SINGAPORE – It’s an accomplishment to dictate the pages of a top fashion magazine in Singapore, and editor in chief Giselle Go dictates 3: Style:, Style:Men, and the privately circulated bilingual magazine High.
She moved from Manila to Singapore over 5 years ago, and previously held the reigns of the Singaporean edition of Harper’s Bazaar. Giselle combines great taste, business skills, and humility in one intelligent package.
Rappler talks to Giselle about working in the fashion industry, hard work, and what it means to have true style.
Hi, Giselle! What exciting things have you been working on recently?
We just finished closing the May issues of all 3 magazines and my digital team will be translating and animating Style: onto our iPad app once these issues hit the newsstands.
My fashion team just completed the rounds in Milan and Paris for the women’s and men’s shows for Fashion Week, and are now gearing up to head on to Basel in Switzerland for the annual Watch Fair.
We’re also planning some exciting story lineups to cover the big fashion events happening in Singapore in May. Some of the most beloved designers from Paris are making their way down here so it’s shaping up to be a big year.
Dipping briefly into your background, how did you start working in fashion media in Singapore?
I was approached by both the former editor and editorial director of Harper’s Bazaar Singapore 5 and a half years ago after a chance meeting in Beijing. A few months and a couple of interviews later, I was offered the job of (chief) editor at Harper’s Bazaar.
I didn’t even think about it — I just packed everything and moved to Singapore for the job despite being very green at the time. Knowing what I know now, I had no idea what I was in for back then, which was probably a good thing or I would have been too intimidated to make the move.
I learned everything on the job; having one of the most talented team and a very supportive international editions team from Hearst New York definitely helped. I was editor at Bazaar Singapore for 4 years until I was approached by another media giant here in Singapore, Mediacorp, in 2012 to take on my current portfolio with them.
Leading Harper’s Bazaar Singapore at 26 years old is no easy feat. What were the biggest challenges you had to overcome when you joined the team?
My main challenge when I first took on the editor’s role at Harper’s Bazaar was learning how the market and the business model is set up here in Singapore. It’s very different from the one I was used to in Manila so I quickly had to learn and adapt to the market here, especially since I held a leadership position. At the time, I had no track record to speak of so all eyes were, understandably, on me.
A lot of the things I had to educate myself on had little to do with the daily technical operations of producing a magazine, which I was already well-versed in. That comprised a tiny fraction of what my job scope as chief editor entailed. I had to hit the ground running with zero training on other aspects of the role.
I honed my own soft skills and applied them to managing and nurturing client relationships, bringing out the best in an already immensely brilliant creative team — more senior than I was in both age and experience — and keeping the fine balance between editorial integrity and supporting the needs of our advertisers. I consider these to be some of the most important parts of the job.
It was also about keeping my eye on the bigger picture and figuring out where I’m steering the brand, considering its position against other strong fashion titles in the market. Quickly learning how the Singapore market worked and strategizing to be different in an already saturated market was a challenge.
To tell you the truth, looking back on what I had to do in those 4 years at Bazaar, I couldn’t even articulate for myself the things I just mentioned above — this is all hindsight for me. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but it was the only way I could have learned. I really had no time back then to even think about anything. I just pulled up my sleeves, got into the trenches, and worked my bottom off to get things done.
Today you hold the reigns to 3 magazines: Style, Style:Men, and High Magazine. How do you balance all of them?
I have an excellent and extremely talented team both at Style: and Style: Men. It’s the combination of both that also runs High. My teams are well-oiled machines and the camaraderie among them helps the production process run smoothly.
One of the keys to running magazines successfully in the fast-paced fashion world lies with the people you work with. I can’t stress that enough: teamwork and complementary skills will get this massive job done.
Who are the women you admire in terms of strength, independence, and inspiration?
Growing up, my main role model was Liz Tilberis, who was the editor of American Harper’s Bazaar. She was my biggest inspiration because of her vision for the magazine. I just fell in love with Bazaar and how she communicated the world of fashion to her readers. Her personal life was also inspiring to me: she battled cancer during her final days, but the legacy she created in her work made her existence truly special — it taught me that finding your purpose is truly the best thing you can do for yourself.
I also love Diana Vreeland, another former Bazaar editor. She was one of the legends. I loved her spunk and her fearlessness. The fashion world we have come to know today wouldn’t have been possible without her pioneering spirit and unique voice. That’s the type of woman I look up to: brave, talented, and intelligent. A woman who lets her presence be known and felt.
I’m still learning to be just as courageous. We all need to be more assertive despite what cultural mores for women may dictate. I think the global discussion that women like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg are bringing to the table, especially with her book Lean In, is important to women like me who are pursuing a fulfilling career.
Your job has brought you to so many countries and introduced you to unique individuals. Who is your favorite interview so far?
Every person I’ve interviewed is special. I love meeting new people and learning what makes them tick. It’s one of the perks I love about my job.
Some of the most articulate and intelligent personalities I’ve been lucky to interview are Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Michael Kors, and Frida Giannini. The most personable and just lovely interviewees have been Tod’s Diego Della Valle, Diane Von Furstenberg, Amanda Harlech (Karl Lagerfeld’s muse at Chanel), Roland Mouret, and Hermes’ Christophe Lemaire.
The most memorable, though, has to be Imelda Marcos.
The Internet has changed how a lot of people get their fashion information. As an EIC, what do you hope to bring to the table through your print magazines?
Our visuals are pure eye candy. It’s tough to beat print when you want to be inspired visually. Our shoots take a month to produce and the production value is pretty solid because of the time and budget spent on them. I think the way print magazines will evolve is that they will become more specialized visual experiences; think of them as monthly coffee table books. Paper brings a tactile experience.
When I was in Tokyo for a Chanel event last year, Karl Lagerfeld was talking about his obsession with paper growing up. He loved — and still does — to draw on beautiful paper so much that when he was a kid, he used to ask his father to bring back paper or stationery from his travels because he was afraid he’ll run out of it. I love that anecdote; it’s a lovely sentiment that may be odd to some people but it absolutely made sense to me.
Finish the sentence: True style is not only about clothing; it’s about __________.
Whose style do you admire the most?
Being as immersed in this industry as I am, I find that I’m less drawn to style as I am to personality. If you go to Fashion Week, you’ll see all of the world’s most stylish women in one venue. It’s so much fun and takes people-watching to a whole different level.
But because of that ubiquity and because I’m exposed to it a lot, I find myself drawn more to people with amazing personalities and a great sense of self. That’s more of a rare thing for me. That’s something I admire these days.
After all your success, what else would you like to accomplish?
A lot more. I want to write a book, build a website, support indigenous craft, and create something that is socially responsible.
Nothing concrete yet, but I still have a long way to go before I’m ever satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. – Rappler.com
Victoria Herrera is a TV and event host, model, and writer. In 2011, she released her first book, “Unscripted,” based on inspiring conversations on her previous radio show. In 2012, she hosted Runway TV Asia where she interviewed international fashion designers and celebrities. Currently based between Manila and Singapore, she continues to explore the world of creativity, design, and fashion as a contributor for several magazines and newspapers.