The CNBC Conversation

British GQ editor-in-chief warns of ‘casualties’ in media, retail and luxury post-pandemic

Key Points
  • Dylan Jones is editor-in-chief of British GQ magazine and chairman of the British Fashion Council Menswear.
  • He has led the British monthly magazine for men since 1999.
  • Formerly "Gentlemen's Quarterly," the magazine was founded in New York in 1931.
GQ Editor-in-chief Dylan Jones attends the Paul Smith AW20 50th Anniversary show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 19, 2020 in Paris, France.
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Paul Smith

Editor-in-chief of British GQ magazine Dylan Jones has told CNBC he's not worried about the future of print publication, despite significant challenges in advertising and distribution due to the coronavirus crisis. 

Speaking in his role as British Fashion Council Menswear Chairman, Jones warned there would be "casualties" in the fashion industry, which he said was "very challenged" in the wake of the pandemic. 

"We have a very strong print business, and even though we've been challenged by distribution during lockdown, because we haven't had travel points and airports, we've seen massive uplifts in supermarkets, which is a place where traditionally we don't sell well," he said.

"The print publication is still a very important part of our offer, but the GQ brand is so much bigger than that these days."

Jones, who has led the British monthly magazine for men since 1999, told CNBC he believes all print media will eventually become subscription-based. He said the biggest challenge it has faced over the last few months has been advertising revenue. 

"That's the one Achilles heel … because display advertising has been challenging for everybody … but, you know what, it'll come back," Jones predicted. "I just think it's going to take longer than we want it to, and that applies right across the board." 

Global advertising spend has been forecast to fall over 8% in 2020, equating to a $49.6 billion cut in brand outlay compared to 2019, according to specialist advertising research and information company, WARC. 

GQ magazine, formerly "Gentlemen's Quarterly," is one of the world's leading magazines for men focused on fashion, culture and style. 

Founded in New York in 1931, the magazine now has many international editions including British GQ which launched in 1988. 

The U.K. edition has since expanded into digital and events including its annual star-studded Men of The Year Awards, which was first held in 1998. 

When asked whether a magazine for men was still relevant today, Jones said he believes the content is interesting for everyone. "I think if you look at the content I mean, we never talk about this because I'm not sure advertisers want to hear it, but I would imagine that half our readers are women, and I would hope they are because I think that our content is interesting to anybody," he said.  

Jones said ongoing discussions about diversity were forcing people to address the realities of the situation, adding he was "proud" that 30% of the people on the cover of GQ over the last 10 years have been from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community.

In its most recent review of diversity across leading fashion publications, The Fashion Spot found that only 275, or 36.9%, of the 745 cover appearances it reviewed featured people of color in 2019. The online company, which tracks diversity in the industry, said the results were based on 51 of the top domestic, international and independent fashion magazines. It also found that – with the exception of age representation, which plateaued – diversity on magazine covers had slipped across the board year-on-year. 

Jones claimed that the London fashion industry had been "acknowledging diversity for a very long time." 

"I think that you look at the audiences, the journalists, the makeup artists, the models in London, and you are seeing a genuine celebration of diversity," he said. 

After holding its first ever digital-only event in June due to Covid-19, London Fashion Week returns from Sept.17-22 featuring a combination of brands showing "digitally, physically or both." 

British Fashion Council Director warns of 'casualties' in luxury and retail
British Fashion Council Director warns of 'casualties' in luxury and retail

'Very old fashioned'

Jones says the fashion industry faces challenges to its distribution channels and supply chains following the pandemic, but he believes it will bounce back.

"The weird thing is that the fashion industry is meant to be up to date, continually changing, responsive to changes in the zeitgeist, but actually there's large parts of the luxury goods industry which is very old fashioned," he said. 

"A lot of these people didn't have proper transactional websites, they had a huge reliance on bricks and mortar on these huge sort of retail mausoleums, and again that will change." 

Asked if he thought some businesses could soon collapse, he replied: "Yes, there will be casualties. There'll be casualties … in media, there'll be casualties in retail, in the luxury sector, there'll be casualties everywhere." 

Jones also said that sustainability and fast fashion were topics which needed to be addressed by many more companies within the industry, in line with the concerns of younger consumers. 

"Sustainability in terms of consumer purchases for them is a deal breaker, completely," he said. 

Asked how worried he is about going into the "new normal" for publishing, retail and fashion, Jones said he remains optimistic. 

"I'm worried about all of those sectors, but I think if you're a smart person running a recognized brand that people have a genuine relationship with and you can pivot to a place that doesn't just mirror public consumer patterns but also anticipates it, I think it's going to be fine," he said.  

All print media to eventually follow subscription model, British GQ editor says
All print media to eventually follow subscription model: Editor