Vogue’s Global-Local Balancing Act



  • A major restructuring at Vogue has put global editorial direction in the hands of Anna Wintour and led to greater global content sharing.
  • New editors at Vogue’s international editions are pushing a mix of global and local content to international audiences in Europe, Asia and beyond.
  • “Each market should be focused on how they interpret global themes through their diverse cultures,” said APAC editorial director Leslie Sun.

From Japan to India, the new generation of editors helming Vogue titles in Asia say they aim to boost the region’s representation on the global fashion stage.

But some observers see that mission as at odds with a restructuring at the magazine’s publisher Condé Nast, which has consolidated power in the hands of its New York-based leadership and given control over Vogue’s global editorial operations to American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, resulting in waves of exits at Vogue’s international editions and the appointment of new editorial heads with more international, and less local, profiles.

Vogue China’s Margaret Zhang is Chinese Australian; Vogue India’s Megha Kapoor was born in India but has spent much of her life in New Zealand and Australia; Vogue Japan’s Tiffany Godoy has spent most of her professional life in Tokyo, but hails from Los Angeles.

Source: BoF Analysis
Source: BoF Analysis

For Condé Nast CEO Roger Lynch, the restructuring was not only a way to cut costs and streamline the organisation, which has suffered from the decline of print advertising, but retool for a globalised world, where borders are more porous, especially when it comes to digital content. In 2020, before the restructuring, 40 percent of traffic to Vogue’s local edition websites already came from outside their target markets.

“Our audiences are looking for good content all over the world, just as they seek out the best dramas on Netflix,” Condé Nast chief executive Roger Lynch told The Times earlier this month. “There are no borders to content anymore. We need to reorganise around that.”

But unlike the streaming service, which has found success marketing global content to global audiences with hits like Indian Matchmaking and Squid Game, Vogue is now creating more of the content for its international editions from its US headquarters, which some say threatens the title’s ability to resonate with local audiences, particularly in Asia.

“I always say, perhaps with the exception of Japan, that fashion isn’t really our forte [in Asia], but we do have a vast, diverse, cultural landscape that has been under-represented for so long,” said Leslie Sun, Vogue’s APAC editorial director and head of editorial content at Vogue Taiwan, to whom Vogue Japan’s Godoy and Vogue India’s Kapoor report.

The secret, said Sun, is finding a local lens on global themes set by the magazine’s leadership. “Each market should be focused on how they interpret global themes through their storytelling, talent, locations and diverse cultures,” she said.

Asia's new generation of editorial leaders includes (from left to right) Vogue APAC editorial director Leslie Sun, Vogue Japan's head of editorial content Tiffany Godoy, Vogue India's head of editorial content Megha Kapoor (both Kapoor and Godoy report to Sun) and Vogue China editor-in-chief Margaret Zhang, who reports directly to Anna Wintour.
Asia’s new generation of editorial leaders includes (from left to right) Vogue APAC editorial director Leslie Sun, Vogue Japan’s head of editorial content Tiffany Godoy, Vogue India’s head of editorial content Megha Kapoor and Vogue China editor-in-chief Margaret Zhang. (Condé Nast )

In March, when Vogue’s global theme was “Body,” the magazine’s Asia-Pacific editions collaborated on a portfolio that featured women from six territories across the region discussing how their approach to their bodies subverted traditional social structures.

“We’ve learned that creating successful global stories involves lots of conversation with all of our editors, so that we can agree well in advance on the creative direction, angle and approach of any particular shared story,” added Wintour via email.

According to Condé Nast, when Vogue stories are shared from West to East with little localisation, it’s often related to events such as the Oscars or the Met Gala. Still, in March, American content about the Oscars that appeared on Vogue India was accompanied by a feature on Priyanka Chopra’s pre-Oscars party designed to appeal to local audiences.

For Vogue India’s Kapoor, it’s about highlighting “the diversity of the subcontinent and wrapping up the intersection of fashion, beauty and the arts with our cultural stories, grounding back into something that is distinctly Indian.”

“This is not to say anything negative about the past, but I don’t want to look to the West to dictate what we’re going to do,” she added. “There’s enough beauty and enough inspiration within the subcontinent to make something that feels like our very own.”

“I think it’s something that is going to allow us to be global but still retain our local flavour,” Sun added. “We won’t look homogeneous because that defeats the purpose.”