“I’m fascinated by the philosophy and psychology of luxury” An interview with Times Luxx’ Kate Reardon

Tomorrow sees the publication of Kate Reardon’s third issue of Times Luxx. Walpole’s Helen Brocklebank sat down with Kate to ask her how she has made Luxx her own, and why being part of The Times means its luxury publication has a responsibility to be so much more than a gallery of fabulous objects.

As soon as I start talking to Kate Reardon about her vision for Luxx as its Editor in Chief, it’s clear that she has thought very deeply about why a magazine aimed at the 1% and born from the rib of The Times needs to drive the luxury conversation forward. Whilst she’s still comparatively new at News UK, Reardon is one of the most experienced luxury editors in the business, winning her gilded spurs at defining high-end titles: first Vogue, then as the youngest ever fashion director of Tatler, followed by an eleven year stint with the legendary Graydon Carter at Vanity Fair, before returning – via a successful chapter as a digital entrepreneur – to Tatler as editor in 2010. She took the Luxx reins from its relaunch Editor in Chief, Jeremy Langmead, in March this year – not without some trepidation because, as she says, ‘I loved Jeremy’s Luxx. I thought it was sensational… he’s an absolute genius and my very first thought when they [News UK] were kind enough to offer me the job was ‘don’t f*** up’.  And when her first issue appeared earlier this Autumn, it was immediately obvious that she had not only built on Langmead’s soigné foundations, but added an intriguing standpoint, one that interrogates the pitfalls and responsibilities of what it means to be wealthy, as well as its undeniable pleasures. As she says “We live in a world where we’re all talking about handbags and watches and jewellery, but I want to get much deeper than that.” 

The Times, Reardon feels, gives her the platform to add a more cerebral dimension to luxury and to bring Luxx even closer to the sensibility of the main paper because, “just as we expect an intimate knowledge of the political world by the political editor of a great newspaper, you expect an understanding of the culture of the super-rich….[The Times] assumes a level of curiosity and fascination with a subject across all its verticals.” Two issues in, her Luxx is very far away from the kind of  ‘luxury 101’ she loathes: access to a “magical paintbox” of Times contributors, not usually associated with luxury commentary (Sathnam Sanghera, Giles Coren and Hugo Rifkind amongst others) – coupled with clever commissioning (Anna Murphy on the divide between what men and women find alluring, Colin McDowell’s favourite books, The Humanity Test, and considered columns from ex-Tatler stablemates Gavanndra Hodge and Emma Freud) as well as sumptuous product pages adds up to a magazine that’s as fresh and thought-provoking as it is opulent.  “While we feature wonderful lizard skin handbags and beautiful… diamonds – and we love them at Luxx, we love nothing more than a beautifully crafted luxury product – we’re also addressing the different parts of our readers’ brains. Readers don’t abdicate all of that stuff on a Saturday morning just because they’re looking for a nice pair of shoes too. They’re also thinking about much more sophisticated things than just endless shopping lists.

What I love about our conversation is Reardon’s complete and utter delight in her new adventure – “I literally feel like I’m the lottery winner” – and in its possibilities. If her career to date has allowed her an intimate study of the world of the wealthy, she now has a canvas big and bold enough on which to paint her findings. “The Luxx reader is part of the infinitesimally small 1%: you don’t get to be that kind of person without being sophisticated and a very, very rounded person. The super-rich are not these one dimensional caricatures of cigar-chomping fat cats…they are humans with a hinterland”. Perhaps it’s because she understands that the vast majority of her readers have earned their wealth rather than inherited it, she can ask searching questions about the responsibility of having such ‘unimaginable privilege’ – Gavanndra Hodge’s column ‘How to talk to your children about…’ is a case in point. Having covered such topics as ‘privilege’ and ‘grief’, in December’s issue Hodge writes about fairness – “we felt it was a particularly important time of year to address that; what is fair?”. There’s also a sense in which Reardon enjoys examining luxury’s fugitive properties – the way it resists definition. “There’s a difference between luxury and pleasure, isn’t there,” she says when I ask what luxury means to her, “I think the only honest answer to that is that I can’t answer it. And that’s why having this publication in which I can investigate it every month is like catnip for me. Because whether it’s Giles Coren writing about the luxury of an electric bicycle [because] not having to pedal is just… I mean, man, you feel like Mary Poppins. Or Hugo [Rifkind] writing about the luxury of anger. There aren’t many instances in my life where I can afford to get really, really angry ….And then the luxury of a Loro Piana incredible white double-faced cashmere jacket.”

And as if that isn’t enough to whet your appetite for the next issue, perhaps its giant Christmas gift edit over 21 pages might do it “because there are times when you just want somebody else to do it for you”. Or Anna Murphy on the luxury of comfortable clothes (without giving up on fashion), Vassi Chamberlain on what it’s like to party on a super yacht in St.Barths on New Year’s Eve or – thinking about the Gavanndra Hodge piece on conversations to have with your kids about fairness – Professor Tanya Byron on what you do to a human being’s brain if you never say no.

So if you’re a human with a hinterland and as fascinated by the psychology of luxury as Kate Reardon, if you love its supple philosophy as well as its enchanted objects, then – whether or not you’re one of the 1% – Saturday’s Luxx is for you.