When Tanya Dukes agreed to an interview for my blog, who knew I would be so lucky to also have the opportunity to interview Trace Shelton, editor in chief at INDESIGN Magazine, and Eileen McClelland, managing editor at INSTORE Magazine. What a treat! My homework became harder as I also had to read and research Trace and Eileen.
I met Tanya very briefly during a Couture show at everybody’s favorite bar “The Tower Suite Bar”, and she had already heard of Mark Patterson Jewelry. I enjoyed meeting Tanya, but after a few drinks and an exhausting trade show we decided to continue the conversation another time and left it at that, until this interview.
I’ve asked many of my clients which trade publication is their favorite, and store owners such as Julie Thom of Von Bargen’s, Colleen Rafferty of Christensen and Rafferty and Steve Dalzell of Dalzell Jewelers all responded with INSTORE and INDESIGN.
Here is Trace Shelton Editor in Chief at INDESIGN Magazine.
Josette: You have succeeded in making INDESIGN one of the top magazines in our industry. How do you explain it?
Trace Shelton: I don’t think that “I” succeeded as much as our entire team has worked really hard to make INDESIGN into as much of a must-read for high-end jewelry retailers as INSTORE is. We have a fantastic team of editors and art directors, both past and present, who have helped build INDESIGN from scratch seven years ago into the award-winning publication that it is today, not to mention our sales team, whose efforts have ensured that our magazine has thrived even as others in the space were closing up shop during the recession. Whatever measure of success we’ve had lies in our team’s commitment to giving our readers the information they want and need to take their businesses to the next level. Every year, we get together to take a hard look at the magazine to figure out how to improve on each feature, or if necessary, replace old sections with new features that are more useful to today’s fine jewelry retailers. We talk about which issues are top of mind for our readers and how we can most effectively address those issues in the next year’s stories. We’re limited to a certain number of pages, so we have to make every one count. I think we’ve come up with a pretty good mix of sections that help all of our readers to buy better and sell more effectively in the realm of designer jewelry.
Josette: You wrote and published an interesting article on the power of the edit, what are your feelings regarding Twitter, and do you feel that reporting might one day be diluted by the limits of 140 characters?
Trace Shelton: I think that in many ways, reporting has already been affected by the medium of computer screens. As information consumers, we now tend to want our information in bites that are easily digested in a few minutes; we don’t read the lengthy articles that used to be the norm for magazines. Twitter is the perfect example of phenomenon. Consumers can see the news almost in real time, but not in any depth. So, they get “sound bite news” without being given a full explanation of whatever is being reported. The other problem with reporting on Twitter is that because it’s immediate, you have reporters always trying to be first with the news, sometimes without checking their facts first. And you have people who say things they later regret because it’s so easy to pop something off and hit the return key before fully thinking about the ramifications. On the positive side, news writers are forced to be less long-winded than maybe they were in the past, and they have to cut to the heart of the matter and write as compellingly as possible in order to be noticed. That’s one thing we try really hard to do in both INDESIGN and INSTORE, because we know our readers are busy and only have so much time to read trade magazines. We want to be the ones to whom they give that time.
Eileen McClelland, Managing Editor at INSTORE magazine.
Josette: I love reading your posts, there is a lot of passion in your writing, and you give some of the best information to retailers and designers on various subjects. As a designer I can understand better how to market my jewelry in a store from the information I am reading. How do you go about choosing the subjects of your posts?
Eileen McClelland: Thank you! That’s very good to hear because for some reason, although I write many of the lead stories in INSTORE and a variety of other departments, I think blogging is the toughest part of my job. The idea is to use my reporting for the magazine to come up with blog content, but sometimes I’ll be working on one big project for several weeks and I don’t want to go on and on about it online. And in the case of our August issue, I will be reporting on America’s Coolest Stores for over a month — and that story needs to be kept under wraps until we announce the winners at the end of July. Still, most of my blog ideas do come from retailers whom I’ve interviewed for print articles on any number of topics. I also sit in on as many seminars with consultants and experts as I can at trade shows, both to learn more myself to inform my writing, and to share what I learn specifically with our core audience of retailers. INSTORE strives to provide news that retailers can use — not just theories — so we want our tips and advice to be as specific as they possibly can be. Occasionally I’ll also use my own shopping experiences as inspiration, such as the time I visited three separate independent furniture retailers, told them I needed to buy a dining room table and chairs very soon, gave them all of my contact information and never heard from any of the experienced sales people. I was shocked also because in one of those stores I nearly handed over my credit card, but the sales person failed to close the sale. It’s experiences like that that bring home for me how important it is for store owners to keep aware of what is going on in their businesses, and to make very sure they know exactly what kind of customer experience they are providing. And yes, it’s true that I have become very passionate about retail jewelry stores and the customer experience. And I’m glad to know that it shows.
Tanya Dukes, Senior Editor at INDESIGN and INSTORE..
Josette: You went to law school and worked in a law firm before starting in the luxury market. How did that journey begin?
Tanya Duke: Like a lot of (now former) lawyers, I was encouraged to go to law school because I showed a talent for writing as a student. Of course, the reality of a legal career, especially at large corporate firms, often involves lots of 14-hour days sifting through boxes of documents in conference rooms. After my first few years as a junior lawyer I needed a creative outlet and took an evening continuing education class in magazine writing. I would leave the office in the early evening, run to my class at The New School, then return to work at 9pm to put in a few more hours. It was an exhausting few weeks, but the process of generating ideas for different kinds of outlets, pitching them and then ending up with a published piece was so fascinating, and it revived my enthusiasm for writing. Each week editors from different magazines were guest speakers, and learning about their work planted a seed in my mind for another kind of career. Eventually, I decided to take a leap of faith and resigned from the firm to hunt for a writing job. On the journalism career site Ed2010 I saw a posting for an internship at the magazine at Elite Traveler and applied. I spent seven years there in total. It’s a luxury magazine, so I covered everything from hotels to food, but eventually focused mostly on fashion and jewelry. Before joining INSTORE and INDESIGN I was also Accessories Editor at Brides and a full-time freelance writer, and jewelry has been an important part of all of my editorial jobs.
Josette: As an editor you see a lot of jewelry, what do you focus on when looking at a collection – is it design, craftsmanship, or both?
Tanya Duke: Going on market appointments to see collections or having designers come to my office for deskside meetings is one of the most exciting parts of my job. Design and craftsmanship are inseparable, so I’m looking for both. And since most of what I see is fine jewelry that carries a certain price tag, I definitely have that expense in mind. Consumers have high expectations for fine jewelry, because of its price, and because it’s connected with emotional moments, whether that’s an engagement or a high school graduation. It’s the opposite of disposable fast fashion.
Sometimes designers, especially newcomers, create wonderful, fanciful pieces that are impossible to wear for more than a few minutes at a time because of design problems: the piece is too heavy, it snags, pokes or is otherwise uncomfortable. That’s why I’m constantly trying on pieces. It’s no good to just admire jewelry from a tray. I’d never want to hem in someone’s creativity; but it’s important that a designer’s manufacturing quality keeps pace with his or her imagination. That goes for seemingly simple, minimalist pieces too. In that case, the quality of the little details, like the elegance of a closure or the quality of the finishing stand out even more.
Thank you, Trace, Eileen and Tanya, I appreciate your time and am honored to have you on my blog!