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WELCOME TO THE AGE OF EVENT PUBLISHING

Is the  newstand destined to be an antique?Is the newstand destined to be an antique?

Well that was very strange. Looking back, I realize Paris SS11 turned into a kind of publisher's convention. That is to say, rather than finding myself engaged in extended conversations about say...the question of Phobe Philo keeping up the momentum at Celine, or the longevity of leopard print at Givenchy, most of the talk was around fashion magazines and how to keep them alive. Right this minute magazine people are deeply traumatized. They know and they know with a kind of chilling horror that their medium is destined to go digital. Paper will persist of course. Paper will probably persist as a luxury format, a kind of market sub-species that you stock next to scented candles and potted orchids in nice homes as a charming vintage throwback. But publishing is going to be thoroughly digitalized. Half of that unwilling process has been effected by the internet and the other half courtesy of the I-Pad. The book publishers know it but the fashion publishers...In dinner after dinner I found a myriad of responses to the great challenge, these days of keeping an audience, the audience the publishing world had always taken for granted. At one such dinner with a pair of Danish publishers I gathered the sense that the classic formula of contemporary magazine marketing was faltering. Let's say you put a celebrity with household name value on your cover. Said celebrity turns up at the shoot only after the direction for the imagery has been vetted by a heavy filtering process including agents, publicists and her in-house stylists . The end result is frequently so diluted and synthetic, what you end up with is not fashion (the kind with a capital F). Hollywood maybe, but not Fashion. I loved the amusing anecdote that Angelina Jolie's people , when organizing her fashion press only consider magazines with a circulation of a million and up. So off the list goes Purple, V and Interview . Nobody markets persona like the Hollywood kids, but why does it have to be so canned? The audience is sensing that and though celebrity sells, it may not truly sell the myth of Paris and of Chanel, YSL and Lanvin. In fact celebrity frequently ends up selling its own signature line of shoes as seen on its E-Television reality series.
Flash cut to Kim Kardasian (un)dressed as a Barbara Kruger art statement on the cover of the new W, a proposition that has the (F)ashion cliques howling with outrage but alas, such may very well be a permanent new reality. That reality is, if you can't present a given issue of your magazine as a cultural event, chances are you're going to be ignored on that hyper-jammed newsstand.
The new Self-Service, aside from presenting a gorgeous Old-School-Stella-As-Icon styling extravaganza by Joe McKenna as shot by Inez and Vinoodh , is filled with pull quotes by fashion's most powerful, soul searching for the future of fashion in public. Which only vindicates the suspicion that Self-Service is designed to talk to those well inside the fashion machine...not the stray masses.
Is that internal dialogue exciting? At least in this case it is the most honest conversation to have.
It seems that niche conversation is being best mastered by young Luis Venegas who now sits on a mini-empire of 3 very influential titles Candy, EY Magateen and Fanzine 137, which he describes as "a kind of best-kept-secret for insiders, for all those people who love images and enjoy looking for special projects in printed paper. In essence, FANZINE137 is a very personal art magazine about all things I like, about people I admire because of different reasons. Every little thing on each new issue is there simply because I like it" . Forget niche, this is mirco-niche and all the more interesting not only for the bravery of it, but more importantly because of the lessons it can teach the big titles. That lesson is ...keep your honest and original voice at all costs because ultimately THAT is what the consumer is looking for.
In terms of the big dogs, what is interesting is seeing the small group (and it is maybe only about 4) of current publications truly adapting to their times.
I remember running into Stephen Gan in January, right after the release of the extremely successful "Plus Sized" V issue and congratulating him on tapping into the need for event publishing. That in my mind is the case of a publisher thinking extensively past the easy solution of Hollywood celebrities to keep the magazine moving in terms of cultural impact. The great thing about event publishers like Gan is that they are engaged in a consideration of the identity of their entire brand. The title, in this case is the star, the event, the identifying point. The aim is not only to reflect culture but to influence its consciousness. In the ensuing issues of V that has been branded around "Sexy" and "New York" , in the round robin of parties and extravaganzas, the idea of V has always remained sharply defined and central and most importantly, not interchangeable with its slew of competition.
Event publishing is not new (see the annual gala of Vogue's "September Issue") nor is the idea of "themeing" your issue ( ID has always invested brilliantly in that ideal) but the impeccable technological finesse and art direction of the Vogue Paris 90th anniversary I-Pad app, actually exceeded the quality of the print publication in my addled mind. That the most personal and idiosyncratic of all the fashion publications should master that feat makes a dedicated consumer hungry of future Vogue Paris app developments.
And when you think "Vogue" and " publishing event", the pioneering work of Vogue Italia's "Black" issue probably stands out as the greatest success story of all. Racial politics aside, as pure marketing, that was sheer genius and you can clearly see how the impact of that has not only changed fashion as a market but equally the future destiny of Vogue Italia. As one Vogue Italia insider whispered, the future thrust of the magazine is to be a global media brand, not just an Italian fashion magazine. Thus the alliance with Tyra Bank's ANTM, thus the massive vogue.it initiative and a future commitment to a multi-media ideal of fashion.
So there she lies, fashion , sitting between the abstractions of digital technology and the monolithic cultural power of Mass Media. The thing I've always loved about fashion, as a pure form of capitalism, is the fact that it will eat without mercy , whatever it needs to co-opt in order to survive. A toast then, to the survival of the fittest.

Taste is a dictatorship.

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