Jay Fielden brought an entirely new vision to Town & Country magazine when he came on as Editor-in-chief two years ago. A longtime icon in the publishing industry, Fielden has worked with notable luminaries like Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington and Tina Brown. All has come full circle as he now sits at the helm of a lifestyle magazine that’s managed to stay relevant since its start in 1846. Fielden is one of those perfect editors who – personally and professionally – embodies many different industries, rather than just one. This makes him a master of lifestyle, especially the classic American one his magazine represents. We sat down with him to talk about changes in publishing, people he’s always admired and just who would attend his dream dinner party…
Could you take us through your ideal food day? Where would you go? What would you eat?
I’m going to take the liberty of thinking I could hop around the world. I’d start at Dean Fearing’s place [Fearing’s Restaurant] in Dallas; I’d have biscuits and gravy. I’m from Texas so I can’t resist that. Then I’d go to Los Angeles to The Apple Pan for a hamburger for lunch. I’d finish up in Paris at Aux Lyonnais for dinner. That would be pretty tasty stuff for a day. A little fattening…
What’s the process behind creating content for Town & Country?
Oh my, my. Well certainly there’s blood sweat and tears. If you’re not crying, you’re not doing the right thing. Also, I have great people here. I have to be grateful to the staff because they’re the best and it’s very much a collaborative place. It’s not really about one person having a silver bullet idea. It’s the way that kernel of an idea gets developed and grows into something great. That’s what I appreciate about the magazine. It’s also about tuning your ear into what really meets the definition of the title and what we think Town & Country has done in the past and what it can do in the future. We’re tying back to the essentials which are: One, being very American. Two, being a magazine with great photographs with audiences also paying attention to the writing. And, three, though it has a sense of the exclusive, it’s also inclusive. Those are some of the things we use to keep our wits about us.
Were there things you wanted to change about Town & Country in coming onboard?
Yes. There were. I wanted to make it a co-ed magazine. It has a mix of men’s and women’s articles and ideas; it brings in both sides of the equation in that way. I wanted it to be more ambitious about its place as a magazine that obviously has a front row seat on the zeitgeist and on what’s going on in the country politically, philanthropically, in fashion, in food etc. And to really be a magazine tuned into the moment we’re living in – socioeconomically with the haves and have nots, the very rich, the middle class. This is a magazine that understands all that because it has a sense of history about the story of money in America. We’ve covered all this for so long. In a nutshell, I wanted to amp up the photography and to see just how ambitious we could make it.
So are you constantly trying to be relevant and current?
Not necessarily. I think Town & Country has to strike a tone of relevance. It had lost its way for these new times; it had become maybe what people thought was a fashion magazine, perhaps even a bit snobby or exclusionary. To me, it’s a magazine about living a certain exceptional kind of life. Fashion and good things are a part of that, but it’s also an attitude about life in general and how best to live it. Town & Country stories are everywhere. They’re out there all the time – the taxing the rich question, the latest tycoon in trouble, the American obsession with status and status symbols. Just look at Downton Abbey – What’s more Town & Country than that? There are a lot of things out there, and we try to be relevant and current, but at the same time there’s a nice clicking of what we’re doing at the magazine and what’s going on in the world.