|Education||St Paul's Girls' School|
|Alma mater||University of Sussex|
|Occupation||Fashion journalist, magazine editor, columnist, novelist|
|Known for||Ex-Editor-in-chief, British Vogue|
(m. 1994; div. 2005)
Alexandra Shulman CBE (born 13 November 1957) is a British journalist. She is a former editor-in-chief of the British edition of Vogue, and also the longest serving editor in the history of British Vogue. She took the helm of Vogue in 1992, presiding over a circulation increase to 200,000 and a higher profile for the publication. Shulman is one of the country's most oft-quoted voices on fashion trends. In addition to her work with Vogue, Shulman has written columns for The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, as well as published a novel.
Shulman is eldest of three children by film and author critic Milton Shulman and writer Drusilla Beyfus, who herself was a contributor to Vogue, among other publications. Shulman began working at Condé Nast – Vogue's publisher – upon joining Tatler in 1982, under the editorship first of Tina Brown and later Mark Boxer.
Alexandra Shulman was born in 1957, the daughter of the critic Milton Shulman and the writer Drusilla Beyfus. She has two siblings, Nicola and Jason. Her sister Nicola married Constantine Phipps (later, the 5th Marquess of Normanby) in 1990 and has written a biography of Tudor poet Sir Thomas Wyatt. Her younger brother Jason was formerly an art director for glossy magazines but is now a sculptor and photographer.
Whilst Alexandra was growing up, the Shulman family lived in Belgravia and she attended St Paul's Girls' School. The thought of following her parents' career paths did not appeal to Shulman. Instead, she expressed an interest in becoming a hairdresser, or working in the music industry, saying: "Nobody believes me when I say it's not what I thought I was going to do. But my heroines were singers like Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith or Carly Simon. I didn't think about whether they wore Chanel or not".
Shulman studied social anthropology at the University of Sussex. In 1980, she graduated, receiving a 2:2, later recalling herself being "in tears". In the following months, she became an assistant at an independent record label, enabling her to move out of her parents' flat. However, she was sacked after a short time. She then took on a role in the artists and repertoire department of Arista Records which also did not last very long. After this foray into the music business, she became a secretary at the now-closed Over 21 magazine.
As Shulman took on the role as editor-in-chief of Vogue in 1992, some speculated that she was not experienced enough for the role. Furthermore, others commented that her personal appearance did not conform to previous Vogue editors; as The New York Times noted: "The British press has made much of the fact that when it comes to personal wardrobe, Ms. Schulman [sic] could learn a thing or two from Ms. Tilberis's trademark Chanel, and that she could also become better acquainted with a hairbrush". It has been noted that it is still remarked upon that she doesn't "look" like an editor of Vogue.
Her tenure at Vogue was marked with various iconic issues of the magazine. Her December 1999 "Millennium Issue", possessing a simplistic page layout and a reflective, mirror-like cover – giving the illusion that its reader was on the front cover – became the highest selling issue of Vogue, with circulation of 241,001, including a newsstand sale of 142,399. A 1997 cover in memoriam of Diana, Princess of Wales was included in a poll deciding the UK's best ever magazine cover. As The Guardian noted, "Vogue stood out with a simple bare cover using a Patrick Demarchelier photograph of Diana in a red dress". The "Gold Issue," a December 2000 edition with Kate Moss on the cover in silhouette, also became a well-known cover.
—Shulman, discussing her stance on copy approval.
As the editor of Vogue, Shulman made various decisions on the magazine's stance. She stated that, "we never publish diets. We've never published things on cosmetic surgery", adding that she does not want to prescribe as specific way a woman should look to the reader. She also refuses to put celebrities on the cover if they demand copy approval and picture approval, saying "I just find that so offensive".
The magazine drew criticism in the early 1990s for photos of a waifish Kate Moss that were dubbed "heroin chic", part of a larger ongoing debate over whether fashion magazines present an unhealthy image for girls and contribute to the anorexia problem. In 1997, the watchmaker Omega pulled an ad campaign from Vogue over this issue. Shulman dismissed these concerns in a 1998 interview with the PBS public affairs television programme Frontline, stating: "Not many people have actually said to me that they have looked at my magazine and decided to become anorexic."
She has become more sensitive to the issue in recent years, acknowledging that anorexia is a "huge problem" in a January 2005 interview with The Scotsman: "I really wish that models were a bit bigger because then I wouldn't have to deal with this the whole time. There is pressure on them to stay thin, and I'm always talking to the designers about it, asking why they can't just be a bit closer to a real woman's physique in terms of their ideal, but they're not going to do it. Clothes look better to all of our eyes on people who are thinner". In 2009, Shulman spoke out over the sample sizes leading designers were producing – some were so small they restricted Vogue using the models they wished in the magazine, resulting in some models being airbrushed to look bigger. Shulman wrote to designers to draw their attention to the situation calling for larger sized samples to be produced.
Contrary to expectations, Shulman describes her own life as work-dominated and not particularly glamorous. In an October 2004 newspaper column on her Telegraph portrait, she said:
"Leaving aside the obvious but unlikely criteria of beautiful and thin, I realised that there was no look that was achievable which was going to make me happy. In my mind I am a free spirit of about 25 wafting around in second-hand cocktail dresses; in reality I am a 47-year-old businesswoman and journalist. The pictures unfortunately, tell the whole story."
She was a regular columnist for The Daily Telegraph newspaper, but started writing a column for the Daily Mail in 2006, which ran until 2009, when she was replaced by Liz Jones. Shulman's first novel, Can We Still Be Friends?, was published by Fig Tree in 2012.
On 25 January 2017, approaching 25 years as editor-in-chief, it was announced that she was leaving British Vogue in June 2017. Shulman stated: "last autumn I realised that I very much wanted to experience a different life and look forward to a future separate to Vogue".
In 2018, she launched her personal website https://www.alexandrashulman.com/
Shulman was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2005 New Year Honours for services to the magazine industry. She was later promoted to Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to fashion journalism. She was twice named "Editors' Editor of the Year" by the British Society of Magazine Editors, in 2004 and 2017, and was formerly a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery.
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- Photographs of Films, The Cob Gallery, 2016, retrieved 12 May 2016
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- "Fat" FrontLine (PBS), 24 November 1998
- The Scotsman interview on anorexia, 14 January 2005
- Pavia, Will. "Vogue editor launches new war on size-zero fashion". The Times. London.(subscription required)
- Daily Telegraph column about her portrait, 18 October 2003
- Stephen Brook "Vogue editor Shulman loses Daily Mail fashion column", The Guardian 31 March 2009.
- Lavan, Rosie. "Friends in High Places". The Oxonian Review.
- "University for the Creative Arts - News - UCA". University for the Creative Arts. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
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- "No. 57509". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2004. p. 13.
- "No. 62150". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2017. p. N10.
| Editor of British Vogue