YOU’RE EITHER IN, OR YOU’RE OUT OR YOU’RE NOT: Take Nina Garcia, Elle, “Project Runway,” Lifetime Television and Bravo and what do you get? A Gordian Knot of relationships that have to be unwound, rewound, reconfigured and just plain figured out. Yes, as reported on WWD.com Friday, Garcia was let go from her position as fashion director at Elle and, yes, the magazine is now scrambling to find Garcia a place — albeit a symbolic one — on the masthead as editor at large. Why? Because of “Project Runway,” which has made Garcia a household name and raised Elle’s profile.
It’s all a bit of a mess, especially since some Elle staffers have been itching to say “auf wiedersehen” to the editor for years. Sources close to the magazine said Garcia would have been shown the door a while ago, but her rising profile associated with “Project Runway” gave Elle a reason to keep her. And it may do so again.
The hiccup is season five of the program, which was up in the air last week after The Weinstein Co. decided to take “Project Runway” to the Lifetime Network from Bravo because it would be paid more money. Many at Elle assumed that would mean Bravo would likely drop season five — the last the magazine was contracted to be involved in as a partner. But — surprise! — Bravo decided to push ahead and, suddenly, Elle needed Garcia again — just as she needs the magazine.
According to sources close to “Project Runway,” Garcia’s future with the show depends on her decision to stay at the title. If she chooses to stay on as a contributor, she will serve as a judge on the show through season five. The show is currently holding castings for its season five contenders, and will begin taping this summer. The last episode will air after September’s fashion week in New York.
If Garcia completely severs ties to Elle, sources say it will be difficult for her to remain as a judge during season five. But that equally would be a blow to Elle, since finding another editor to replace Garcia for what might be only one season would be a challenge. While fashion news director Anne Slowey has substituted for her on the show several times in past seasons, she is filming her own reality show along with Elle creative director Joe Zee and other staffers, “Fashionista.” That show will air on CW in the summer, right around the time “Project Runway” starts its final season on Bravo.
Also up in the air is whether the magazine and other partners will be involved in the show’s season six. The magazine is said to have been exploring partnerships with “America’s Next Top Model” — whose producers Ken Mok and Tyra Banks are also producing “Fashionista” — and ABC’s “Ugly Betty.”
As of Monday afternoon, Garcia was still mulling over whether to accept the Elle offer and executives at Hachette Filipacchi Media remained mum on the situation as of Monday afternoon. Since neither Hachette nor Garcia herself would speak about the departure or her future plans, Garcia has hired Rubenstein Associates Inc. to spread word about her accomplishments at Elle during her seven years at the title (since no one at Elle seems to speaking about them). The spokeswoman would not, however, confirm or deny the reports of Garcia’s departure from Elle.
A source close to “Project Runway” said the program “is in negotiations with her and hopes to have her back.” The program has already signed Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum for the sixth season, and also is in negotiations with the fourth judge, Michael Kors. Meanwhile, several magazines have already shown interest in signing up for “Project Runway” if Elle opts out.
Speculation also has begun as to who will replace Garcia as Elle’s fashion director, with rumors that Roopal Patel, Bergdorf Goodman’s senior women’s fashion director, was heading to the magazine reaching fever pitch. Patel firmly denied it.
— Stephanie D. Smith
AT LEAST WE STILL EAT: Magazine publishers have lately been insisting that any given ad category — usually one they rely on — is “recession proof,” though their theories about the strength of say, mass beauty, luxury automotive or high-end fashion often contradict each other. The recently released Publishers Information Bureau’s report on first-quarter ad spending provides some hard numbers on sector-by-sector magazine ad spending, and the picture is mostly bleak. Overall ad pages during the first quarter were down 6.4 percent over the same period in 2007, and total revenue (a largely nominal figure, since it’s based on often-discounted rate cards) was down 1.2 percent.
One bright spot is food and food products, which showed a 19.4 percent gain in paging and a 29.1 percent change in revenue — a development that some publishers in the health and fitness magazine category have said benefited them as well as the endemic food titles. But apparel and accessories paging was down 5.8 percent, with a revenue drop of 2.2 percent, while toiletries and cosmetics pages were down 8.9 percent, with revenue down 2.2 percent. Unsurprising to anyone following the twinned fates of the housing market and shelter magazines is the 15.5 percent drop in paging in the home furnishings and supplies category. Technology advertising showed the biggest percentage drop, with 16.3 percent down, to 1,965 pages, but it comprises a comparatively small share of magazine ad pages.
— Irin Carmon
MORE MARC: Anyone who has seen a magazine in the past year knows that Marc Jacobs clearly revels in his newly fit physique. But to his displeasure, the fashion world at large has mixed reviews. “Why is there this division all of a sudden between people in support of me and people against me? How did this happen? I haven’t done anything to anybody! I look at Karl Lagerfeld and John Galliano — everybody has their shtick. And just because this wasn’t my shtick two years ago, it’s a problem.”
Jacobs is profiled in the May issue of GQ, by magazine alum (and current Marie Claire executive editor) Lucy Kaylin. The story, “Marc Jacobs Doesn’t Give a F***,” also hits GQ.com today. Jacobs told Kaylin that, in the past, he didn’t have a budget in his psyche for self-maintenance. Then he got ulcerative colitis, the disease that led to his father’s death when Jacobs was young, and a nutritionist recommended a diet and exercise regimen that he became enamored with.
“The thing I love about the gym is not having to make choices,” he notes. “My trainer says, ‘You’re gonna lift this; you’re gonna do that 10 times.’ OK, great — just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. It’s the same thing with my nutritionist. All I have to do is follow instructions. I love that. This is not about ‘Would it be better in red or blue?'”
Robert Duffy, Jacobs’ business partner, also talks to Kaylin at length about the trials of working with the designer. “Marc is a very emotional person, and he takes his work extremely seriously. Some days it’s hard and some days it’s not — it depends on his mood swings. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with a drug addict….Even though he’s been in recovery now for a while, it’s not an easy process. There’s the continual process of staying sober.”
And of course, there is gym time with Jacobs and his trainer, known as “Easy.” “Because my name wasn’t Dolce or Gabbana, he [Easy] had no idea who I was,” snarks Jacobs. Easy encouraged Jacobs to incorporate a little “bling” into his life. Now, they have practically matching Rolex watches (Easy’s was a gift from Jacobs). “We’re BFFs,” says Jacobs.
— Amy Wicks
PACK THOSE BAGS: “Confessions of a Shopaholic” drew some pint-size spectators to the set last weekend, when the movie filmed scenes at the Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan. Sacha Baron Cohen, who is married to the film’s star, Isla Fisher, showed up with their baby, Olive. Also, Wendi Murdoch, wife of News Corp. chief Rupert, visited with her six-year-old daughter, Grace. The crew took over the Hearst Tower this weekend to film scenes for the Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer movie, and transformed the atrium level of the building into the lobby of Dantay West, the fictional publishing company where Fisher’s character, Becky Bloomwood, works. The bottom floor had been dressed as fake boutiques of Anna Sui, Valentino, Catherine Malandrino and Alberta Ferretti for the film, which also stars Hugh Dancy and Leslie Bibb, but the retail space will go back to black once filming wraps early Tuesday morning. Meanwhile, Fisher wore clothes from Prada, Balenciaga, Vivian Westwood and Ferragamo, among others, during the scenes.
V BY FOUR: Last year, V Magazine partnered with Supreme Management Inc. for its first model search and the winner, Amanda Laine, was subsequently hired to walk in several runway shows such as Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen and Prada. Now, V’s brother publication, VMan, is holding a male model competition with Ford Models Inc. and the winner will appear on the cover of its fall issue, photographed by Hedi Slimane. The designer was asked to judge the competition and photograph the winner due to his experience in finding new talent, said editor in chief (and Harper’s Bazaar creative director) Stephen Gan. Slimane used to randomly approach men on the streets in Paris and ask them to walk in his shows, noted Gan. “And he’s been doing a lot of photography projects recently so this fits perfectly for us and for him.”
The men’s magazine also is getting ready to change its frequency from twice a year to quarterly, beginning with the fall issue. “We have a 65 percent sell-through rate on newsstands,” said Gan. “It slides off stands quicker than V does.” In addition to increasing its frequency, V Magazine has started accepting subscriptions online. Gan said that six issues online (which will include the entire current issue, ads and all) will cost $20 for one year. “Quite simply, our goal is to get V out there to a bigger audience,” said Gan. “We get over 100,000 unique users now a month, and 1.5 million page views online, on vmagazine.com, and that’s before Digital V.”
NO MORE: When Interview Magazine rolls out a major redesign in September, with a new logo, paper stock, trim size and look, fashion director Annabel Tollman will no longer be on the masthead. Fabien Baron, Brant Publications’ co-editorial director, said he would be working with several people to fill Tollman’s role. In September, Baron said he will introduce Marie-Amélie Sauvé, an editor at large at French Vogue and worked with Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga. Meanwhile, its May issue, the first under a new editorial team including Baron and Glenn O’Brien, hits newsstands this week with cover subject Maggie Gyllenhaal. — S.D.S.