Glenda Bailey Swims with the Sharks

It’s official: Today’s Woman Crush Wednesday has made our week, with Harper’s Bazaar Editor-in-Chief Glenda Bailey gracing our homepage. From stories about introducing Tom Ford to Gwyneth Paltrow, Rihanna swimming with sharks for 2015’s March cover and exploring New York for the best cake possible, Bailey has no doubt made our Wednesday 300 times more interesting. If there’s anything you should read today, it’s this interview…

The New Potato: From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

Glenda Bailey: Lots of carbs. An ideal breakfast would be of course an English breakfast, and then I would have to have cake — meaning muffins. That’s why I like America; because they serve you cake for breakfast, which I think is a very good idea. So I would have the English breakfast, to speak to my English side, and then I would have the cake side with the American muffin. I would probably have an English muffin as well, now that I think about it.

Lunch definitely would be ABC Kitchen, and it would be the carrot and avocado salad, for sure. And if it were this time of year I’d have the pea soup…followed by cake. They do something similar there to a Bakewell tart but with orange. It’s so good. It’s a fabulous concoction. Then there would have to be afternoon tea with of course some English scones. For tea here in New York it would be Tea & Sympathy, but it tends to be tricky, I have to say, to get good scones here. The best scones tend to be, of course, back in Britain. So afternoon tea with scones, and of course some more cake. And then I think for dinner, I would probably have cake, cake, and cake. I’m particularly keen on a carrot cake from E.A.T. — the most appropriately named store I ever did hear — and it’s got lovely vanilla icing on the top. That is one of my all-time favorite cakes. As you’ve gathered I’m the sort of person that likes to have my cake and eat it.

TNP: Okay so, now we’ll go from cake to something a little bit more— professional, shall we say. 

GB: I’m very professional about cake. That would be a marvelous profession. That would be my absolute dream.

TNP: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in fashion and publishing since you started?

GB: Well, of course, social media is the greatest change. I think it’s fantastic because anything that encourages communication about fashion and indeed food makes me very happy.

TNP: Speaking of social media, do you have certain accounts that you’re addicted to? Are you on social media?

GB: I personally love The Economist. I think it is so good. I love the way that it’s got the five points every morning that you need to know. It’s just so straightforward. And I like the reporting; I think it’s really excellent. I would like to see a fashion version of that actually. But of course when it comes to fashion, there can be no better site than HarpersBazaar.com. And naturally, ShopBAZAAR because I love to shop. I’m only on social media via HarpersBazaar.com. I feel that – if I had my own social – my audience might be concerned about all my cake obsessions and they might get a little bored. That could be a bit sad for me, when they’re looking to see the latest and greatest design and there’s just lots of pictures of cake.

TNP: So if you had an Instagram it would basically just be cake?

GB: I actually started sending things to participate with our own website and social media, but I think the team was confused by me sending things like peeling paint for color ranges. I’m super fortunate because I go out with an artist, and through his eyes, the world is a very beautiful place, so I’m prone to like things that may not make so much sense to everybody else. But of course, I also love frocks, and there are so many frocks that so many people can see. I should get onto it and I know I should, but I’ve got so much else to do!

TNP: You should. It should be called Céline and Cake.

GB: Exactly. Two of my favorite things. It’s interesting because I think when you’re in the industry, it’s so important to have something which you keep personal, and I’m the sort of person that can be very social but at the same time very private. It’s about getting the balance.

TNP: Do you think with digital now, editors have to become very visible? 

GB: Only if they’re very insecure. I think there is way too much information and too much noise. Personally, I just don’t need to know when someone’s having their haircut. It’s annoying. When people post, “I’m going for lunch,” I don’t need to know – unless it happens to be my date for lunch. Because I’m an editor and I love editing, I would spend my time getting rid of stuff and focusing on what’s good. Life’s too short not to.

TNP: We recently interviewed Katie Couric, who said that we all need our own personal editors now to curate what we read.

GB: Yes. Either that or a nanny. I’m convinced that most adults need a nanny.

TNP: What do you think are parallels between food and fashion?

GB: Well, they both bring such incredible enjoyment. I’m all about the senses and I’m a great believer in overindulgence in everything you enjoy, which clearly means eating cake and clearly means buying a lot of Céline. But not just Céline. Valentino and Lanvin are perfectly agreeable.

TNP: [Laughs] Do you think that people can get too serious about fashion? Do you think people need to have more of a sense of humor about it?

GB: I’m a great believer in laughing your way through life, because otherwise you just cry. I really enjoy people that don’t take themselves too seriously. I believe that fashion is entertainment; what I do is entertainment. With a magazine, you’re not studying for an O-level or an exam; you’re supposed to enjoy it. The pleasures of life, of course, are eating, shopping, dancing and all of those great things. You just need to do more of it all the time.

TNP: What about travel? What is your favorite place you’ve been and where are you still dying to go to?

GB: Well, recently I went to the south of France. They were opening various hotels because the season was just beginning, and it was fantastic because nobody was there. We had the pools to ourselves, we had all the museums to ourselves…and then of course now it’s everywhere I look. Dior just showed in the south of France and of course T Magazine had a whole four pages on La Colombe d’Or — a very great, favorite restaurant by the way. It’s because there is a feeling and a spirit there, which, to me, is absolutely right. I’m super interested in the period of 1946 to 1956, and the people that lived in the south of France at that time, whether it be all those great artists who collaborated together, or great writers. It was such a vibrant time. I got the chance to go to Francine Weisweiller’s house, where Jean Cocteau painted all of the walls. It’s still a private house and is incredible. It was just such a pleasure. Those special moments are so inspiring. Travel is the most exciting thing for inspiration, and I relish traveling.

I’ve never been to India and I would like to go. I really want to go to Brussels and Antwerp because I love antiquing. Of course, so many incredible minds and designers are based in Antwerp. Who wouldn’t like to visit Dries Van Noten’s house or visit Raf [Simmons] and his atelier there? I see Antwerp as a fantastic enclave of people with ideas and the sort of people that are equally interested in interiors, fashion, entertaining, and food…they just love the finer things in life. And that’s something I can’t get enough of.

TNP: If you could be someone in history for a day, who would it be and why?

GB: Let’s just think. I suppose the obvious one would be [Diana] Vreeland, when she was of course in her Bazaar years. I think that it would be so intriguing to see exactly how it all worked at Bazaar during that time. Carmel Snow I think was an incredible editor and of course [Alexey] Brodovitch is one of my all-time heroes. I would also love to meet George Davis, who is the unsung hero of the four. They were like the four musketeers, but who talks about George Davis? I would love to meet them all, and of course collaborate with Richard Avedon. That would be very fabulous.

TNP: In your own career, do you have a memory of sitting down at dinner, looking around and thinking, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m here.” Who was surrounding you and what were you eating?

GB: All the time. Although I have to tell you, in those examples, I don’t actually remember the food. [Laughs] It’s atmosphere and excitement. Who gets the chance to introduce Tom Ford to Gwyneth Paltrow? I’m so fortunate to have been at the right place at the right time for so many exciting collaborations. To have given Sarah Jessica Parker her first cover is quite extraordinary. And then I am able to say — because I’m so fortunate that so many people want to participate in Bazaar — that I get the chance to do very creative things with very creative people, like saying to Rihanna, “We want you to swim with sharks.”  She was very accommodating. Those eight-foot sharks were swimming around with her. We have the video to prove it! Or putting Jennifer Aniston in that bubble. It’s such a privilege to work at Bazaar because you’re constantly having dinner with the most incredible minds and being inspired. I’m addicted to creativity, so it’s the perfect job for me.

TNP: Were there any hitches? Did any of the sharks not like Rihanna’s music?

GB: We had to literally pull her out because a shark wanted to eat her, naturally. I mean who wouldn’t? Talking of food, she seemed super attractive to them.

TNP: If you could give your personal definition of good content, what would it be?

GB: Something I’ve never read before. If I have read about it before, it’s got to be from a new angle. It’s got to be innovative and it’s got to be original. If it has a sense of humor, all the better.

TNP: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

GB: Keep your thumb on the outside, from my beloved Steve [Sumner]. Most women, when they make a fist, they put their thumb inside, which means that should you need to punch someone you will break your thumb. So often, women tend – when they’re in a conflict situation – to back away or keep quiet. And in fact, they hurt themselves, rather than dealing with the situation. This is a gross generalization, but I think we need to encourage more women to stand up, fight back and protect themselves, and know how to present an argument and not hurt themselves. Thank goodness, we have so much emotion, and so therefore it makes us, I think, great managers. But in a conflict situation — I’m talking from just generally dealing with a team mainly of women — we so often don’t want to have the argument, whereas of course in your job, sadly, if you want to do exceptional work, you have to often achieve the impossible. I’m all about achieving the impossible every day, and so you have to find a way of going forward, constantly pushing the barrier, and being strong.

TNP: If you could give your younger self advice, would it be the same thing? 

GB: It’s so nice to be able to break the stereotypes. When you grow up, you believe that if you want to work on a fashion magazine, you have to be a particular way. And I’m very proud that that’s no longer the case. If you look at the members of the Bazaar team, every person comes from a completely different background and is completely different in the way that they look. If you have the passion for something you have to make the opportunity for yourself to do that.

TNP: What advice would you give a woman getting up in the morning, looking in the mirror and getting dressed?

GB: “You look great. Enjoy it.” People worry so much about what other people think. That’s never been my problem. [Laughs] I know exactly what I like and I know how to achieve it. I think it’s such a shortcut to happiness.

TNP: Do you have any specific food memories from your childhood, and if so what are they? 

GB: My mother baking pies — blackberry and apple being my favorite. My sister is a fabulous cook. She’s great. Whatever she does, she does so well. I am a helpless cook. Although, I have to confess, I did win the school prize for cookery. But it was all to do with presentation; I love the presentation part. They didn’t actually cut into the food to see whether it was okay or not. I think they just presumed it would taste good, and so I ended up with the prize, which was rather fabulous. But Steve is so not impressed by this at all because he is the cook in our house. In fact, once, he bought me a rather large photograph and he didn’t know where to hide it to surprise me, so he hid it in the kitchen.

TNP: How long did it stay hidden?

GB: Longer than I care to admit. Basically, if you come around and I cook, you look at it and go, “Oh how lovely!” and then you make a mental note that you’re going to need takeout once you’ve tasted it. I’m just a terrible cook.

TNP: What your favorite cities for food are and restaurants you like to go to in each?

GB: I’m super loyal to restaurants. I love Le Bernardin. I did mention ABC Kitchen. I totally recommend Nougatine, which is where I had lunch today. They’ve got a new preparation of the salmon. It’s sesame seed crusted and it’s really incredible. And it’s one of the best bargains, their lunch menu, because they do a prix fixe menu.

In Paris, I love Caviar Kaspia, A Priori Thé at Galerie Vivienne and Muscade Palais-Royale for salads (the best location).

In London, The Colony Grill at The Beaumont Hotel, Rock & Sole Plaice on Endell Street and The Wolseley.

TNP: In the same vein as what’s the new black in fashion, what’s the new potato right now? 

GB: Eating potatoes. Because life’s too short not to eat potatoes. So many people in the fashion industry never eat bread, but certainly they’ve never eaten a potato for at least the last several years, which is why they’re often looking angry and miserable, in my opinion.

*Glenda Bailey, photographed in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann. Glenda wears a Michael Kors dress.

 

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