NEW YORK — “Look what I’ve got,” exclaimed 34-year-old Fader publisher Jon Cohen, exhibiting the exuberance of a teenager as he whipped out his new, sleek, blue Nokia 3650 cell phone and hoisted it to snap instant digital photos of his breakfast companions outside Balthazar.
This story first appeared in the April 16, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Nokia, he explained, is a client of Cornerstone Promotion, a marketing agency formed in the late Nineties, when Cohen and business partner Rob Stone exited marketing gigs at Sony and Arista, respectively. Initially a promoter of fledgling musicians, founded by Stone in 1996, Cornerstone’s franchise was extended to fashion, film and technology clients when Cohen joined him a year later. Today, its roster includes Nike, Diesel, Levi’s, Sprite and Microsoft’s MSN network and Xbox.
Three years ago, the pair founded The Fader magazine, aiming it at 10,000 music business insiders. They quickly found a broader readership that was interested in the fast-forward pop-culture trends and products the staff chronicles, many of which they learn about from their Cornerstone cousins. Cohen’s new Nokia is one such example: The 3650 won’t be on the market until May.
Now, The Fader, which marries glossy, alt-design pages with a street sensibility — and devotes significant space to fashion — has just upped its frequency to bimonthly from quarterly. According to Cohen, the move was made after advertisers said they’d support two more issues a year. The Fader’s rate base has grown to 75,000. Those readers are 25 years old on average; most are between 18 and 30, and 40 percent are female.
Fashion’s presence in the 208-page March-April issue ranges well beyond the 49 pages devoted to style layouts in features such as The Season’s Hottest New Swimwear and a Q&A with denim-meister Adriano Goldschmied.
When probed about the magazine’s dubious genesis — springing as it did from the belly of a marketing agency — the pair insisted they’re vigilant about keeping Cornerstone’s interests from compromising The Fader’s editorial integrity. “We don’t force anything on the magazine staff because of Cornerstone,” Cohen stated. (There were a half-dozen Levi’s and Diesel items shown in the March-April fashion spreads, for instance.) In fact, Stone said, “It often works the other way: Magazine advertisers sign on with the marketing agency.”
A case in point is Levi’s, which expanded its relationship with the media enterprise, from advertising in The Fader to mounting a promotion with Cornerstone and HBO this January at the Sundance Film Festival. The trio rented a mansion in Park City, Utah, and invited artists attending the nearby festival to stop by, relax — and get fitted for Levi’s Type 1 denimwear. Guests included John Leguizamo, Jessica Lang and Salma Hayek. A month later, Levi’s got serendipitous TV exposure for its heavily hyped Type 1 brand when Leguizamo presented a Grammy award sporting a Type 1 denim jacket he’d selected during the promotion at Sundance.
Stone’s and Cohen’s next moves? Lining up artists at the nascent Fader Music label and promoting “Hooked,” the first movie produced by five-month-old Fader Films — in partnership with Kicked Down Productions — set to premier May 7 at the UA Nine in Battery Park City. The 62-minute documentary, directed by Michael Skolnik and William O’Neill, spins the story of street ball legend Demetrius “Hook” Mitchell, who grew up in Oakland, Calif., playing with future NBA all-stars Gary Payton and Jason Kidd. (Unlike his childhood pals, Hook didn’t make it to the NBA — even though, at 5 feet 9 inches, he could jump over a Volkswagen and slam dunk a basketball. Hook’s virtuosity on court attracted hustlers who exerted a negative influence on him, including drug dealers who paid him for making dunks in high school games. Hook is now serving a six-year sentence at San Luis Obispo Men’s Penal Colony, for a 1999 robbery.)
Despite tough times for the media business, Stone waxed hopeful about the new projects, saying, “We see The Fader magazine as a media hub.”