Line Sheet’s Lauren Sherman Gives Us Some Fashion Month Gossip
It’s officially fashion month, and while we’re looking forward to red-hot runway criticism from reporters and TikTok stans, the industry gossip disseminated in the front row is often more compelling than the clothes themselves. Will Virginie Viard be replaced at Chanel? Will French billionaire and Kering investor François-Henri Pinault upend the relationship between the fashion and entertainment industry with his family’s purchase of CAA? These are just some of the questions that fashion journalist Lauren Sherman tries to answer in her new juicy subscription-based newsletter, Line Sheet. For Sherman, who recently left her post as chief correspondent at Business of Fashion, it’s the titans who make the industry tick that she finds most compelling. So when an opportunity arose to join Puck, a new media platform offers an inside scoop on the biggest power players in Wall Street, Washington, and Silicon Valley, she was game. To find out more about Sherman’s foray into creator-focused fashion journalism, our senior editor Taylore Scarabelli called her up to discuss career goals, glossies, and who to watch this fashion month.
SCARABELLI: How did you get your start in fashion journalism?
SHERMAN: I wanted to work in journalism from a very young age. Then, as a teenager, I started to develop a real conscious interest in fashion and thought, “I want to work in a magazine.” I’m 41 now and I graduated in 2004. At that time, print was still very much alive. Style.com existed, but it wasn’t really a thing. I was a big fan of Harper’s Bazaar in the 1990s. I loved Jane Pratt and Sassy magazine. In college I focused on magazine writing and I interned at Nylon and a couple of other places. When I moved to New York at the end of ’05, I had just turned 23, and my goal was to get a staff writing job somewhere by the time I turned 27. If I couldn’t, then I would move into marketing or something.
SHERMAN: By the end of ’05, I had interviewed at a million places. Condé Nast used to have this floater position where you would temp for all the assistants and front desk people, and I couldn’t even get that. I was at my wit’s end. And then I got offered this job at Forbes to be an assistant editor on the lifestyle desk at the website. I started writing pretty quickly and realized that it was interesting to cover fashion from the business side, because that was the time when the consolidation of the industry had really started to happen, when LVMH and Kering were really gaining momentum.
SHERMAN: China was becoming a huge, huge business opportunity for brands, and it felt like there weren’t many people covering it from the business side at that time. There was a woman at the Wall Street Journal named Terry Agins who was a serious business journalist who covered fashion. But other than that, everyone else was coming at it from the lifestyle side of things. I loved reporting, so I figured, “This is a good way for me to position myself. If I know about this part of the industry and not many people do, that’s going to make me more valuable.” It turned out to be a good bet. I worked at Forbes for several years, then I went to Fashionista. And eventually I ended up working at Condé. It was interesting, but not for me. And then when I went freelance, that was when BOF was really picking up.
SCARABELLI: What year was that?
SHERMAN: End of 2012, beginning of 2013. My first freelance piece that I did after I quit my Condé job at Lucky was for BOF. I really believed in BOF as a concept and I believed in Imran’s ability to execute. I freelanced for two and a half years and then in 2016 came on [at BOF] and was there for about seven years, full-time. I left at the end of last year.
SCARABELLI: What was your title at BOF?
SHERMAN: Chief correspondent. I was writing my own stories and providing support to other writers in terms of sourcing, story angles, and things like that. Throughout my career, I’ve found that I’m pretty introverted. I like mentoring people and giving people advice, but I decided at some point that I didn’t want to go the management route. It’s easier to make a living as an editor, but I thought that if I could figure out how to be a reporter and live my life properly then I would. That’s taken a lot of planning and determination.
SCARABELLI: And now you’re at Puck, which is a very interesting publication that not that many people know about yet. How did you end up there?
SHERMAN: So Puck [is a newsletter] that covers the intersection of money and power, ego, et cetera. So it’s writing about the inside of industries that taps into what the people running the world are thinking and doing. One of the founding partners, which is what they call everybody who’s involved, had worked with my husband. So I knew about it through him. I think they launched with finance, media, Hollywood, and—
SCARABELLI: Hollywood, Washington, and Wall Street.
SHERMAN: Exactly. It launched right around the time I had a kid. I was on maternity leave and didn’t have the attention span to read a book, but had a lot of time to read short things. What struck me was the tone. It really aligned with my personality. One of the reasons I wanted to be a journalist is I like telling people things that they don’t already know, and so the whole point of Puck is reporting on what’s happening in between the press releases. Also, the business model includes profit sharing with the writers and what I like about it is the main source of revenue is the content. I’ve been doing this since 2004 so I’ve been through several cycles of media startups, but I’ve been really lucky that at the places that I’ve worked, especially BOF and Puck, I agree with the general philosophy of how they operate.
SHERMAN: One thing that I think really differentiates me, is that I’m persistent and efficient. I haven’t given up, and often if you don’t give up, you’re one of the only ones left. A lot of the people that I came up with went into management or don’t do anything connected to media or fashion anymore. I also think it becomes challenging as you get older. I know people who are 10 years older than me that don’t want people to know their age because they don’t want to seem irrelevant. As you get older, you have a family and a mortgage and all these responsibilities and it just becomes harder to stick to your guns. On the other hand, you have more experience and you’re set up for more specialized jobs. So it gets a little harder in some ways, but then in other ways it gets easier.
SCARABELLI: Going back to Puck. What’s interesting is that within your vertical it’s a solo operation, you get to decide what’s important to cover.
SHERMAN: There’s a team editing me, but I’m the only writer. One of the reasons it felt like a good next step from BOF was it was a chance to write and cover this industry from the inside, but open it up to a bigger audience. Because if you think about tech, for instance, and you think of someone like Steve Jobs, he’s a household name. My mom knows who Steve Jobs is. Does my mom know who François-Henri Pinault is? Maybe now she does, [Laughs] but a lot of people don’t. And yet these are the richest men in the world, and they’re super influential, not only in terms of how much money they have, but also in terms of their impact on culture.
SCARABELLI: I think what’s interesting about publications like Puck as well is that you really get the POV immediately. That tone is missing from a lot of glossies that seemingly have a hard time maintaining a point of view while generating ad revenue.
SHERMAN: When I talk to brands and say, “Who are you advertising with?” They often bring up Interview, they often bring up W, places that operate in a more succinct way where the goal is not to become this huge massive entity. The goal is to make something interesting that people want to talk about. And so I think there is an opportunity for independent publications in all of this, because there are so many rules around advertising with legacy publishers that makes it more challenging as well.
SHERMAN: It’s just that our culture is so fragmented. Traditionally, magazines put out content, and then they get people talking and that makes them part of the culture. A few are still capable of doing that, but the way we operate as human beings has changed so much in the last 10 years.
SCARABELLI: Which brings me to the CAA buyout. Can you speak a little on the concern around that?
SHERMAN: Pinault owns 46% of Kering, so I think some people are worried that Kering may receive preferential treatment when pairing brands with CAA clients or vice versa. I think that that is probably not the case. I’m sure there will be some conversations, but the truth is that the talent agencies really need all of the brands, especially since LVMH is much bigger than Kering.
SCARABELLI: If anything, it’s just a reflection of the consolidation of those relationships. All of these things are already totally linked.
SHERMAN: For sure. And I think those relationships are going to become even more important as talents continue to make less money than they used to, which is a huge reason that [SAG-AFTRA] is on strike. But that’s not going to totally change even after they come to a deal. Actors really rely on these partnerships. And for now, the luxury industry really relies on the entertainment industry to disseminate their brand information. In some ways, TV shows have taken over for magazines in terms of product placement when you look at something like Emily in Paris.
SCARABELLI: One hundred percent. I wonder if we’ll see a lot more actors in the front row this fashion month because of the strike.
SHERMAN: I think it depends. If they don’t have a big thing coming up and they want to make an extra $250,000 or whatever, then sure. A lot of these actors buy these big houses and have a huge mortgage and—
SCARABELLI: They’re living above their means.
SCARABELLI: I wanted to ask you if you could speak a little more on your sources. Are people just coming to you with gossip now that you have this newsletter?
SHERMAN: The truth is they always were, but now there’s a place for me to disseminate that information in a responsible way. I’ve written a lot about designer rumors and appointments at houses—that stuff flies around constantly. A lot of it ends up not happening. Lately I’ve been hearing that everyone wants a job at Chanel, and it’s like, “Is there a job at Chanel?” I don’t think so, but everybody wants one. I’m just making sure that I’m totally honest with the reader about what I know specifically, while protecting the people who I’ve spoken to, especially when it’s high level information coming from senior level people who trust me. Surely people are not happy with everything that I’m writing. I try really hard to not be mean, but I also don’t want to let people off the hook. One of the reasons nobody talks about this industry outside of the industry is because nobody talks about it honestly. And so if I can talk about it honestly, it’s not going to make everybody thrilled, but at least they’re going to get more attention for all the interesting stuff that they do.
SCARABELLI: I don’t want to take up too much more of your time. But I just wanted to ask you about a couple of things that are going on right now. Number one, this morning we just heard about Tremaine leaving Supreme. I’m curious if you have any additional info you want to share and whether you think the accusations of racism will have any fallout for the brand.
SHERMAN: I need to do more reporting on it. There are so many factors here. Tremaine said only 10% of the staff on the design team is people of color. I haven’t fact checked that, but the question for me as a business reporter has to do with it, because if you’re bringing in a person of color to be the creative director for the first time in 25 years, and you don’t have a mix of voices and race, gender, point of view, socioeconomic. That is to your detriment.
I think Supreme has a lot of issues, because of the fact that it’s now owned by a big company that is driven by cost-cutting and things like that. Supreme was focused on cultural growth for so many years. Even when it got bought by private equity, it generated something like 500 million a year in sales. That’s a lot of money, but that’s not insane. And also it’s been around since the early nineties. A lot of the growth has happened in the last couple of years. That’s a pretty slow and steady and patient way to build a business. And so I think the question for me as a business reporter is, how do they manage that brand now that it’s a part of this big portfolio that owns all these iconic forward and lifestyle adjacent brands?
SCARABELLI: Totally. I just want to finish up by asking you if you have any fashion month predictions?
SHERMAN: I’m really interested to see Sabato De Sarno’s Gucci and what that looks like. I’m interested to see what happens with the Phoebe Philo drop. She has investments from LVMH, but it is a separate company, so we’ll see how that works. And then I do think that there are going to be some big changes, at least at one LVMH house, by the end of the season.
SCARABELLI: Alright. Well, I’m looking forward to your fashion month reporting. Thank you so much for chatting with me. Will I see you in New York?
SHERMAN: Yeah, I’ll be there. I look forward to meeting you.