Glenda Bailey, the Longtime Editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Wears Valentino

Glenda Bailey by Paul Kisselev. (Observer Media)
Illustration by Paul Kisselev.

Fashion Week may be over, but for Glenda Bailey, the editor of Harper’s Bazaar since 2001, every week is a chance to reflect on the latest fashion trends, styles and innovations. On a recent afternoon at her office in the Hearst Tower near Columbus Circle, she discussed her fashion favorites, the role of the editor and the transformative power of photography.

What are you wearing right now? I’m wearing a Valentino dress, Céline shoes and Lynn Ban earrings.

Do you feel more pressure to get dressed up for work because you run a fashion magazine? Well, I love fashion, and actually, it’s my hobby, too. My passion for fashion extends to shopping trips on a Saturday afternoon. Fashion’s supposed to make a woman feel good; it’s a form of expressing your creativity—or not, should you not wish to.

Any old standbys? Dresses—because they’re a one-stop shop, the answer to everything, the most flattering for any figure. I studied as a fashion designer and was terrible at it. But that’s very good for being an editor because at least I know what I’m good and not good at.

What’s your daily routine like? Busy. It goes along the lines of: yes, yes, yes, no, no, yes, yes, yes. That’s my day. In fact, one of the team brought me a gift back from L.A., which is two big buttons. One says no and one says yes. We have a lot of fun with that.

How would you describe the primary duty of an editor? An editor’s job is knowing her own mind. It really is—this is going to work and this isn’t going to work and why. That’s the thing an editor needs more than anything else. You get all your news on social media now and you’re constantly bombarded with fast information. And so we still have to give news in a monthly magazine, but I so believe in creating the news. That’s what it’s all about.

Is that what you were going for when you put Audrey Hepburn’s granddaughter, Emma Ferrer, on the cover last month? It’s so great to be able to discover someone who’s 20 years old who clearly has the spirit and grace of her grandmother. I was very lucky because many years ago I met Audrey Hepburn. I just couldn’t believe how strong she was. Everyone talked about how gentle and gracious she was, and yet, as a person, she knew her own mind. She clearly was very resilient.

Harper’s Bazaar has always featured evocative photography, as with Lady Gaga’s makeup-less cover shot last year. Richard Avedon was always my favorite photographer, and I was lucky enough when I was on the British edition of Marie Claire to listen to him speak. He talked so well about photography, but more importantly, about why photography is not the truth. What we present is a dream. In some cases, it’s an opportunity to show somebody in a different way, and in other cases it’s an aspirational image. But how wonderful to be able to realize the extent of a creative medium.

How would you compare the New York journalism world to Fleet Street? What’s exceptional about Britain is most of the editors are brought up and judged by their newsstand sales, which is excellent training. That’s why so many British editors are over here, because they really know how to sell a magazine. I’m completely unashamed in the respect that I’m a reader pleaser. I’m all about the reader. Glenda Bailey, the Longtime Editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Wears Valentino