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Fashion

Condé Nast said to be planning Hong Kong magazine launch; Vanity Fair the likely choice

Speculation mounts that publisher will boost its presence in Southeast Asian luxury publishing, 20 years after Vogue Singapore flop, with approaches made to industry veterans in the region to fill key positions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2018, 7:46am

Paris Fashion Week may be in full swing, but all everyone is talking about this season is happening off the catwalks.

Michael Kors’ acquisition of Versace is the talk of the town. Yet another matter is on the minds of the Asian fashion media.

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Rumours that glossy magazines publisher Condé Nast is finally coming to Hong Kong have been swirling for months and reached fever pitch during the early days of the Paris shows.

According to a number of sources within the fashion industry, the company behind publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and GQ is set to launch one of those glossies, most likely Vanity Fair, in Hong Kong.

Launching yet another Asian edition of Vogue that would inevitably be a second-rate cousin of Vogue China seems far-fetched, and people with knowledge of the matter have mentioned the more highbrow Vanity Fair as a more likely choice.

A top executive of Condé Nast International who is in Paris for Fashion Week wouldn’t comment on the matter, but the Post has spoken to people who have been approached for roles including fashion director, and to a source working in fashion in Asia who said the publisher had hired a creative director, who would move from the Philippines to take up the position.

Condé Nast has approached Desiree Au in connection with its regional plans. Reached for comment, Au said: “I cannot comment on what Condé Nast's plans are in Hong Kong …". Au was until recently publisher of Time Out Hong Kong.

The plan seems to be to launch the magazine in 2019 (at least one Chinese supermodel has already been approached for an upcoming photo shoot).

Other than Thailand, Condé Nast has no presence in Southeast Asia – although, unbeknown to many, the company did attempt to launch a Singapore edition of Vogue almost 20 years ago. The short-lived magazine, which boasted a team including former Vogue Australia editor Nancy Pilcher and famed creative director Ronnie Cooke Newhouse, was one of the few failures in the history of the illustrious publisher, which has recently unveiled international editions of Vogue in the Middle East, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Amid declining print sales, competition from online platforms and from social media, and with lower advertising budgets for luxury brands in the United States and Europe, it’s no surprise that Condé Nast would seek to increase its presence in Asia, even though in recent years Hong Kong has seen many publications close, from Chinese-language newspapers to high-end luxury titles.

The arrival of Condé Nast in Hong Kong – and perhaps even Singapore, where the publisher is said to be testing the waters for a possible launch of technology publication Wired – would inject some energy into luxury publishing in Asia.

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Full disclosure: I was the founding managing editor of Vogue Arabia and previously worked at Condé Nast publications in the US, Europe and Japan.