I first discovered JC REPORT in 2004 as an in-house fashion publicist doing research to discover new digital opportunities for the brand. I was immediately captured by the depth and originality of founder Jason Campbell’s prowess to capture a breadth of international fashion trends. I was thrilled to be able to feature an interview with Jason back in 2008 and constantly refer to the site when I need a dose of intelligent, inspiring discourse that places fashion as part of a larger cultural context. Recently, the site celebrated ten years, and announced that ten-year Contributing Editor, footwear expert Meghan Cleary, would be assuming the role of Managing Editor. In this interview, Meghan shares a wealth of insight into the evolution of JC REPORT (including some incredibly valuable pitch tips), and thoughts on this ever changing media landscape. It’s so good, I’d recommend reading it at least twice. And remember, JC REPORT is interested pitches that provide a full scope of how a product or brand it fits in to a larger, global trend.
Congratulations on 10 years, how is JC REPORT celebrating?
We are celebrating by featuring tons of trendsetters — every week, and by Jason’s coverage out of China. Trendsetters have always been a huge part of our mix and one of our most-read columns so we are doing them now weekly. Jason has been spending tons of time in China working on new projects and he is truly being heralded in China as one of the most seminal style arbiters among the luxury class – both by designers and his clients who he styles — as well as everyone from Vogue to Mario Testino, so we are getting some incredible access to behind the scenes style as the China luxury market and street style continues to surge forward as a massive global influence.
JC REPORT has been around since, as you put it, before “blogs were blogs,” what have been they key milestones for JC REPORT?
Jason started writing about fashion online in 1993! For a site called Fashion Internet — while at the same time working for such luminaries as Alexander McQueen and Antonio Berardi. There is no one else in the blogosphere with that kind of history or background. He went on to be co-founder and creative director of Netsetgoods (now Flavorpill), one of the first multi-brand lifestyle retailer online for the “Netset” — which is now commonly know as the “creative class”, and consequently on to founding JC REPORT in 2001. All the while, traveling the globe styling people, discovering designers too numerous to count from Ric Owens to Nicholas Kirkwood, Carol Christian Poell, Belmacz, Issa, Richard Chai, the list goes on.
JC REPORT is known for breaking trends – how do you make that happen? What’s the secret sauce?
Jason Campbell. He has most unerring eye of anyone I have ever met in this industry with the exception of one or two other people and is the most naturally curious person I have ever met when it comes to fashion. So literally he will be traveling in Russia or Rio or Shanghai and see something and track it down and start to ask questions and ask the designer questions and then put it together with the trends he sees globally and it all just percolates. He loves to discover things and I think that comes through in our coverage. People love to see what he is discovering.
Has social media made it easier or harder to break/share/forecast trends?
Well, we did a huge piece on this (that at the time was very controversial), but turned out to be very prescient, which was a series call The Death of Trends (written by Erin Magner who now heads up editorial at Stylus). It ran on the front page of Huffington Post as well in their style section when they were first starting out. It basically said that because of social media, and the speed at which information was shared, there were no more trends. It was all going to be concurrent trends going on at the same time — these micro niches that retailers could tap into. Jason was one of the first to really break it down like that and he and Erin worked to really delve deep into that idea. So that’s a long answer, but basically, whether it’s easier or harder it’s just really faster and more fragmented.
Meghan Cleary, Managing Editor JC Report
What is your background? What is your role at JC REPORT?
I have been a creative writer since I was ten, I worked on Wall Street in New York for seven years and ran an acclaimed poetry reading series there (Reading Between A and B) and I always had a deep, deep love for fashion. I grew up in Michigan – not the epicenter of fashion at all! But I had a bunch of stylish ladies in my family especially my grandmother who always had an outfit on – like head to toe coordinated, and I studied fashion magazines religiously — I remember very distinctly when Linda Evangelista cut her hair and that cover for Vogue, stuff like that.
Later when I moved to London after college I remember being just blown away by street fashion and the self-expression that went on there and the SHOES! My god, I had never seen anything like that up close just the craftsmanship and the range of styles coming out of Italy. Fast forward to when I was working on Wall Street and became more obsessed with footwear, and started delving deep into that category literally learning everything from how to last a shoe (which I suck at by the way — makes you appreciate the craftsmanship even more!!!), to industry movers, to discovering emerging shoe designers (wrote the first article on Jerome Rousseau — for JCR!), to consumer facing trends and desires as well as shoe shopping.
I was super obsessed with the psychology of it all — how putting on a pair of shoes has an influence on you like no other piece of clothing does because of how it changes us physiologically — and I ended up writing two books about it my most recent being Shoe Are You?
Through all of this, Jason and I were super good friends — I met him at a loft party in 1996 in NYC at like 1 am where he and I were the only ones dancing (he is a very good dancer by the way!!!) — and along the way we formed a marketing agency together for awhile. We were both passionate about trends and marketing and just always collaborated on projects together. With the tenth anniversary of JCR he asked me to help out for a few months after his longtime fabulous Editor, Robert Cordero left to start his own company, and we sort of took another look at the content and made it more streamlined. Now I help shepherd things along a bit and manage the flow of things. I will transition back out so we definitely will look for someone to take on the role in the Spring.
As one of a handful of industry publications online, you must get a ton of pitches! What makes a pitch a fit for JC REPORT?
Oh yes we do. I currently have 95,000 emails in my in box right now!!! Pitches have to be trend focused. Jason is adamant about this for our ten year anniversary. It’s got to have a total story behind it, to have context and be relevant to what is happening right now, globally.
We are the only consumer facing publication that offers narrative, comprehensive trend reporting for free to a consumer and not just b2b audience.
This is a huge distinction. We are not doing pictorial trend reports, we give more context and depth and connect the dots globally.
The JC REPORT has contributors worldwide. How do you find, nurture and evolve those relationships?
This is an ever-changing balancing act. We have so many contributors who literally write for us for nominal sums or even free because the magazine has such an amazing readership — it’s almost as if our readers want to write for us — which we welcome by the way!
But this is a tricky one because we write in-depth articles that have real reporting. It can be hard to find writers with a writing background so we end up working with people who are probably a bit older in the fashion crowd, have experience or with super smart up and comers who get their teeth cut a bit with us and then usually go on to write for major pubs like the FT, NYT, etc. And then, sometimes we’ll ask people who aren’t writers but are really major influencers to write pieces for us because their viewpoint is so major.
We love our writers so much! We try to support them in any way we can.
Jason Campbell, Buenos Aires
How has Jason’s role at JC REPORT changed over the last few years?
Jason is still the gatekeeper of every article and trendsetter that gets published. He sees everything we publish before we do. I roll up every pitch I get to him and he has the final yay or nay. As I mentioned, his eye is unerring, so it also means his personality and flair is very much apparent in everything you read on JCR which is so important. That’s what people come back for, that eye and the discoveries Jason makes.
What is one missed opportunity or piece of advice you would offer newer digital publications looking to establish the level of credibility and community that JC REPORT has managed to accomplish?
One piece of advice is just do it. Start it up and just see who comes audience-wise. You can iterate later, but just write what you love and what you are into — I always say “there is an audience for everything.” Jason started JCR in his garret apartment in Paris, literally just writing what he thought people like him would respond to. Ten years later, they still do.
What thoughts do you have on how digital media has influenced the fashion industry as a whole? And perhaps more importantly, what trends do you see on the horizon for fashion brands or just fashion fans in this space?
It’s such an interesting intersection right now — especially with apps like Instagram. Everyone has an editorial viewpoint – but at the same time there is such a proliferation of content. How do you decide what you are going to look at, read, be influenced by? And then to my point above, there is the death of trends and these little micro-niches that popup that quickly morph and change into something else in the next week.
It has got to be so hard for fashion PR right now because I cannot imagine having to try and track down every influencer and constantly have to figure out who is influencing, who is right for your client, what the reach is.
Even though everyone is all about numbers when it comes to digital media — i.e. how many RT’s you got on something — that is not often, and many times not at all, the correct measure. For me, when I talk to my audience on the Miss Meghan/Shoe Are You? side my audience may appear small but my audience is such an influential mix, and has been cultivated through true relationships and a lot of one to one interaction. I end up doing a lot of work for big brands like Dr. Scholls for Her or Jones Apparel Group who understand the power of having a trusted third party voice with true brand cachet and deep knowledge.
JCR is similar — we have 600,000 uniques a month and 40K subscribers. Our advertisers understand that they are going to reach people who 1) influence and 2) purchase — even if it is not directly quantifiable. The advertisers and sponsors who understand this, they end up coming out ahead in the long run. Anyone can do a quick pop-up promo with a blogger but to reach people year over year who might become creative director down the line or a footwear buyer, or even the producer or wardrobe manager of a major TV show, has huge long-term potential. Investments into powerful, market making influence is so important for advertisers today and we really are one of the only publications out there that can deliver that audience.
What do you wish more publicists understood about the JCREPORT?
Just the history, background and depth of reporting Jason has and the content that reflects that. That history is important to know about that when you pitch us as well, because it helps you craft something that will resonate with us. Anything we cover has to be super special and unique with a distinct backstory.