Awfully Delayed

A magazine is allegedly tardy when it comes to the payment of their freelancers. Instagram comes to the rescue

With some organisations, scandals can come annually. Last year, before their first issue was published, Vogue Singapore (SG) was exposed for a little discreditable action: the editorial team flouted social distancing rules when returning to work in the office, following the lifting of the Circuit Breaker some 13 months back. This year, Vogue SG’s name was dipped into the gutter again when one 17-part post in Instagram Stories appeared, and was shared among folks of the fashion-media community. Airtomyearth, attributed to stylist and creative director Jamie-Maree Shipton, earlier today revealed that the Conde Nast magazine allegedly has not paid her for services already rendered. “VOGUESINGAPORE really out here not paying people!! (all red font)” went the opening header. This appeared to be directed at the management than the editorial team. In the sixth slide, Ms Shipton addressed her audience directly via video: “Okay, guess what? I am getting paid tomorrow, guys”, suggesting payment due to her far earlier would not be settled until the day after today, finally. There might also have been some altercation prior as she said, “It really should not have to fight (sic) if it’s that easy for you to pay me.”

Melbourne-born, London-based Jamie-Maree Shipton is known to be vocal about the industry that she works in, and is not afraid to tell it like it is. Did Vogue SG find the wrong feathers to ruffle? Airtomyearth has a not unimpressive 65,100 followers on Instagram, many are fashion folks or fellow stylists. Based on what Ms Shipton posts on IG, it is hard to define what is characteristic of her styling. Some might call it rojak, made more jumbled by what could be Barbie’s cast-offs and more alluring by contrived edginess, but it is unlikely any one would say she does not have a point of view or a clear voice. The latter she used with directness to draw attention to Vogue SG’s supposed professional shortcomings. But the self-professed Balenciaga junkie, who has styled for titles such as i-D and Vogue Italia, and the luxury department store in London, Selfridges, did not entirely slam our comeback Vogue. In fact, she offered a kindly tone: “in the end, they should do better; they really should just be doing better. Communicating clearly—it costs you nothing.”

It seems that Vogue SG’s not “doing better” was their inability to pay within the common 30 days from the date of invoice. According to Ms Shipton, the magazine’s payment terms are “60 days after publishing”, as opposed to “the industry standard of 30”. She did not, however, reveal the number of days from the date of invoice to the day when the title is published, which may mean that freelancers could have waited far longer to be paid since completion of their respective job. This extended two-month period is purportedly “to give more time and avoid lateness”. She struggled to define what the publisher meant by “lateness”. Ms Shipton added, as if to play down her dismay and to be reasonable, “let’s not do that; let’s just be accountable that if, okay, you don’t have money, say it upfront. Imagine what it feels like to be an individual struggling the same as you face as a company.” With pandemic-year businesses going all out to stay afloat, it would not surprise anyone to learn that the publisher of Vogue SG, Indochine Media Ventures (IMV), are operating on shaky financial grounds.

A year ago, the title launched a bi-monthly issue. They are still out once every two months, which strokes the chatter that IMV has not made money—or enough—to make Vogue SG a monthly

Vogue SG’s first anniversary issue will likely hit the newsstand at the end of this month. A year ago, the title launched a bi-monthly issue. They are still out once every two months, which strokes the chatter that IMV has not made money—or enough—to make Vogue SG a monthly. It is unsurprising that despite a reportedly lean budget, the magazine has yet to break even (some observers say that, given the present unfavourable business conditions for magazines, it’d take more than a year, if breaking even is possible for new titles). The publisher of Vogue SG is Bettina von Schlippe, the wife of IMV’s president, Michael von Schlippe. Ms von Schlippe has been generally quiet about her plans for the magazine. She has not commented publicly on its financial health. But one media veteran told us, “Buro 24/7 wasn’t exactly successful under her watch, yet they still installed her at Vogue.” It is not known if Ms Schlippe is aware of the payment issues now being shared on IG.

Jamie-Maree Shipton’s post not only drew attention to the payment problems she encountered, it also opened the proverbial can of worms. Other Vogue SG freelancers started sharing their stories of non- or late payment (including out-of-pocket expenses), and no replies to e-mails, which prompted Ms Shipton to write, after tagging VogueSG, the editor, and the fashion director, “I see a pattern of mistreatment and non-payment” (the post was later removed). She even offered to help those in similar predicament as she is, telling “everyone who has DM-ed (her) about Vogue (SG? We were still on the same thread)” that if they have not received a reply from the magazine, “I’ll help you.” She added, addressing the magazine, “communicate clearly. It costs you nothing. If you’re going to have to struggle paying, just communicate it. It is better than having a whole lot of people feel like shit and taken advantage of because of actions directly related to you.”

But perhaps what was startling and a revelation was Ms Shipton saying, “also the people who work at Vogue DM-ing me, that it’s just as bad when you work there, I feel for you; I really do.” Was she referring to Vogue SG? Could this be implying that there is unhappiness within the organisation? Has internal strife been revealed to an outsider? Ms Shipton’s post was primarily about late payment. Is it possible that the staffers at Vogue SG, too, were not paid on time? She was, however, reassuring, striking a rather conciliatory note in conclusion, “But you know what? We’re going to make a change; we’re going to make a change.” How she and those affected would do that, she did not say.

Note: SOTD is unable to independently verify Jamie-Maree Shipton’s claims

Update (4 Aug 2021, 01:45): the said post in Instagram Stories has been deleted

Update (8 August 2021, 09:00): It was brought to our attention that Indochine Media Ventures has been renamed as Media Publishares. As of now, the URL continues to host Media Publishares. According to their website, “Media Publishares has over 10 years’ experience in digital communication, luxury print publishing, and events across Southeast Asia.” The first editorial mention of Media Publishares that we came across was in a Vogue Business article—published on 3 August—about NFT marketplaces. It identifies Media Publishares as the “parent company” of Vogue Singapore. Public records show that the company was incorporated in June last year. Hitherto, there is no official statement for the reason of the name change

Update: (8 September 2021, 02:30): Media Publishares now has its own URL Curiously, under the ‘Portfolio’ tab, only three titles are listed: Buro, Esquire, and Robb Report. There is no mention of Vogue Sg

Illustration: Just So