ELLE-MENTARY: So is this how it works: Buy an ad in Elle, get a fashion sitting devoted to your products? Elle editors say no, it’s just coincidence that the September issue is a paean to Ralph Lauren and David Yurman, who happen to be big advertisers in the magazine. That might be one way to explain the advertiser love letter on the cover. Jessica Simpson, who was styled by ,Isabel Dupré and shot by Gilles Bensimon, appears on the cover and in the corresponding eight-page feature wearing only Lauren and Yurman. It just so happens that a four-page Ralph Lauren Collection gatefold is attached to the cover, and an eight-page Yurman ad adjoins the table of contents, where a photo of Simpson wearing the designer’s jewelry can be found.
This despite the fact the magazine has positioned itself as a champion of the designer mix. As recently as May 24, Elle’s vice president and marketing director, Barbara Friedmann, told WWD, “The trend today is toward individual style. Head to toe is no longer cutting edge. This is something Elle has always been a voice for: mixing different designers, different price points.” Previously though, Nicole Kidman and Julia Stiles were shot for the magazine wearing only Ralph Lauren. And in August, Elle had a well fashion story devoted to Prada clothes.
Bensimon defended the decision to favor certain designers, saying, “Sometimes it’s confusing to mix things. Do we support Ralph Lauren? Yes. Because we think he is a very important designer in America and around the world. But no one told me, ‘Gilles, because of advertising, we have to put Ralph Lauren on the cover.’”
“I was flipping through magazines while I was on vacation,” said David Yurman. “I liked Elle. I thought it was young and upbeat and American and just an incredibly well-produced magazine. They had respect for jewelry as part of the editorial.” Just a few months later Yurman expanded his advertising in Elle, then the Simpson story appeared, which Bensimon says was not an intentional plug. The September issue hit newsstands just as The Wall Street Journal reported that the American Society of Magazine Editors would be re-evaluating guidelines for the separation of advertising and editorial content.
This story first appeared in the August 13, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
And what does Elle’s competition have to say? A spokesman for Vogue (like WWD, part of Advance Publications Inc.) couldn’t resist pointing out: “Whenever we’ve shot one designer’s clothes, it’s been for a feature about that designer. We don’t showcase for sittings.” Bensimon countered, “We don’t feel the need to have an interview for a fashion story. It’s about the clothes, and how we use fashion to communicate style.” — Sara James
NEW IN TOWN: What better way for New York magazine to shore up its Big Apple credibility than by putting a real New Yorker, rather than a model, on the cover of its annual fashion issue? But while modeling might seem as easy as standing around wearing clothes, it’s not. “What’s hard when you attempt to cast nonprofessionals is that they look great, but only in jeans, or else they move in a weird way, or their heads are too big for their bodies,” said Harriet Mays Powell, New York’s fashion director. “The main thing is fit issues are difficult when you are dealing with samples.” But providence smiled on Powell in the form of Shanel Dunnaway, a 29-year-old real estate agent who moved to New York from Mississippi two weeks ago. “My mouth dropped when she walked in,” said Powell. “I said, ‘There is a fashion god.’” Dunnaway (whose first name was inspired by Chanel, her grandmother’s favorite designer) had never modeled before, but had thought about it. After asking around for a photographer to take some demos she could send to agencies, someone introduced her to Randall Mesdon, who was looking for a nonmodel model for New York. “I guess it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” said Dunnaway. Like the other amateur mannequins New York used, Dunnaway will be paid $100 for her trouble — which is perhaps another reason the magazine opted for nonmodels.
And no, she didn’t even get any free clothes out of the shoot — just a really cool souvenir to send home to Grandma. — Jeff Bercovici
JUICY FLUKE: Juicy, the ever-expanding West Coast fashion house responsible for the return of terry cloth, has managed to snag Vogue accessories director Michelle Sanders as its new vice president and fashion director. The hire of Sanders, who will report to designers Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Taylor, comes roughly a year after Juicy launched its first accessories line. “She’s going to add to the incredible momentum we have going,” said Skaist-Levy and Taylor. Sanders added, “Sometimes designers get myopic, and that’s what a fashion director is there for: to help develop, evolve and expand a brand.” Meanwhile, Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour has said that she won’t be hiring a replacement for Sanders. Instead, Virginia Smith, fashion director for market at Vogue, will also cover accessories. — S. J.
PRIMEDIA FLIPS FOLIO: That was quick. A week after putting Folio magazine on the block, Primedia has found a taker. Red 7 Media, a publisher based in Norwalk, Conn., will be the majority investor in a new company that will include Folio and sister title Circulation Management. (Primedia will hold a minority stake.) Red 7 publishes M10 Report, which, like Folio, covers the magazine business. According to a source close to the deal, Folio and M10 will likely be merged, with the new magazine using the Folio name. Folio’s small editorial staff learned Thursday that they will be let go once they’ve finished closing September’s issue. Editorial director Geoff Lewis will stay on at Primedia, where he also oversees several financial titles. Publisher Doug MacDonald will also stay on to work with American Demographics. — J.B.
ROCK (EYE) CANDY: Vogue is headed back to Radio City Music Hall, only this time it’s with 11 Advance Publication friends. Since the Vogue VH1 Superstar awards were shelved last year, the glitterati of fashion and music have had precious little opportunity to get dolled up, swill drinks and co-mingle. Now there’s Condé Nast Media Group’s Fashion Rocks event. Beyoncé, Andre 3000, Alicia Keys, the Black Eyed Peas and other notables will perform, wearing clothes from current and archival collections of designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci and Michael Kors. Candy Pratts Price, Style.com’s executive fashion director, will style the Sept. 8 event, which celebrates a collector’s issue music magazine that will be polybagged with the October issues of 12 Advance Publication titles — Vogue, W, Glamour, Allure, Self, GQ, Details, Lucky, Cargo, Vanity Fair, Condé Nast Traveler and Wired (WWD is also owned by Advance). The music magazine, which will also sell as a stand-alone on newsstands in five top markets, was edited by Rolling Stone’s founding music editor, Bob Love. Mark Seliger, Michael Thompson, Walter Chin and Hugh Stewart have contributed photography, while articles will come from David Keeps, David Wild and Jancee Dunn, among others. For those without invites, Fox will air the music special on Sept. 26 in its primetime slot — presumably editing out the bloopers. — S. J.