Esquire Magazine cements its position at the top of the publishing pile by teaming up with the greatest footballer of all time Leo Messi and camera of Domenico Dolce for a cover that expertly blends sport and fashion. Swide interviews Esquire UK’s Editor in Chief, Alex Bilmes, about the project.
If it’s anything Dolce&Gabbana does well its iconography and Domenico Dolce, fresh off the shooting of his photographic book ‘Campioni’, where he shot the cream of Serie A’s young footballing talent, now turns his camera to the footballer who sits firmly on top of the world game. The result is the creation Leo Messi as a style icon.
This project is a collaboration between three heavyweights of the football (Leo Messi), fashion (Domenico Dolce) and publishing world (Esquire). How have the three parties influenced the end editorial product?
Well people always say this and it’s one of those words that gets bandied about without much thought, but I do think that this was a genuine collaboration where everyone brought their own brand values and created something really memorable as a result. So obviously from Messi’s point of view, he brought himself, his incredible talent. From our part, it’s recognisably an Esquire cover, a celebration of an iconic man who is absolutely at the top of his game, arguably the greatest footballer ever and Dolce&Gabbana brought their incredible eye for style and fashion. As I say in my short piece in the magazine they’re experts at hitting that sweet spot where fashion and sport connect and I think that’s really what they’ve managed to bring out in this.
How do you see the relationship between the world’s greatest footballer and the Dolce&Gabbana brand?
You wouldn’t necessarily put the two together but that’s the genius of Dolce&Gabbana, because before them, in many ways sport and fashion were considered two very different worlds that would never have anything in common. But they understood a while ago, especially when you’re communicating with men, the importance of combining the two. There was a notion that men who were interested in fashion and men who were interested in sport were not the same man, but that’s completely untrue. I love sport and fashion and most of my friends do, and growing up in London it was normal to love football and street style and that’s true of all of the UK and it’s very true of Italy as well. I think our two nations have the most stylish football fans.
That’s very true both in Italy and in the UK you can go to the terraces and just people watch.
Totally, and each individual team and region will have their own individual style that plays out in those huge arenas, so Dolce&Gabbana recognised that early on. As for Messi, well he’s not David Beckham, but I think they recognise that, he’s not a clothes horse, but that doesn’t you can’t take him and make him into a style icon which is what they’re doing. It’s quite amazing to watch really, because most people would have said ‘what? Leo Messi, a style icon?’, but we’re proving them wrong, he’s on the cover of the March issue of Esquire, like everyone we have two massive style issues a year, September and March and we0’ve given him the March issue, so I think it proves a point.
Esquire one of the biggest names in magazine publishing, what are the challenges facing the title in staying fresh and in maintaining that number one position?
The digital world is a challenge, obviously, there’s a challenge in maintaining quality in any business, especially when you have a highly recognised product which ought to be delivering world class content, so that’s a challenge in itself. It’s one thing to get to that stage, it’s another to maintain it and to keep challenging yourself every day. That’s the challenge tat was always there. The new challenges are from the digital world and we’re currently working on new products and initiatives that will position Esquire in the correct way for the future. The truth is people still want and will always want very high quality print product.
That was actually my next question. Is there still a place for the printed glossy?
There is still a place for print, definitely. Yes eBooks are great but if it’s my favourite novel I still wasn’t a beautiful hardback copy of it. Social Media is fantastic, but if there’s a new Helmut Newton book, then I want that in hardback and when the new issue of ‘insert amazing magazine title here’, comes out, each week or month, then I want it in print, I’m addicted to it, I’m a print junkie. It’s not going to change, people say’ ‘kids growing up, they only look at screens’, no they don’t, kids today love print, I’ve have young children and they have picture books. It’s tactile, it’s beautiful, it’s an object, you can put on the table, carry it around, whatever. But only quality will survive, the mass will not survive as print products, they may survive as digital. Having said that though, it’s incredibly important for us to have a digital presence, which we do with our website and our blog and on Social Media, but what we’re doing, and what everyone who is smart is doing, is developing new ways of communicating with people on the devices that they’re using like tablets and mobiles. I don’t think the answer is just to reproduce the print product in a digital space with added videos, because that’s not enough. Those are the challenges facing everyone in publishing and everyone in media to be honest, and nobody’s cracked it yet but there’s a lot of good stuff out thee and I think we’re moving in the right direction. A lot of the doom and gloom that sometimes surrounded the traditional media is misplaced because there are opportunities. Change is scary but the opportunities for communicating with a mass audience are endless and they by far outweigh the negatives.
How have these changes affected your role of Editor in Chief? Has the role of being the lead in a major publication changed at all?
Yes definitely. I came to being an Editor in Chief fairly late, I’ve only been in this position for over two years. I was working in magazines for years but I wasn’t the boss so I kind of accepted from the beginning of my editorship that it wasn’t any more about commissioning nice articles and cool photography, although that is still the most fun part of the job, it’s really about leading a lifestyle brand or an entertainment brand. The job is completely different from the old school vision of what people think a magazine editor might do and I think the same goes for the idea of a women’s magazine, like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, where the Editor swans around saying ‘OK everything pink’ or whatever, is wrong, they are actually at the helm of a multi-platform media business. It’s more akin to being a CEO of a major corporation, you have to be very business-focused and you have to understand all aspects; marketing, circulation, bottom line, top line, all of it, it crosses your desk every day.
There’s nowhere you can go to learn to be an Editor in Chief is there?
No, you’re learning on the job. Most of us, including myself, started out as reporters, so you’ve got no training in management so you do have to learn as you go along. That’s the interesting thing for me, anyway, is learning how the business actually runs rather than just being a cog in the wheel, you’re rally able to pull strings and make things happen.
Photo credits:Domenico Dolce/Courtesy of Esquire