to cover the editor of Brides while she was on maternity leave. I think I was two days into the job when I realised I was going to have a very hard time not falling in love with it. Thankfully, six months later, the job was mine. I worked harder on Brides than I did during any 12-hour newspaper shift, but the rewards were far beyond what I had experienced elsewhere. There is a level of creativity in print publishing that doesn’t exist in other mediums and that attracts seriously talented people. What's the biggest or most extravagant wedding event you have ever featured in Conde Nast Brides?
Quite often that honour went to the real brides we featured. The ones who rented entire European villages or far-flung private islands, who filled their reception lawn with black swans because Instagram told them they should, the ones whose budgets stretched beyond £1 million; those who had nine couture outfit changes over one wedding weekend. Even after eight years in the editor’s seat, I was never beyond being surprised by the extravagance of some brides. You’ve partnered with many movers and shakers within the bridal industry, which connections do you treasure the most?
Those of my own team, regardless of how far back the working relationship goes. These are the people who made things happen, who secured interviews you never thought you’d get; who pulled together complicated production schedules so you could shoot your fashion well in Bali with very little notice; the people who worked magic with the budgets so we never had to say no to anything we really wanted to do; but mostly for turning up every day and appreciating how lucky we all were to be doing something together that we loved. If you could take away one bespoke object, dress or fabulous accessory that you’ve featured, what would it be?
I’m not a greedy person, so I’ll settle for anyone of the Bond Street jewels we featured on our covers! In your opinion, how has the luxury bridal industry changed over the years?
I think it has gone through a period of huge change, driven by consumer demand. The definition of a luxury wedding is so broad now and suppliers have to keep pace with that. Couples marrying today have so much choice about how they style their weddings, and that can place great pressure on suppliers to be nimble, creative and adaptable. What are your thoughts about the UK bridal fashion industry relative to what is going on across the seas?
There seemed to be a general assumption from the US when I was editing Brides, that British brides and therefore British bridal designers were more traditional than our American counterparts. That we were somehow a little behind in our thinking and slower to embrace change. I always felt that was unfair. Whenever I compared the fashion well in my magazine to that of our American sister title, I felt there was an energy and creatively flowing through ours that was very hard to match. But there is enormous positivity in the States, a thirst for new ideas, a constant questioning of what women want, and that energy and excitement seem to imbue everything they do which is very persuasive. You write for the Telegraph, Tatler and The Times, Glamour and Stella. What topics are of interest to you?
It’s broad but generally stories that have women at their centre. I have been writing and editing women’s features in one form or another for over twenty years and it’s never got boring. Women and the way they juggle so much is what interests me - family, career, relationships, children and how the messy realities of it all fit together. It’s what made bridal so fascinating, given that your wedding day is such a public declaration of the kind of person you see yourself as – or perhaps more accurately, the kind of person you would like others to see you as. Your debut novel The Almost Wife and follow up What I Didn’t Say were released last year. Were they based on any real-life experiences? Are you working on any more fiction titles?
Yes! There was a lot of reality in those books. All those years spent inside Vogue House; around thousands of women at that heightened emotional state of planning a wedding and my own experiences of being a boss, mother, wife and daughter. I kept one ear firmly trained on the team of women I worked with and they provided much of the fabric of both books. Book three is in the early planning stages now. It will examine the relationship women have with their wardrobes and the real power of a great dress to alter the woman within it. It’s the end of an era at Brides but also a new beginning. What will you miss the most and what can’t you wait to get started on?
I will miss doing a ‘job’ that really never felt like work at all. I never had a single Sunday night where I didn’t want to go to the office the next day and I realise that is a position of great privilege. I’m not stepping away from the bridal market, but this year I’m stretching my fingers a little farther afield which feels like just the challenge I need.You are participating in the Bridelux Symposium 2019 with many other big names in the bridal industry. Can you sum up what this means to you?
An event like this is a meeting of minds, an opportunity to exchange ideas, build your network, help others and reap the enormous advantage of benefitting from the advice and expertise of others more successful than you are – for now at least! I expect to come away with an armful of new contacts and a brain buzzing with fresh ideas.
You can see Jade Beer at the Bridelux Symposium