NEW YORK – Town & Country is the oldest continually published general interest magazine in the United States. Founded by poet and essayist Nathaniel Parker Willis and New York Evening Mirror newspaper editor George Pope Morris in 1846, the magazine was originally called The National Press. A short time later, it was renamed The Home Journal, and after 1901 it became Town & Country and retained the name ever since.
Stellene Volandes was named Editor-in-chief of Town & Country magazine on March 8, 2016. Before her appointment at Town & Country, Volandes had been style director at the magazine since March 2012, shaping the fashion and society features each month in a role that gave her a significant hand in developing the magazine’s journalistic range and stable of contributors. Prior to being named style director, she served as jewelry and accessories director since April 2011.
Before that, Volandes was style editor for Departures magazine, where she assigned and edited all fashion and jewelry features, having held increasingly senior roles since 2003.
A graduate of Vassar College with a Master’s degree in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, Volandes is also a published author. Her book, Jeweler: Masters, Mavericks, and Visionaries of Modern Design, was published on September 20, 2016 by Rizzoli.
Volandes has moderated panel discussions at the 92nd Street Y, including Inside the Mind of a Jewelry Collector, which brought together panelists Dede Wilsey, an American philanthropist and collector, and Christie’s jewelry experts, senior advisor Lisa Hubbard and senior vice president Angelina Chen, to explore the fascinating world of collecting during last year’s Christie’s sale of the vast Rockefeller estate which surpassed $800 million.
Jonquil O’Reilly, Vice President, Specialist, Head of Sale for Old Master Paintings at Christie’s; Stephanie L. Herdrich, PhD, Assistant Curator of American Painting and Sculpture, The American Wing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Diana Singer, President, American Society of Jewelry Historians, Owner, Abbott & Austin Estate Jewels joined Volandes for a discussion titled Jewelry: The Secret Language in Portraits of Power at the 92nd Street Y on February 19. The lively and entertaining investigation into how artists have used jewelry as signifiers of wealth in portraiture, from Queen Elizabeth I’s mounds of pearls to the subtler pieces in Sargent’s depictions of the heiresses of the Gilded Age, presented the history of ostentation and discretion and back again.
Volandes’ articles in Town & Country offer wonderful insights, highlighting her expertise in jewelry, whether the subject is historical, as in Anne Boleyn’s Lost “B” Necklace Is One of the Great Jewelry Mysteries, or contemporary, as in Everything You Need to Know About Jennifer Lopez’s Engagement Ring From Alex Rodriguez, or a bit of both: Why the Tiffany Diamond Lady Gaga Wore to the Oscars Made the Jewelry World Gasp. Her article from last August, The Ultimate Insiders’ Guide to Athens, offered a charming travel guide with a focus on hotspots for jewelry enthusiasts including the Lalaounis store across from the Hotel Grande Bretagne, the Ileana Makri store, and the Benaki Museum.
Brooklyn-native Volandes, originally Styliani Volianitis, took time out of her busy schedule to speak with The National Herald about her work, her Greek roots, and as Women’s History Month comes to a close, the most influential women in her life and career.
TNH: Did you always have an interest in magazine publishing?
Stellene Volandes: I grew up in a family that read everything. There were always newspapers and magazines and books. I knew from freshman year in college that magazines were going to be my future and so I started to intern at magazines and luxury companies. I would come down to the city from Vassar at least one day a week and work.
TNH: Where in Greece is your family from?
SV: My father is from Laconia – he grew up in a village called Arna near the Taygetos mountain range. My mother was born in Brooklyn but her parents were from Mani and Chios.
TNH: Does your Greek heritage inform your work and if so, how?
SV: Humility and hard work define the Greek character and I know those two Greek forces are with me in everything I do. I also know that the support of the Greek community has allowed me to pursue my career path with confidence.
TNH: How involved are you with the Greek community?
SV: I grew up in the Brooklyn community of Saints Constantine and Helen and my family remains committed to that church. I involve myself in all aspects of the Greek community in every way I can. I support Greek jewelers and artists, try to help young Greek women who want to enter my field, and am a great supporter of every Greek restaurant in town!
TNH: Town & Country is a well-known, revered brand, are there many challenges facing such a venerable publication?
SV: Town & Country stands for quality and good taste and has for almost two centuries. The challenge is always to live up to this amazing legacy and my staff and I work diligently every single day to do so. This magazine is beloved – and we love it.
TNH: What is your advice for those interested in working for the magazine or in the industry in general?
SV: My advice is always be prepared and know exactly what you want to do. It’s a mistake to walk into an interview expecting someone to figure it out for you.
TNH: As we celebrate Women’s History Month and honor the contributions of women, who are the most influential women in your life and career?
SV: The women in my family are dignified and strong. My mother Marcella, my sister-in-law Sophia and my amazing nieces Cayla and Paige.
TNH: How have those positive role models and women mentors helped you achieve success?
SV: The greatest secret to success is knowing that you have people that will love and respect you no matter what happens. That gives you confidence and it affords you perspective. I know I have that unconditional support from my family and my community and it has made all the difference.