I ‘ve always been a worker bee,” says Samira Nasr from her apartment in New York City’s Park Slope, a picturesque neighbourhood of tree-lined streets and classic brownstones in Brooklyn. It’s been a year since Nasr was named the Editor-in-Chief of the US edition of Harper’s BAZAAR after almost three decades in the fashion industry.
“My first-ever boss sat me down and handed me a book that I still have—Passage by Irving Penn—and she said, ‘Study this and I’m going to give you some advice that will serve you your entire career: Be impeccable with your word and work hard.’ And I was like, ‘Noted.’” Nasr was raised in the modest Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire along with her older brother. “I come from parents who were immigrants and always worked hard, so I grew up with that example,” she says. When her parents divorced, she used fashion as an escape: “I could put my head in a magazine and be transported to another world, and I liked mixing and altering my clothes to create different personalities. I went through a period around the age of 16 where I explored these crazy tutus and wore them with combat boots.”
In the early 1990s, Nasr moved to New York City to study for a master’s in journalism at New York University, after an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Originally hoping to work in biomedical ethics, she took a class on Middle Eastern politics that made her rethink her career path. “We were shown a magazine cover that loosely associated Islam with violence,” she says. “Half my family is Muslim and I knew Islam to be a beautiful, peaceful religion, so I thought I had to become a journalist because I needed to be able to counter these stories.”
By her own admission, Nasr was never a very good writer and so, in need of a job, she started assisting stylists. One of her earliest roles was with the legendary creative director Grace Coddington. “What Grace taught me was to fight. She never backed down and gave everything to the picture.” After a stint freelancing and consulting for clients including L’Oréal and Tiffany & Co., Nasr went on to have various roles at InStyle, Elle and Vanity Fair before landing the job at BAZAAR after its previous editor, Glenda Bailey, announced her departure in January 2020. Nasr is the first person of colour to head the magazine in its 154-year run and her appointment was a historic step.
“I’m cognisant that I can inspire people,” she says. “If I’m able to be successful in this role, it could potentially open doors for others. BAZAAR has a legacy of working with the greatest photographers and literary giants of the time, including Richard Avedon and Virginia Woolf, and I hope to get back to that—all while being more inclusive in the stories we tell and the people who get to tell them.”
In addition to having one of the most influential jobs in fashion, Nasr is a single parent to her seven-year-old son Lex, who she adopted as a newborn. The pair recently moved from Williamsburg to their current apartment, which is half a block from Prospect Park. “In terms of home décor, it’s never what’s on trend, but what resonates with me,” she says. “For the last 15 years, I’ve just slowly acquired things I love—like my bed from BDDW.” Many of the works on the walls are by her mother and stepfather, who are both artists. “They instilled in me this idea of buying a new piece every year,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be over-the-top expensive, but it’s one more thing you’re going to build your home with.”
This sentiment is echoed in Nasr’s understated wardrobe, which is a mix of timeless Chanel, Saint Laurent, Gucci and CELINE, and contemporary American brands such as Telfar, Maison Mayle, Fear of God and Peter Do. “I’ve worn the same things my entire life and people who’ve known me that long can vouch for it,” she says. “I’ve always been about a great pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, ankle boots and hoop earrings.” While Acne Studios, KHAITE and A.P.C. trousers make appearances, it’s clear that vintage Levi’s are her favourites, alongside much-worn knitwear from Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren. Ultimately, she says, she takes a similar approach to the fashion in BAZAAR: “I hope our readers understand that this is not a proposition of discarding what came last season. If you’re investing in clothes, you should be able to enjoy them for as long as you want—they become the things that eventually tell your story.”