Lipstick Wars at Fashion Mags! Fur Flies Under Florio

c otr Lipstick Wars at Fashion Mags! Fur Flies Under FlorioOn Feb. 20, longtime Vogue associate publisher Connie Anne Phillips left 4 Times Square to become the publisher of Time Inc.’s InStyle–a Vogue competitor. Tom Florio, the brusque, old-school Condé Nast veteran and Vogue publisher, was losing a powerful deputy and longtime friend.

According to Condé Nast sources, Mr. Florio was not at all pleased with the thought of Ms. Phillips raiding his staff as she figured out her plans with InStyle. Moreover: “He really cared for her and he was really bruised when she said she was leaving,” as one well-placed insider put it.

Mr. Florio had additional reason to be wounded. Before Ms. Phillips got her new gig, the executive director of beauty ads at Vogue, Toria Garrett, announced she was leaving for InStyle, to become the advertising director of beauty and lifestyle. She was a hot property at a time when beauty—which is to say, cosmetics—is particularly important to women’s magazines; fashion companies have balked at advertising in the face of their industry’s general contraction; but even during a depression—especially during a depression—women always need a little lipstick pick-me-up!

After Ms. Phillips’ letter of resignation landed on Mr. Florio’s desk, a decision was made to go back after Ms. Garrett, hard. This may be a moment when many staffers throughout Condé Nast are taking on two and three jobs, but Mr. Florio grew up in the company at a point when raiding rival staffs, whatever it took, was part of the game. Time to turn back the clock. 

On March 2, Ms. Garrett abruptly turned around, without putting in even one day at InStyle, and announced she was moving back to Vogue, with a shiny new title: advertising director, overseeing the magazine’s beauty and non-endemic business.

Score for Mr. Florio.

Both camps insist that there was no specific message sent by the rehire, and that there is no tension.

“Tom encouraged Connie Anne to interview for the position at InStyle,” said Elissa Lumley, spokeswoman for Vogue. “He called people in the organization to recommend her. When he heard that Connie Anne got the job, he was genuinely happy for her and hugged her.”

“Connie Anne and Tom remain good friends,” said an InStyle spokeswoman, “and she is focused on getting to know her new staff at InStyle.

Yet one could be forgiven for expecting Mr. Florio’s and Ms. Phillips’s newfound professional rivalry to be fraught. They’ve had a close working relationship for years. They were also friends—they’re neighbors in Sag Harbor, and Mr. Florio’s children affectionately called Ms. Phillips “Auntie Con-Con.”

Ms. Phillips was also one of the most powerful deputies at 4 Times Square. While Mr. Florio oversees the large Vogue empire, Ms. Phillips did a lot toward running the day-to-day operations at the classy monthly. Last year, her title was changed to managing director to reward her for increased influence at the magazine.

In recent months, however, Condé Nast has not been in a position to be particularly nurturing of proteges. When Si Newhouse and CEO Chuck Townsend were considering what to do with the now-defunct shelter title Domino a few months ago, they were openly shopping for a new publisher. Ms. Phillips, two sources said, wanted the job. She did not get it (of course, this might have been a blessing, since the decision was made to fold Domino on Jan. 28).  

Ms. Phillips started at InStyle on Feb. 23, one workday after she resigned from Vogue.

jkoblin@observer.com