A peep into the mind of GQ editor-in-chief, Dylan Jones

The opportunity to speak with Dylan Jones, one of the speakers at the master class at the debut edition of  GT Bank fashion weekend, has been one of t

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The opportunity to speak with Dylan Jones, one of the speakers at the master class at the debut edition of  GT Bank fashion weekend, has been one of the high points of my career as a journalist. That he embodies everything any one aspiring to get to the pinnacle of their career as a journalist, specifically lifestyle journalism, would be stating the obvious, what with his steely impressive resume. Prior to becoming the Editor-In-Chief of GQ Style magazine, the UK version of men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine in 1999, he held senior roles with several other publications, including being editor of i-D and Arena magazines as well as contributed weekly columns to The Independent newspaper, The Mail on Sunday newspaper, among several other publications. An author of several books,  he is also the Chairman of London Collections Men (London Fashion Week Men’s) and a trustee of the Hay Festival. Since joining GQ, the magazine has won over 30 awards some of which are the BSME Men’s Editor of the Year Award six times, recognized for the Brand Building Initiative of the Year 2007 for the annual GQ Men of the Year Awards, received the Mark Boxer Award for lifetime achievement honouring him not only for his work on GQ but for his entire career in journalism. He is an Officer of the order of the British Empire (OBE), a honour bestowed on him for his services to the publishing and British fashion industries by the Queen of England. The surprisingly witty and charming legendary journalist was gracious enough to address some pressing issues affecting lifestyle journalism.

Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones

You have been the Editor of GQ UK for 17 years and under your leadership, you have led the magazine to garner over 30 awards and nearly a dozen for yourself. What would you say has been the secret to your success?
Well, simply by being true to my craft, being original, being unique with content offering as well as the innovative use of technology and embracing social and digital media. These are some of the things that have helped the publication to remain relevant through all these years.

Why do you think you have to constantly have popular people on your covers when you can vary the personalities you feature by considering talented individuals in various fields of endeavor who may not be quite as popular as those you chose to feature?
Because we have a to sell a certain number of magazines and the more famous the person is, the more the magazine will sell. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you should put a Kim Kardashian on the cover just because she is famous, but our choice cover personalities must have a certain amount of traction.  They need to be recognizable. Agreed, there are lots of amazing people in the UK whom we won’t dream of putting on the cover because they don’t have that sort of household popularity that we need like a Boris Johnson, Brad Pit or a musician like Tinnie Tempah’s kind of popularity. They need to have that sort of popularity otherwise it will be commercial suicide.

What is the idea behind having several different cover personalities for an edition?
For instance, for our men of the year issue, we had about eight different covers and for February next year, we are thinking of doing same, maybe half a dozen or more. Sometimes, we think it is a nice thing to do especially if you are working around a theme. One month  we had six covers on the late David Bowie. It is usually for a thematic reason.

What is the key guideline to influencing the slant of an editorial content? Originality. It is a s simple as that. News are easily accessible these days. As soon as something happens, you go online and you see hundreds of thousands of news report that is regurgitated, copied or diluted. But all you need to do in this instance is to be original. You need to work harder and try harder and just put more effort to your work.

Getting advertisements and selling large quantities of any magazine at all, is usually a walk in the park in the UK and America but this isn’t quite the case here. What do you think magazine publishers should do to break out of this rut?
I think that magazines should produce very idiosyncratic and particular kinds of editorials and then maybe come up with true partnership or sponsorship ideas. There is a lot of money in sponsorship and people are looking for ingenious ways to spend that money. So it is incumbent on them to come up with something unique for their cover to attract advertisers. Again, you may look at international sponsorship and also amplify what you do to be domestically correct, in the hope of reaching an international audience and for possible sponsorship. I know it isn’t easy but you just have to keep trying in the hope that you will attract the international community.

I suppose you don’t have issues with vendors back home. What advice would you give to a magazine publisher in Nigeria who is always at the mercy of vendors who don’t make returns unless they are given copies of a new issue?
Well, they should go to another vendor.

It doesn’t work that way as they operate under an umbrella association. They practically dictate the market.
Really? If that happens here, then that is a terrible trade decision. I can imagine that it is a difficult situation. I can only say that if you have a concerted digital campaign; on Instagram, Twittter, Snap chat etc, then maybe you can set up your own distribution system where you mail your magazines instead.

Having been here and seen what we have to offer in terms of fashion, what aspect of it do you think Nigerians should improve upon?
I think they the designers need to focus on what they do best. The worst kind of fashion is when you copy what others are doing. This is regardless of whether it is fashion, music, architecture, anything. The most important thing is to stay true to yourself and stick to your own design principle, culture and produce what is indigenous.

What do you think of the collections that were showcased at the fashion weekend?
The thing that surprised me is the quality, I didn’t think in all honesty that the quality will be that good. There were a lot of variety but the quality is really high.

How have you enjoyed your stay in Nigeria even though it was just for a few days?
I have had a really good time, met some great people and visited some very good restaurants. I have had fun.