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Alexandra Shulman

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Title: Alexandra Shulman  
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Subject: Vogue (British magazine), Social anthropology, United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, 2011
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Alexandra Shulman

Alexandra Shulman
Born 1958
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education St Paul's Girls' School
Alma mater University of Sussex
Occupation Fashion journalist, magazine editor, columnist, novelist
Title Editor-in-chief, British Vogue
Spouse(s) Paul Spike (divorced)
Children 1

Alexandra Shulman, OBE (born 1958), is the editor-in-chief of the British edition of Vogue, and also the longest serving editor in British Vogue history. She took the helm of Vogue in 1992, presiding over a circulation increase to 200,000 and a higher profile for the publication. Shulman is one of the country's most oft-quoted voices on fashion trends. In addition to her work with Vogue, Shulman has written columns for The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, as well as published a novel.

Born into a family heavily involved in the journalism profession, Shulman is eldest of three children by film and author critic Milton Shulman and writer Drusilla Beyfus, who herself was a contributor to Vogue, among other publications.[1] Shulman began working at Condé NastVogue‍ '​s publisher – upon joining Tatler in 1982 under the editorship of Mark Boxer.[2]

Early life

Alexandra Shulman was born in 1958, the daughter of the late drama critic Milton Shulman and the writer Drusilla Beyfus. She has two siblings, Nicola and Jason. Her sister Nicola married Constantine Phipps, 5th Marquess of Normanby in 1990 and has written a biography of Tudor poet Sir Thomas Wyatt.[3] Her younger brother Jason was formerly an art director for glossy magazines but is now a sculptor.[3]

Whilst Alexandra was growing up, the Shulman family lived in Belgravia and she attended St Paul's Girls' School.[4] Due to both her parents working in the journalism profession, the thought of following their career paths did not appeal to Shulman. Instead, she expressed an interest in becoming a hairdresser,[1] or working in the music industry, saying: "Nobody believes me when I say it's not what I thought I was going to do. But my heroines were singers like Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith or Carly Simon. I didn't think about whether they wore Chanel or not".[5]

Shulman studied social anthropology at the University of Sussex.[1] In 1980 she graduated, receiving a 2:2, later recalling herself being "in tears".[6] In the following months, she became an assistant at an independent record label, enabling her to move out of her parents' flat.[6] However, she failed to last long at her job and was sacked. She then took on a role in the artists and repertoire department of Arista Records briefly, before losing her job again.[5] Having had her foray into a career in the music business fail, she became a secretary at the now-defunct Over 21 magazine.[5]


She began her fashion journalism career in 1982 at The Tatler, working subsequently for The Sunday Telegraph, Vogue and the British edition of GQ, where she became editor in 1990.

As Shulman took on the role as editor-in-chief of Vogue in 1992, some speculated that she was not experienced enough for the role. Furthermore, others commented that her personal appearance did not conform to previous Vogue editors; as The New York Times noted, "The British press has made much of the fact that when it comes to personal wardrobe, Ms. Schulman [sic] could learn a thing or two from Ms. Tilberis's trademark Chanel, and that she could also become better acquainted with a hairbrush".[7] It has been noted that it is still remarked upon that she doesn't "look" like an editor of Vogue.[8]

Her tenure at Vogue has been marked with various iconic issues of the magazine. Her December 1999 "Millennium Issue", possessing a simplistic page layout and a reflective, mirror-like cover – giving the illusion that its reader was on the front cover – became the highest selling issue of Vogue, with circulation of 241,001, including a newsstand sale of 142,399.[9] The "Gold Issue," a December 2000 edition with Kate Moss on the cover in silhouette, also became a well-known cover. A 1997 cover in memoriam of Diana, Princess of Wales was included in a poll deciding the UK's best ever magazine cover. As The Guardian noted, "Vogue stood out with a simple bare cover using a Patrick Demarchelier photograph of Diana in a red dress".[10]

"Somebody like Jennifer Aniston will only do an interview with copy approval and picture approval. I've never had anybody on the cover, ever, who's had copy approval and picture approval. I just don't think it's a proper thing if you do. It's this thing of people just basically treating you as if you're bound to be doing something that is in some way going to be insulting to their client. I just find that so offensive."

—Shulman, discussing her stance on copy approval.[11]

As the editor of Vogue, Shulman makes various decisions on the magazine's stance. She has stated that, "we never publish diets. We've never published things on cosmetic surgery",[8] adding that she does not want to prescribe as specific way a woman should look to the reader. She also refuses to put celebrities on the cover if they demand copy approval and picture approval, saying "I just find that so offensive".[11]

The magazine drew criticism in the early 1990s for photos of a Waifish Kate Moss that were dubbed "heroin chic", part of a larger ongoing debate over whether fashion magazines present an unhealthy image for girls and contribute to the anorexia problem. In 1997, the watchmaker Omega pulled an ad campaign from Vogue over this issue. Shulman dismissed these concerns in a 1998 interview with the PBS public affairs television programme Frontline, stating: "Not many people have actually said to me that they have looked at my magazine and decided to become anorexic."[12]

She has become more sensitive to the issue in recent years, acknowledging that anorexia is a "huge problem" in a January 2005 interview with The Scotsman: "I really wish that models were a bit bigger because then I wouldn't have to deal with this the whole time. There is pressure on them to stay thin, and I'm always talking to the designers about it, asking why they can't just be a bit closer to a real woman's physique in terms of their ideal, but they're not going to do it. Clothes look better to all of our eyes on people who are thinner."[13] In 2009 Shulman spoke out over the sample sizes leading designers were producing – some were so small they restricted Vogue using the models they wished in the magazine, resulting in some models being airbrushed to look bigger. Shulman wrote to designers to draw their attention to the situation calling for larger sized samples to be produced.[14]

Contrary to expectations, Shulman describes her own life as work-dominated and not particularly glamorous. In an October 2004 newspaper column on her Telegraph portrait, she said:

"Leaving aside the obvious but unlikely criteria of beautiful and thin, I realised that there was no look that was achievable which was going to make me happy. In my mind I am a free spirit of about 25 wafting around in second-hand cocktail dresses; in reality I am a 47-year-old businesswoman and journalist. The pictures unfortunately, tell the whole story."[15]

She was a regular columnist for The Daily Telegraph newspaper, but started writing a column for the Daily Mail in 2006, which ran until 2009, when she was replaced by Liz Jones.[16] Shulman's first novel, Can We Still Be Friends, was published by Fig Tree in 2012.[17]

In 2010, Shulman was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts degree from the University for the Creative Arts.[18]

In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[19]

Alexandra Shulman was interviewed by Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 in June 2013.

Personal life

She has a son, Samuel Robert (born 6 April 1995), by the writer Paul Spike, whom she married on 26 May 1994 and from whom she is divorced. She lives in the Queen's Park area of London.

Shulman was appointed OBE in 2004, which Janet Street-Porter wrote in The Independent was "proof that the honours system is an embarrassment".[20] She also was named "Editors' Editor of the Year" by the British Society of Magazine Editors and is a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery.

Shulman's hobbies include music, tennis and reading fiction. Her favourite author is Rosamond Lehmann and she's an avid fan of the Inspector Wallander novels by Henning Mankell. She critiqued the WorldHeritage entry on haute couture for The Guardian in October 2005, rating it a 0 out of 10.[21] She plays the guitar and owns a Nissan Figaro and a Toyota Corolla Verso.


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ "Fat" FrontLine (PBS), 24 November 1998
  13. ^ interview on anorexiaThe Scotsman, 14 January 2005
  14. ^ (subscription required)
  15. ^ column about her portraitDaily Telegraph, 18 October 2003
  16. ^ Stephen Brook "Vogue editor Shulman loses Daily Mail fashion column", The Guardian 31 March 2009.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ BBC Radio 4, Woman's Hour Power list
  20. ^ Janet Street-Porter "Editor-At-Large: Arise, Dame Janet, for services to boots", The Independent on Sunday, 2 January 2005. Retrieved on 8 February 2009.
  21. ^ Shulman's critique of WorldHeritage, The Guardian, 24 October 2005.
Media offices
Preceded by
Liz Tilberis
Editor of British Vogue
Succeeded by
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