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Maite Sebastiá, the woman who leads digital innovation at ‘Architectural Digest’ magazine

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Maite Sebastian (Valencia, 1982) directs with kid gloves Architectural Digest or AD, the design, architecture, interior design and art magazine. Since its incorporation, in July 2021, audience has increased by 40%. Because we no longer talk about readers, but about audience: “We have become a company that generates audiovisual content, in addition to the tradition we have on paper.”

This cultured and sensitive Valencian started as an intern in Vogue when I was studying Journalism. Telva He hired her as fashion editor-in-chief. From there she became deputy director at Vogue. He then traveled to London to make a change in his life. She had lost interest in fashion. She is a regular speaker at design schools and has been the founder and director of the Fashion Now master’s degree in Fashion Marketing and Communication.

You started professionally in fashion, did you get tired?

After being deputy director of Vogue I went to London to take a course at Sotheby’s. I wanted to specialize in art curating. I was at a time when I no longer believed in fashion or was so interested in it. I have always been interested in the world of photography, design, architecture and a lot of art.

Could you define fashion?

Lola Gavarrón, in The mystique of fashion (Institute of Fashion and Communication Studies, 2003), says that fashion is that distance between being and appearing. One thing is what we are and another is what we want to be. It is a vehicle to reach what one would like to be. Another thing is that we get it later.

You have included sustainability as part of the training you have provided related to fashion. What is sustainability?

It is a term so used that it has become a bit hackneyed. We are no longer just talking about sustainability, but about conscious design. Before the pandemic, we considered, together with the director of Condé Nast College, Ana García-Siñeriz, the importance of Condé Nast including sustainability training in its training division.

Sustainability is that resources are used in a sustainable way in all processes. It is the same in the case of design and architecture. I have just arrived from Switzerland where we visited the Hotel de los Horlogeros. It is one of the few in the world that has the Minergie-Eco certificate, which is a very high standard of sustainable construction, both in the management of energy resources, self-sufficiency, and, for example, furniture, painting… The materials used are not they damage the environment. For example, no solvent can be used.

In fashion, and I suppose in A.D. Also, the digital environment – ​​especially social networks – sometimes has a larger audience than magazines. Is the Condé Nast group in the process of digital transformation?

It is a very important point in the publishing world and at Condé Nast we are already a company digital first. We have become a company that generates audiovisual content, in addition to the tradition we have on paper. Now we are not talking about readers, we are talking about audience: social media followers, web users and our readers.

“As a result of the pandemic, interest in interior design has grown a lot”

For example, we are working on a very interesting project that was born with that digital mentality. We have developed it with the commercial area. Is a web series of three chapters. We put in contact with a celebrity or talent who wants to renovate their home or give it a makeover with an interior designer from our AD100 list. It is a collaborative annual list that we prepare among all the editorial offices of A.D. in the world with the hundred best architects and interior designers of the year. We record the process and, in the end, the celebrity He shows us how his house has turned out.

Influencers versus established magazine: what do you think?

The figure of the influencers It is that of lifelong prescribers, and there will always be influencers that are interesting and can give us something and others nothing. In our case it is one more tool. I’ve never seen it as a threat. You have to find the opportunity and integrate those that interest you. This is a relationship of win-win, We all win.

I understand that brands bet on these figures who can have a million followers. If the brand interests you, its policy of working with this type of profiles is usually in line with ours. We have followers of architecture and interior design studios, which in turn have millions of followers. We have generated a very important community of which we are very proud.

In A.D.Since July, which was when we joined the new team, we have increased the number of users on the network and the audience by 40%. On Instagram we have reached half a million followers.

What is the reason for the increase?

I think it is due to several factors. By becoming a company digital first, the team is investing a lot of time and effort in thinking about strategies that will also work in digital. The web series It is a new format that will help us increase and diversify our audiences.

What is interesting in this new stage, and is related to this broad concept of sustainability, is the optimization of resources. It didn’t make much sense that all the editorial staff were A.D. of the world traveling to the same place to do the same report. If there is a designer who opens a showroom new in Paris, covers it A.D. France and then we adapt each editorial office with our lifestyle codes.

Does interior design have a larger audience than architecture?

I think so and, as a result of the pandemic, interest in interior design has grown a lot. It is another of the keys why we have grown so much. For the first time in Spain, when we really enjoy the outdoors, we have asked ourselves if we are comfortable with our house, how we can improve our life, not only outside the home, but inside.

Why is there so much difference between the architecture that appears in AD and the majority that has been built in Spain since the 80s?

I think that in Spain better and better architecture is being made. There are interesting architects and many projects. Mallorca has become one of the epicenters of sustainable architecture. A new version of vernacular architecture is being made. And, on a smaller scale, also Menorca. The recent opening of Hauser & Wirth has attracted many artists and architects. On the other hand, it is true that millions of damages have been done in Spain, especially on the coast.

Most of the Spanish population lives on the coast.

On the other hand, I am a big fan of phenomena like Benidorm, where everything is concentrated.

There is also a huge difference between a type of spectacle architecture that is very photogenic and architecture to be lived.

Indeed. What interests us is not simply the professional perspective, but how a person can experience a space. That practical point that, I understand, magazines have to have. AD is a visual spectacle, but at the same time it gives you ideas to inhabit the spaces. And that is something that our audience appreciates.

You have expressed a willingness to include more art in AD. What type of art do you like the most?

I am very interested in the new, but I believe that you cannot understand the new if you do not have a base, a knowledge of the classic. In the end there are few new things. The new language is built with the reference of the old. I get excited going to the Prado or a video art installation at the Reina Sofía. Art, like architecture and design, if it’s good, you like it.

“For me, poetry is a tool for disconnection and introspection”

Do you plan to curate an exhibition in the near future?

At the moment nothing is closed. I would love to link AD to that terrain. Before the pandemic, commissioner The hope of the West with the painter Íñigo Navarro and the photographer Luis Gaspar. It was a reflection, with some mischievous points, on the way in which the West is transforming. But we had hope that certain ethical values ​​would endure.

What is the situation of women in your profession?

In the environment of creativity, issues related to female empowerment are very advanced. But, if you leave your environment, you realize that there is still a lot to do, even people who have not yet understood that we have the same rights and should have the same opportunities as men.

In my case it is very assumed. My mother is a doctor in Econometrics. We went to live in London because she was a professor at two very good universities of reference in Economic Sciences. She has always instilled in me how important the professional part and being independent is.

Its most artistic side

Do you write poetry?

I try. For me, poetry is a tool for disconnection and introspection. I have read poetry since I was little. At 12 years old I was already trying to write one verse or another.
It is the personal view you have of things, the sensitivity with which you perceive them. The need to transform that into free verse.

Could you name me some poets?

Idea Vilariño, Alejandra Pizarnik, Sylvia Plath… There came a time when I was reading only authors who had committed suicide. Sometimes you have to compensate for that intensity with videos of Monty Python or Chiquito de la Calzada. I also really like Ángel González, Francisco Brines, Karmelo G. Iribarren, Antonio Lucas… I would tell you a lot of names. The surrealism of the poetry of the Beat generation also interests me.

Do you find it difficult to separate your personal life from your professional life?

I find it impossible. My way of understanding my work is very passionate. If I analyze my life and professional career a little, it makes perfect sense to be directing a newspaper that represents my areas of interest.

Really my work is my hobbies. I live design day by day, architecture, art, music and poetry. Beauty is a bit the driving force of my life and I am very interested in the way creators perceive life and beauty.

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