Derek Blasberg

Man About Town: Derek Blasberg Never Says No

Show Notes


Derek Blasberg, a dynamic force in the worlds of fashion and media, boasts a multifaceted career as a writer, editor, and a New York Times bestselling author. Previously YouTube’s head of fashion and beauty and director of public figures, Blasberg transformed the platform, earning praise from industry luminaries like Tom Ford. His influence extends to the Gagosian Gallery, where he spearheaded the relaunch of Gagosian Quarterly and collaborated with renowned image makers, especially in celebrating the life and work of legendary American photographer Richard Avedon. After his 2023 Gagosian landmark exhibition Avedon 100 in New York, Blasberg follows with the launch of Iconic Avedon: A Centennial Celebration of Richard Avedon in Paris on January 22, 2024. A graduate of NYU with degrees in dramatic literature and journalism, Blasberg comments on his journey from Vogue assistant to front-row favorite, underlining his extroversion, passion for the fashion industry, and the importance of never saying no—and that’s what’s contemporary.

Episode Highlights
  • Sweet nostalgia: Blasberg remembers his upbringing in St. Louis, Missouri, as typical and all-American, but not one that facilitated a knowledge of fashion from the get-go.
  • Surrounded by manuscripts: With a mother who was the managing editor of a medical journal, Blasberg had his first connection to documents and texts through medicine and later as a prolific note-passer at school.
  • Contrasts: “I had a fundamental lack of understanding or loose grasp of the fashion industry, as I now know it today,” Blasberg says.
  • Beginnings: Being predigital but a natural extrovert, Blasberg found an agency and advocated for himself, with his first foray into the fashion world writing biographies for models, later working for Vogue and W magazines.
  • Hired and fired from Vogue: Blasberg calls it an educational process and experience, even though managing and assisting “was probably not the best fit for me.”
  • The evolving role of the journalist: Though the traditional writer role doesn’t exist in the same form it did two decades ago, Blasberg sees the ability to express oneself in written language as more important than ever.
  • Do readers exist?: Regardless of form, people may not be reading but are still consuming content and “still curious what people have to say and what they have to write,” Blasberg notes.
  • Bazaar Models: Blasberg’s books explore successful models and muses in a form that fuses literature, journalism, and sheer curiosity about the lives of talents.
  • Man About Town: Blasberg has a unique freedom and independence in navigating the fashion industry, which he sees as a result of open-minded optimism.
  • Perspective as a “trader in culture”: Blasberg notes that live streams, online and resale marketplaces, and influencer culture are ways in which the fashion industry, in particular, has changed over the course of just the last few years.
  • Full-circle moment: A career highlight is the Paris centennial celebration of Richard Avedon, Blasberg’s childhood hero.
  • Driven by passion: Inspired by icons like Richard Avedon and Marilyn Monroe, Blasberg’s work at the Gagosian Gallery is unique in its capability to portray other elements of culture and history, such as the Civil Rights Movement. His enthusiasm for the subject matter shines through.
  • What’s contemporary now: For Blasberg, it’s never saying ‘no.’

Notable Quotes:

  • “When you grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and I was definitely pre-digital, my understanding of the fashion world was Abercrombie Fitch at the mall.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “When you moved to New York—I didn’t have a single friend. I didn’t have a family member. I had a completely empty address book.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “There was not a chip on my shoulder. There was zero percent jadedness or bitterness. I was so excited to wake up and be in New York City.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “In that one year as an assistant in the managing editor’s office at Vogue, I learned more than I did in four years of journalism school.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “Failures are oftentimes much more educational and much more beneficial than successes.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “I identify as a writer. And even though I’ve had other gigs in my career, the ability to express myself or explain theories and concepts or trends with the written word, I think has been the secret to my success.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “One of my New Year’s resolutions was to say ‘I don’t know’ more often. And that’s because I think we live in this weird world where everyone has to have an opinion on everything all the time.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “I’m still able to flex a lot of my literary muscles even though I am not a traditional writer, or at least not a writer in the way that I thought I would have been when I was in journalism school.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “Over the years, people have asked me what it was like when I got started, and what I would always tell them is that I never said no. I really said yes. I was writing press releases for jewelry brands. When I was an intern at W Magazine and, someone asked me, ‘Do you want to come early and help unpack some trunks?’ I said yes. I really think that sort of ‘can do it, will do it, happy to do it’ is what prepared me for a job and career that is not what we would call typical.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “I still get excited when the lights go down at a fashion show when everyone’s buzzing about a new model; I am still in it because I’m still inspired by it. So it’s not even that I’m looking for the next, the new—I am super excited for where I am now. Maybe one day, if I do feel like there’s an element of taking it for granted, or bitterness, or jadedness, or if the day comes when I’m not super excited to be at a show when the lights go down or to celebrate a new designer, maybe that’s when I step away for something else to do.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “Miuccia Prada, Raf Simons, Edward Enninful, Chloe Sevigny, Milla Jovovich, all of these people had been inspired over the years by the single body of work [of Avedon], which, of course, in hindsight, was a pioneering piece of reportage portrait photography and asserted contemporary photography as a real art medium. So that was an incredible project to work on.” —Derek Blasberg
  • On Avedon: “This guy was a legend, and I’m just happy to be amplifying all these incredible ideas that he established 50, 60, 70 years ago.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “What’s contemporary now has probably been what’s always been contemporary for me, and that’s being up for anything, open to change and new challenges.” —Derek Blasberg
  • “I’ve been intimidated, I’ve definitely been scared, absolutely. But when you think about what’s contemporary, it’s about leading into those scary moments and trying to make the most of them. Never say no.” —Derek Blasberg
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