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NEW YORK — It’s the ultimate Jane Makeunder.

Jane magazine unveils a major redesign with its September issue, hitting newsstands on Aug. 24, that stems more from a paradigm shift in the market than it does from flagging business. The seven-year-old Jane is simply keeping pace with its readership, aiming to connect with today’s 20-something women, who by all accounts are less rebellious than their predecessors.

This story first appeared in the August 6, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“The boomlet kids are now in our demographic,” said Jane founding editor in chief Jane Pratt. “This isn’t a misunderstood minority anymore. There’s less of a need to wear black and be really depressed all the time, which used to be a big part of being in your early 20s.”

If being twentysomething in the Nineties was about dressing down and feeling angsty, the modern young woman is defined by “a general sense of ease with whatever choices she might make,” said Pratt, “whether it’s getting married, having children or not following the typical career trajectory.”

At first glance the redesign might seem a result of softness in business — ad pages are down 10 percent in the year through September, to 569.1 — but the decision to revamp the title was made 10 months ago. New advertisers for fall include Estée Lauder, Cover Girl, Hugo Boss fragrance, Emporio Armani, Jack Daniels and Playstation 2. And newsstand sales are up strongly, rising 25 percent in the first half of 2004, based on publisher’s estimates filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The magazine has regularly been hitting a circulation of 720,000.

According to Pratt — who did anecdotal research for the redesign, combing through letters and e-mails from readers and blogs about magazines on the Internet — that comfort level with choice also applies to fashion and beauty for the Jane reader. As a result, the redesign expands both sections exponentially and now calls them Dress and Primp.

“It’s more what I think women expect now,” said Pratt, referring to the shopper-friendly front of the book.

“There are more items on the page, and the pages are more shoppable,” added Eva Dillon, vice president and publisher of Jane (which, like WWD, is owned by Advance Publications, Inc.). But don’t expect a Lucky redux. Said Dillon: “Jane is still about unique style, never ‘1 + 2 = 3’ fashion. Our readers are sophisticated enough to create their own look.”

As for the visuals, Pratt left the design concept almost entirely up to creative director Johan Svensson, who has been with the magazine since shortly after it launched in 1997 and previously worked with Fabien Baron at Harper’s Bazaar. “I wanted to bring back white space on the page,” said Svensson. “We didn’t use less product; we just organized it so it’s much cleaner.”

Feature stories are built around lush, prominent photography. “[Baron] stayed with me probably much more than I even realize,” said Svensson. “His thing is, it’s always about the images. I learned a lot about that. You can’t really do a good layout if you don’t have a good picture. So you have to start there.”

The prospect of a more sophisticated design enticed photographers like David Slijper, who used to shoot for the magazine years ago but has disappeared of late, as well as new-to-the-magazine Robert Wyatt, who photographed one of the well fashion stories.

While the visuals are markedly different, the magazine’s spunky tone remains intact, thanks in part to Pratt’s efforts to refocus the writing. “In our attempt to be really edgy and strong, we had gotten weird in places,” Pratt admitted, referring specifically to the column, “It Happened To Me,” which Pratt says had become “It only happened to me and never to anyone else in the world in the history of mankind.” She added, “Everything should have a Jane twist, without being twisted. Over time you get a little nicer. You let the interns write. The voice had gotten diluted. I decided to shift back and say [to a handful of editors on staff], ‘You’re the only ones who are going to write.’”

That means more features from Esther Haynes, Jeff Johnson, Katy McColl and Mitzi Miller, among others on staff.

The sort of star culture Jane is known for has led to poaching in the past, but this doesn’t worry Pratt. “Whenever an editor poaches one of my editors, it’s an opportunity for me to find an unknown talent. Being able to pony up the dough for a star isn’t gratifying to me. Finding that talent and being able to nurture it and draw it out of them, now that is really satisfying.”

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