Hamish Bowles had a message for longtime readers of The World of Interiors. “I have not come into this storied title to wreak egomaniacal havoc,” he said, speaking by phone last week from the publication’s London offices.
Last fall, Mr. Bowles was named editor of the beloved decorating magazine, and this month, the first issue under his guidance hits newsstands.
After 30 years at Vogue, serving as international editor, writer and editor of the short-lived Vogue Living spinoff, as well as Anna Wintour’s consummate dinner companion, Mr. Bowles finally has a magazine of his own to run.
The moment brings with it a twinge of anxiety for the title’s 55,000 print subscribers, many of whom appreciate how The World of Interiors has been resistant to change.
Mr. Bowles is only the third editor in its 41-year history. And in a print world much diminished by the brutal economics of the web, The World of Interiors remains a gorgeous physical object: printed on creamy 100-gram paper, beautifully photographed and designed, offering an editorial mix that has retained its eclecticism, wit and attention to every word.
“Will The World of Interiors get a gut reno under Hamish Bowles?” New York magazine asked after Condé Nast, which publishes the magazine, appointed him last fall.
Perhaps that’s why, in his debut editor’s letter and here in his first interview since taking the helm, Mr. Bowles struck a tone of reassurance.
Longtime fans of the magazine will find “a spirit of continuity and coherence,” he said, “but perhaps some surprises, which is inevitable, because I’m not Min and I’m not Rupert.”
Min Hogg, the founding editor, created the magazine’s look of old-world bohemianism, along with its catholic approach (“everything from palaces to pigsties”). Rupert Thomas was her protégé, and edited the magazine for the last 22 years with intelligence, resourcefulness and a monastic devotion to producing each issue. He skipped the party circuit and stayed off social media.
Mr. Bowles, 58, on the other hand, comes with the sort of celebrity and big personality that was once common to magazine editors, especially at Condé Nast. A fixture on the international social and fashion scenes — and best-dressed lists — the foppish Mr. Bowles has curated an exhibition on Jackie Kennedy’s White House years for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and escorted Sarah Jessica Parker to the Met Gala.
When he turned 50 in 2013, he threw himself four parties on two continents, including a dinner in New York organized by Ms. Wintour to which he wore a custom three-piece suit in sherbet pink by Ralph Lauren.
For evidence of Mr. Bowles’s stature as a celebrated man of style, look no further than three of his apartments have been featured in The World of Interiors, including a Manhattan duplex designed by the firm Studio Peregalli, which graced the cover of the November 2014 issue.
As to how he came to be named its editor, Mr. Bowles said the story is quite straightforward: Ms. Wintour asked him.
“Only an editor with Hamish’s grounding in the history of design, the arts, architecture and fashion could lead World of Interiors,” Ms. Wintour said in an email.
Since becoming Condé Nast’s global chief content officer in 2020, in addition to editing Vogue, Ms. Wintour has focused on the company’s digital and international future. That is clearly her brief for Mr. Bowles. “We are all looking forward to him bringing his verve and attitude to WOI’s social channels and digital projects,” she said.
At Vogue, Mr. Bowles has been game to try new forms of storytelling. He starred in a video series, “Vintage Bowles,” that had him shopping the world for clothes, and Ms. Wintour cast him in short clips that play up his dandy image to comic effect, such as one in which he shoots hoops with Amar’e Stoudemire. (Ms. Wintour called him “a natural on video.”) More recently, Mr. Bowles hosted the podcast “In Vogue: The 1990s.”
Now, like every other magazine editor, he must lure young, digital-first consumers from TikTok, and create a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond an attractive Instagram account or occasional video clip.
Mr. Bowles was not all that specific about how he would create The World of Interiors 3.0, saying only, “We’re in the very early stages,” and promising that digital content will be rolled out in a robust way in the fall.
But already, the bare-bones website has gotten a makeover. The magazine is also starting a weekly email newsletter this month.
“I could see podcasts with pillars of the magazine and interesting voices from the world of culture and design,” he added, “and videos as a way of amplifying print images of an environment.”
As incoming editors do, Mr. Bowles has also made several new hires, among them Gianluca Longo, formerly of W magazine, as style director; Benjamin Kempton, a veteran of Wallpaper, as decoration editor; Elly Parsons, another Wallpaper alum, as digital director; and Mitchell Owens as U.S.-based editor, replacing the role held by Carol Prisant, who died last year.
If the April issue is any indication, readers need not worry that Mr. Bowles will muck it up. The story mix, which includes features on 1960s tropical modernism in Lagos; a fashion designer’s Bloomsbury townhouse; a gorgeous Genoese palazzo lovingly restored; and a pictorial celebrating wild garlic — is as eclectic and sumptuous as ever.
A New Age compound that the Italian American filmmaker Tao Ruspoli has created in California’s Yucca Valley has a youthful energy to both subject and photos, while the Lagos piece, shot by the Nigerian photographer Amanda Iheme and written by Kojo Abudu, a critic and curator, is part of Mr. Bowles’s desire to bring “global visions and voices,” as he wrote in his editor’s letter, to a magazine whose lens can often be Eurocentric.
After three decades of flying around the world for Condé Nast, and producing many of the home stories for Vogue, Mr. Bowles has an impressive network of photographers and decorators to call on, and a mental list of interesting homes that he might someday feature. Several of the stories in his first issue came on recommendation from his friends.
Mr. Bowles will continue in his role as Vogue’s global editor at large. Still, he said, the very specific world of Vogue and its celebrity-socialite subjects are quite different from his new title.
“At The World of Interiors, suddenly it is the world of interiors,” Mr. Bowles said. “This extraordinary breadth of subject matter and material is opened up. That’s the DNA. You turn a page — or click a mouse — and you’re in a totally different world.”