Ian Taylor, editor-in-chief of men’s style site FashionBeans, discusses the site’s approach to men’s style, the importance of imagery and how PRs can best work with the team.
Can you give us an overview of FashionBeans?
The aim is to be the most accessible and authoritative source of men’s style advice on the internet. Most of our readers are time-poor, choice-rich men who just want to look their best. We help them define and refine their style, unpack new trends and translate high-end fashion into everyday looks.
There’s a lot of how-to and buying advice but I’d be gutted if it ever came across too didactic or patronising. Mainly, I hope we’re giving guys options and confidence in how they dress.
Menswear is really exciting at the moment because most of the stuffy old rules have gone out of the window. That means there’s a lot for us to write about and we cover everything from tailoring to sportswear, with the same enthusiasm.
What’s different about your approach to men’s style content?
It’s not about fashion per se, more about getting dressed. We’re trying to build a resource for men, and whether you’re into fashion or just want to look the part at the office/wedding/whatever, I would hope you’ll find something useful and inspiring on our site.
Menswear is more diverse than ever, so our content isn’t written with one style tribe in mind or people with a certain income. Our recommendations can cover all budgets and styles. I think that makes us quite different.
The majority of fashion shoots I see really put me off. They’re directional, almost defiantly uncommercial. Fashion as art, maybe – but that’s not what we’re about.
Is your target audience exclusively men?
Mainly, but not exclusively. There are a fair number of buying guides on the site, so we do get a significant number of women looking for things to buy for men, particularly around the big gifting periods. The split is about 70/30.
How important is imagery for you?
From an audience perspective, it’s huge. People come to us for style inspiration and shopping advice so it has to be a visual experience. I think we run more imagery than the majority of sites in our sector.
There was a time when it was almost exclusively third-party images but that’s changed a lot. We have a monthly photography budget and shoot a lot of exclusive imagery now. That includes product shoots (sneakers, watches, grooming, cars), model shoots, street style and, increasingly, celebrity profiles.
How do you work with talent?
It’s become a bigger focus for us in the past year because the audience has responded well to the bigger interviews and photoshoots we’ve been doing. We’re speaking more to studios, record labels, agents and publicists, but also style brands with interesting ambassadors.
We’ve done everything from quick Q&As with David Beckham to high-concept fashion shoots with David Gandy. Video content, social takeovers and smaller-scale shoots are also in the mix. It’s just about finding the right names and the right treatment.
Do you have any partnerships with men’s style brands?
Yes, we regularly work with brands to produce sponsored content on the site and across our social channels (plus those of some partner sites we work with). Traditionally, most of this has been written, but we’re starting to do more photography and video as well.
We’ve also taken on a few bespoke projects, where our editors have produced white label content for brands (things like customer magazines), and I’m hoping to host our first co-branded event in the autumn.
Last year, we also produced our first clothing collaboration, with British menswear label Percival. It was one of the brand’s best-selling collections to date, so we’re looking to do more.
What’s your relationship like with PRs? How can they best work with you and the team?
It’s a big job trying to keep up with everything that’s going on in menswear. The best thing PRs can do is make sure the team is up to date on what their brands are up to. We often run quotes from experts in the industry and we’re increasingly interested in talent access.
One bugbear is that the entire industry still seems like it’s set up either for long-lead titles or blogs. We’re reactive and publish daily but we still have an editorial calendar. It’s often the case that we get releases and lookbooks months in advance or the day things drop. There’s a sweet spot for online titles.
Oh, and the other one is when we’re sent new campaign shots and asked to run them as editorial. If you want your brand’s advertising on the site, I am more than happy to introduce you to our commercial partnerships team.
Finally, there’s been a real change in the way masculinity is portrayed in the media. Has this changed the subjects you cover or the way you write about certain topics?
It’s something we’ve always been conscious of because we’re a style and grooming site – it’s inherently image-conscious. You have to keep that front of mind – that fashion and the way it’s reported can be a source of anxiety for some people. We try to do it in a way that makes people feel more confident and comfortable in their skin. That’s why we present options for every budget and body type in our fashion content.
In terms of wider questions around masculinity, we definitely cover those that come into our remit. We’ve published features on male body image, burnout or the psychological effects of social media or cosmetic surgery. There’s a greater appetite for that kind of content now.
Similarly, we’re doing a lot of content on sustainability in fashion – highlighting brands that are changing the way the industry works or, on a consumer level, writing articles that suggest new ways of wearing old clothes. It’s another example of how attitudes are changing (for the better in my opinion) and it’s our job to give readers the information they’re looking for.