The publishing house was founded by entrepreneur Condé Nast in 1909 in the United States. His first purchase was Vogue, a high-class fashion magazine at the time, an elegant compilation of beautiful verses and photos. Condé Nast inherited his high society vision from his French mother and it helped him get to know the target audience of his new magazine and its demands. As a result, Vogue became a raving success in the US.
Vogue was followed by House & Garden and Vanity Fair. In 1916, Condé Nast ventured something no one else tried before. He started publishing Vogue in London and made the magazine international. This was done partly due to practical reasons. During the First World War, due to the disruption of the marine navigation in the Atlantic, Vogue issues were no longer shipped to Europe. As the British Vogue first came out, it started conquering new territories building on the cultural legacy of each country but maintaining its unmistakably recognizable style. Even in the times of the Great Depression, Condé Nast magazines were still coming out and remained ahead of their competitors with trendy typefaces and advanced graphics. Already in 1932, Vogue placed a color photo on its cover, which was revolutionary. Condé Nast and fashion photography has become synonyms. Art students study the history of fashion by Vogue issues.
Soon after Condé Nast’s death in 1959, the publishing house with its nine magazines was taken over by another tycoon, Samuel Irving Newhouse. Newhouse transformed Condé Nast into one of the world’s most powerful and successful media companies. Through his well-planned and assertive business policy, Condé Nast’s magazine portfolio was extended with more famous brands, including GQ, Condé Nast Traveller, Details, Allure, Architectural Digest and Wired. In 1983, after a 46-year break, Vanity Fair issues resumed, under editorial management of British journalist Tina Brown. Another forward-looking step was Newhouse’s decision to appoint Anna Wintour Editor-in-Chief of the American Vogue. In 1999, he also purchased The New Yorker, an influential weekly for New York intellectuals.
Samuel’s close advisor for many years was Alexander Liberman, an immigrant from Russia with European background and a powerful figure among New York artists. In Condé Nast, he was responsible for seeking young talents and making sure editors work up to the highest standards. Liberman said that magazines are not just about doing business but also about cultivating good taste in the public. The success story of Newhouse and Liberman making Condé Nast a legend was novelized in several book, the most famous of which is Сitizen Newhouse by Carol Felsenthal (1998).
In 1999, Condé Nast moved to its own skyscraper on Times Square in central New York and confirmed its status of the most powerful publishing house in the world. Hollywood paid tribute to Condé Nast with the 2006 movie Devil Wears Prada. It is not a secret that Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour was an inspiration for the main character in the movie. In 2009, The September Issue came out, a documentary about US Vogue editors working on the magazine’s largest issue. The film’s motto is: If fashion is a religion, Vogue is the Bible.
Today Condé Nast International is managed by Samuel Irving Newhouse’s son, Samuel Irving Newhouse Jr. nicknamed Si Newhouse. His cousin Johnathan Newhouse is chief executive.
Condé Nast was one of the first to respond to the advance of the digital era in fashion journalism by launching its first websites in 1995, www.vogue.co.uk in the UK and www.epicurious.com in the US. Condé Nast Digital, the publishing house’s digital branch, develops convenient and informative websites on all aspects of modern life, fashion (style.com), travel (concierge.com) and food (epicurious.com). Advance Publications, another department of Condé Nast International, operates in 26 countries of the world and publishes 124 magazines, operates 91 websites and over 200 applications for tablet PCs and smart phones, including Vogue, Glamour, GQ, Vanity Fair, Allure, Wired, The New Yorker and others.