Best in show: Editor-in-Chief Tony Chambers wins BSME Mark Boxer Award
We don’t usually like to toot our own horn, (well, we don’t like to be seen to be doing it) but this week held an especially proud moment for Wallpaper* magazine when Editor-in-Chief Tony Chambers was honoured with the most prestigious award possible in British publishing: the BSME Mark Boxer Award. It recognises an outstanding contribution to magazines and isn’t something that is handed out easily - previous recipients include Private Eye’s Richard Ingrams, Condé Nast’s Nicholas Coleridge and Harper’s Bazaar’s Liz Tilberis.
At the glittering gala dinner – the magazine equivalent of the Oscars – British comedian Alexander Armstrong presented Tony Chambers with the giant crystal trophy which (following a brief stint as a receptacle for champagne on the night) now takes pride of place at Wallpaper* HQ. The BSME committee said it best on the night, so we leave you with their words, feeling humbled and extraordinarily honoured...
’It seems somehow inadequate to call the winner of this award simply an Editor-in-Chief. He’s more of a one man, global tour-de-force, who has turned a magazine into a prestigious international brand. He is the definition of a game changer - someone who realised many years ago that publishing would undergo a revolution - and who had the vision to expand his publication from a glossy design bible, into a lucrative multi-platform business that boasts a highly sought after creative agency, a celebrated iPad edition, a renowned series of city guides, an interior design service, an events department and a luxury online store.
When he began his career as a designer at the Sunday Times Magazine in the early 90’s, under Michael Rand - a former recipient of this award – he became known for a bizarre trait – being an art department person who enjoyed reading copy! He understood that words were as important as pictures; that features had to have visual impact but also create a journalistically credible narrative. His uniquely original vision and beautiful layouts, notably showcasing an ambitious parliamentary hopeful called Tony Blair, soon saw him progress to art editor and then being lured over to GQ as art director. Whilst there, he helped change the face of men’s magazines, adding a visual polish that imbued the content with class.
When he joined his current title as creative director, the magazine was a highly regarded brand but he took it into new visually daring areas, giving it major credibility. In an audacious move, encouraged by then publishing director Fiona Dent, in 2003 he took over as Editor-in-Chief, as a sort of publishing auteur whose individual style, tastes and complete control over all elements gave the magazine a personal and unique stamp... which soon won the approval of the global design fraternity. He made a magazine in his own image – immaculate, highbrow, but also modern and pop culture savvy.
This year’s recipient has garnered the respect and devotion of some of the most high profile names in fashion and design - from Hedi Slimane to Phillipe Starck. Partly because of his infectious enthusiasm, but also because he’s simply hilarious company. Someone who can discuss Zaha Hadid and Everton FC with equally informed passion. And he’s one of the few people in the world whose managed to win over Karl Lagerfeld, whom he once persuaded to guest edit his magazine resulting in an extortionately expensive to produce peel off cover. When he told Karl the costs would make it impossible Karl replied, "How MUCH is impossible?" And, once this Editor-in-Chief had sweet talked Karl into emptying his bank account, the two of them did pull off the seemingly impossible.
Karl wasn’t the only name he got on board as guest editor, everyone from Louise Bourgeois, to Kraftwerk have had stints helming his magazine – whilst the likes of Pharrell Williams and Victoria Beckham agreed to judge its annual design awards. With 100 issues under his editorship, he continues to extend the brand; he recently masterminded the launch of his magazine’s inaugural US bespoke edition – which is already being hailed as a publishing triumph.
His reputation as a cultural architect extends to every aspect of his life – like Mark Boxer, after whom this award is named, he’s one of the rare people to have made the transition from art director to Editor-in-Chief creating his own title of ’visual journalist’. As well as editing the magazine, he is also the archetypal Wallpaper* reader – one of the decisions he’s most proud of is buying a flat in the Barbican back in 1993 when the rest of us were still referring to London’s finest example of brutalist architecture as ’a hulking monstrosity’. The flat, as you might guess is full of elegantly selected examples of 20th and 21st century furniture. Even his young baby daughter Olive has rejected Disney princess dolls in favour of soft toy versions of Pablo Picasso and Frank Lloyd Wright. He prides himself on his belief that function should never come at the expense of beauty, which probably explains why he is famously said to own one of the most beautiful but uncomfortable sofas in the world.
Known for his immaculate taste, his fierce attention to detail and perfectionism, but also his ability to inspire passion, loyalty and dedication from his team – the recipient of the 2015 Mark Boxer award is the exceptionally talented and utterly unique Tony Chambers.’