"Nina is the ultimate Elle woman — her life is incredibly full, she's curious about everything and she's passionate about fashion, beauty, technology, art, travel, the environment, women's issues and the ways that they all intersect," said Hearst Magazines chief content officer Joanna Coles, to whom Garcia will report.
Garcia, who has been the creative director of Marie Claire since 2012 and at the title since 2008, was fashion director of Elle from 2000 to 2008 and was at the magazine in other roles prior to that.
"Elle is close to my heart, and this is a very special homecoming," she said in the announcement. "This is Elle's moment to be out in front, inspiring and informing readers in every area. Fashion and beauty are at Elle's core, as are culture, politics, health and new media. I'm excited to work with this incredibly talented team to set the pace for women who are moving as fast as the times we live in."
"She's global, she loves the brand, she worked at the brand for 12 years," Coles told WWD. "She just tweeted out how honored she is to be back at the brand. And there's something very sweet about going back to a brand when you know you've got a lot more experience elsewhere."
Her global acumen will come in handy as Elle works to consolidate and share content across international editions.
"We want Nina to take a global lead for the brand. There will be much more global collaboration with the best young photographers and bright young writers from across the globe," Coles said. "Nina will be working with the other editors of Elle around the world to consolidate talent and content to make it clear that Elle is the dominant Millennial fashion magazine around the world."
Thanks to her role on "Project Runway," where she has been a judge since the show launched in 2004, Garcia is known beyond the magazine world.
"Nina embodies all the qualities of a modern editor in chief," Hearst Magazines president David Carey said. "She's an important authority in fashion, respected by her peers for her personal style, her ability to spot talent and her deep relationships across the industry. She's also known to millions around the world for her role on 'Project Runway' and the dynamic, behind-the-scenes life she shares with 4.5 million engaged followers on social media. Her love of fashion is deeply felt and it will resonate on every page."
Asked about whether an outsize social media reach is a must these days when hiring an editor in chief, Coles called it "the icing on the gateau."
"I think that's just a symptom of who she is, which is someone who is extremely engaged in fashion," she added.
Coles declined to address whether other top-level editorial changes at Hearst can be expected.
"We are very focused on Elle right now," she said. As to the rumors swirling around Harper's Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey, who is recovering from a broken leg, Coles said: "Glenda is right in the middle of enjoying her 150 years at Harper's Bazaar."
As for possible names to replace Garcia at Marie Claire, Coles said the search is on. In the first half hour after the announcement was made, Coles said she received four résumés.
"We are very confident that there who will be excited to try and step into Nina's giant Manolos," she added.