FROM TIMES SQUARE TO THE TIMES: Bye, Anna, hello, Bill. Sally Singer said as much Tuesday morning when The New York Times confirmed the Vogue fashion news/features director would be the next editor in chief of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, effective July 5. The Times’ announcement put an end to weeks of speculation about who would take over the Sunday style supplement, which has been functioning without a chief since late March when founding editor Stefano Tonchi was tapped by Condé Nast to rehabilitate W magazine. The drawn-out and secretive hiring process made for rampant rumors and misconceptions, even from those being considered for the job, such as T’s own Anne Christensen, who in the final last few weeks is said to have believed she had a lock on the job, and Guy Trebay, who sources said also lobbied heavily for the post. In a strange unfolding of events, Christensen was out of the office when the Times staffers were told the news, according to sources. Equally curious, George Gene Gustines, T’s managing editor, wasn’t there either — he was on vacation.
Insiders say Singer, whose candidacy was first reported by WWD, vacillated for some time between taking the plunge and accepting the T gig and staying at the cushier — and probably higher paying — environs of Vogue, her professional home for over a decade. (Prior to joining the title in 1999, she was fashion director at New York magazine and also spent time at Elle and British Vogue.) Her indecision goes some of the way in explaining away the month-long delay in naming a successor for Tonchi — some sources point to possible impending upper-level management changes at the Times Magazine as a contributing factor.
Asked what spurred her move, Singer told WWD, “It seemed like the right time to have a new challenge — and Bill Keller [the Times’ executive editor] is very persuasive,” but noted it was a “wrenching” decision to make. “I’m a very loyal person and I don’t make moves easily,” she said. (Though she declined to discuss salary, Singer emphasized her “deliberations about this job were not about practical terms. It was entirely emotional. It’s going from one job I love to another place that I love but don’t know as well.”) Singer also spoke of the excitement she felt about following in the footsteps of past Times Magazine style editors including Carrie Donovan and her predecessor Tonchi, who expressed a mutual admiration when reached for comment. “I think she’s one of the smartest people in New York,” he said of Singer. “I could not imagine better hands for my T, or a better brain.” (Interestingly, one source said Singer had been up for the T editor in chief gig when it launched in 2003 before Tonchi was chosen.)
For those wondering how the news hit Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, by Tuesday afternoon she’d already filled Singer’s slot by promoting Eve MacSweeney and Mark Holgate to features director and fashion news director, respectively. Via her spokesman, Wintour offered: “I am very happy for Sally and I know that she is going to do amazing things at T. I am also looking forward to continuing to work closely with both Eve and Mark, each of whom brings a great deal of talent to Vogue.”
While Singer — considered to be more of an intellectual than a straight fashion person by her colleagues — was mum on her vision for the multisubject T, she did say, “I wasn’t hired by Bill Keller to bring Vogue to T. I was hired by Bill Keller to do T, so it’s a different project.” She later allowed, “I imagine at some point it will naturally evolve into something that reflects more my taste and concerns than those of my predecessor. But hopefully that will be an organic process and not an imposition.” — Nick Axelrod