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FAN CLUB: “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t really like her a lot,” said Ralph Lauren. “We hardly ever do this.”
It was Thursday night, and Lauren was standing on the second floor of his store on Madison Avenue and 72nd Street in the middle of a party he was throwing for new Architectural Digest editor in chief Margaret Russell. The whole scene felt like a coronation. The Condé Nast executives present — chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr., chief executive officer Charles Townsend, editorial director Tom Wallace — were in a good mood, especially since Russell’s debut March issue was a success, what with an 80 percent jump in ad pages, the biggest bump for any monthly magazine for the month.
“I think that the prognosis is good,” said Russell. “It’s such an exciting time for us. I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be.”
So good that there wasn’t even any awkwardness in the air considering that the title Russell gave up — Elle Decor — is sailing right along without her. (Ad pages for Elle Decor went up 40 percent in March.)
Asked how she managed to relaunch the magazine without upsetting loyal readers who were used to 35 years of stewardship under former editor in chief Paige Rense, Russell said, “Oh, you know, we’re upsetting some people, let’s be honest. But there are so many more people who have sent such a sense of goodwill to us. People don’t like change. AD is going to look like AD — we’re not changing the way it looks. But we are photographing things in a different way. We’re casting a wider net — we’re bringing more creative people to the magazine.
“There’s nothing shocking about what we’re doing,” she continued. “My goal is to have it be very fresh.”
Certainly she has her fans.
“Peggy has taken a wonderful institution like Architectural Digest and really upped the game,” said Loews chairman Jonathan Tisch. His wife, Lizzie Tisch, said she was at the newsstand recently and was taken by the “The Age of Elegance” March cover. “It was sitting next to some shelter magazines, and the cover was, ‘wow.’ This looks kind of spectacular,” she said.
And Lauren, the man who has been loyal to Architectural Digest for years, also is fully on board for the Russell era.
“I grew up with Paige Rense and I thought she was great and terrific,” Lauren said. “Margaret has a different sensibility,” which he described as “younger, modern, more casual, warm.”
“She has history, she has background, she’s got taste and she’s a pro,” he continued. “She’s going to bring something that’s fresh and new and keep the architectural customer that always loved it and add another audience.”
— JOHN KOBLIN