If there’s anyone who understands the saying, “when one door closes, another door opens,” it’s the editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, Amy Astley. Five years into her first job out of college at House & Garden, Condé Nast decided to close the magazine leaving her jobless — but she scored a monumental meeting shortly after.
“I didn’t have a job,” Astley said. “Somebody on the team, very senior, recommended me to Anna Wintour the same day that the company closed House & Garden and I was called by HR to come and meet with her that day.”
On an episode of ABC Radio’s “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis,” Astley recalled that first meeting with Wintour as a “surreal day.” She went to meet with Wintour on a recommendation from a colleague, Charles Gandy and remembered that meeting with her future mentor.
“Anna is very intuitive about people,” Astley said. “She sees things about you that you don’t see in yourself. She always was giving me more opportunities and more work.”
She ended up staying at Vogue longer than she had originally expected, as her career continued to grow as a storyteller in the industry.
“I really thought, ‘I’ll work at Vogue for the famous Anna Wintour for a year or two years. I’m young,'” she said. “And I ended up staying almost 10 years there because I was able to keep growing.”
Astley eventually left Vogue in 2003 to launch Teen Vogue as its founding editor-in-chief. She built a brand that would become a dynamic industry icon and she would go on to write a New York Times bestselling book “The Teen Vogue Handbook: An Insider’s Guide to Careers in Fashion.”
“Being an editor-in-chief at Condé Nast is a very entrepreneurial experience because we’re not heavily managed or micromanaged,” she said. “You’re sort of free to sink or swim and make your business the best that you can.”
Now, as editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest armed with 15 years of experience running a magazine, Astley has used her entrepreneurial nature and creative talents to transform the 97-year-old magazine with a heavy digital and modern focus. After starting the job two years ago she said she worked quickly to change the look and feel of the magazine, building out new digital products, focusing on social media and reaching a younger audience.
“The magazine needed to be refreshed and made more relevant, and more part of the conversation… we needed to have AD reach new audiences and not be perceived as something for just older people,” she said.
In an effort to do just that, she created two new digital verticals AD PRO and CLEVER, the latter hoping to appeal to millennials. She also started profiling the homes of some very A-List celebrities like Wiz Khalifa, Anton Zaslavski (aka Zedd), Kate Moss and Jennifer Aniston. In their latest September issue, Astley’s third at the magazine, they go inside the home of fashion designer Michael Kors.
“You have to have a sense of surprise if you’re in the entertainment business,” she said. “So people don’t go, ‘I know what’s in there. I’m not going to look.’ Surprise them with different voices and different people, both in the magazine and on the digital platforms.”
And the element of surprise seems to be working. Over the last year, Architectural Digest has increased its audience across all platforms by 47 percent and 131 percent across mobile, according to the company.
“Our company is transforming into a digital company rapidly… watching these transformations has been incredible and it’s a different company from the one I joined,” she said. “I feel like I’ve been really lucky that I could transform myself and change within the company.”
Hear more of this interview with Amy Astley on the “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.