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Soundbite: Condé Nast, The Way We Were

3rdweek.Julia&Carine“You can feel inadequate almost anywhere on the island, but to connoisseurs of masochism there is no better spot than the Condé Nast headquarters at 45th Street and Madison Avenue.”

John Tierney, New York Times, June 16, 1996.

The imminent death of Condé Nast, or at least the Condé Nast myth, has been a prime topic of media chit chat since earlier this summer when McKinsey was called in to go over the books at 4 Times Square and cut out all the excess. So it is with some nostalgia (and perhaps some little schadenfreude) that we recall a time when ride in the Condé elevators was enough of a life- (and closet!) changing experience that the Times felt the need to devote an entire column to it.

ONE OF Manhattan’s greatest attractions is the opportunity, regardless of your race or creed or nationality, to be surrounded by people who are better looking and better dressed than you will ever be. You can feel inadequate almost anywhere on the island, but to connoisseurs of masochism there is no better spot than the Conde Nast headquarters at 45th Street and Madison Avenue — the home of Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Glamour, Self and Mademoiselle. If you think the magazines’ models and fashion editors are intimidating on paper, try riding the elevator with them.

*

They haven’t even begun gathering oral histories from survivors, like Peggy Northrop, a senior editor at Glamour who, like so many others, has never been able to forget her first elevator ride at 350 Madison Avenue.

It was in October of 1989,” she recalls. “I was living in San Francisco, and I came in for a job interview at Vogue. Of course, I agonized over what to wear. I ended up in something dreadful — a gray silk pants suit of indeterminate shape, a strange baggy shirt. My hair was permed. It was awful. I got in the elevator and there were all these women in black, narrow, fitted jackets, high heels and long, skintight leggings. I’d never seen leggings in San Francisco offices. I was shocked. I said to myself: What’s going on here? These women aren’t wearing any pants!” By the end of the ride Northrop had reached an archetypal insight: There is nothing in my closet that will work here.

(h/t John Carney)

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