Style is back. Back on television, that is. With a fresher and more contemporary vibe, CNN Style, which was once the epitome of artistry, has found a new groove in today’s world and it has the Internet to thank. When dozens of well-worn media brands are succumbing to their online competition, CNN used the digital forum to its advantage. By hooking into what their burgeoning audience want, they reverse engineered the content to create a savvier, new show.
“It’s a show that’s about peeling back the layers of the worlds of art, architecture and design, and taking hard looks at the fashion, luxury and automotive industries to show how they affect the world at large,” says CNN Style‘s host Derek Blasberg. “We are taking a lot of inspiration from what’s worked online. The CNN Style site has 5.5 million visitors a month, so we’re looking at what’s popular there and translating it into a great TV show.”
From April 9, Blasberg will take his viewers inside the biggest and grandest events in the world of style, from fashion weeks to design festivals and more. We chatted to the style aficionado about what it is like to helm the new era of CNN Style, how social media is affecting the industry and his idea of perfect happiness.
Fifteen years after “Style with Elsa Klensch” went off air, CNN is bringing it back. What’s the difference this time around?
“Elsa Klensch is an icon and one of my industry idols. Someone like Karl Lagerfeld will even tell me today the kind of influence she wielded, so I am paying homage to her. But, this is also a fresh show for 2016, and one of our greatest sources of inspiration is the great content that CNN is creating for our CNN Style website, which launched last July and receives millions and millions of unique hits per month. I know that the CNN Style audience is plugged in, mobile and digital savvy, and I hope to give them what they want.”
Stylist Rachel Zoe once described you as someone who never says “what’s expected or scripted”. Is that the Derek we’ll be seeing?
“I am passionate about the areas that we’re covering on the show, so it’s impossible for my personality and natural curiosity not to come through. But, obviously, it’s CNN, which is an informed and scholarly audience. So, I agree with Rachel that you won’t get what you expect, but there’s definitely a script here!”
“Being discerning and instinctual are important qualities in Style. Besides, we all make style choices every day – how we dress, whether we like a photo in a magazine, if we see a fancy watch that we like. Everyone participates in the world of style.” – Derek Blasberg
When people hear the word ‘style’ they think of fashion. But it’s a lot more than that on the show isn’t it?
“I’ve never thought style is limited to way that people get dressed. That word has always meant so much more to me: The way someone walks, or the way someone holds a paintbrush. It runs deep through all that we do, and much that we encounter in everyday life. Though our subject areas of style are art, fashion, design, luxury, autos and architecture, we will find inspiring stories, creativity and meaning that will appeal to our global audience.”
CNN Style will attend the biggest events; what are you looking forward to the most?
“Art Basel in Hong Kong features in our launch episode airing on April 9. It’s a great starter for CNN Style as it’s where the arts scene in Asia and beyond descends. Coming up, we’ll be at the New York Met Ball, Milan Design Week, the Venice Architecture Biennale and more. I can’t single out any one of these events as they’re so different and will all have different appeal to our viewers worldwide.”
One of your first interviews was with F1 driver Lewis Hamilton who many would be surprised to learn is an art connoisseur. Have you found unlikely personalities have a passionate sense of style?
“I’m not sure that Lewis would call himself an ‘art connoisseur,’ but what is wonderful about him is that he is genuinely intrigued and fascinated by the world of contemporary art. What’s more is that he was curious and wanted to know more about this industry. I was inspired by how these many worlds overlap: How great to meet a race car driver who wears Givenchy and is passionate about Andy Warhol?”
“The other great thing about Lewis is his honesty: He followed his instinct and knew what he liked and what he didn’t. Being discerning and instinctual are important qualities in Style. Besides, we all make style choices every day – how we dress, whether we like a photo in a magazine, if we see a fancy watch that we like. Everyone participates in the world of style.”
Do you think social media has changed the style world?
“Instagram and social media has made style more immediate, more personal. As well as seeing the polished world of style on TV, people can see teasers, behind the scenes and extra content online. I love it when I can see people directly responding or reacting to something that I’ve posted—it tells me what people are thinking and how it’s resonating with them.”
You have interviewed just about everyone in the style world, who stands out to you?
“I’ve always said that my favorite interview is the one I haven’t done yet. So, stay tuned!”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
“I’ve recently discovered the art of baths.”
What is your greatest fear?
“Losing my luggage.”
What is your greatest extravagance?
“Probably those baths!”
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“The jig is up!”
Where would you most like to live?
“I love New York, but there are moments when I fantasize about moving back to Missouri.”
What do you most value in your friends?
“A sense of humour. And by that, I mean someone who laughs at my jokes. Even when they’re not funny.”
What is your motto?
“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Interview by Melissa Ironside
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