For the most part, industry executives gave the thumbs-up to the magazine’s February issue, which is being billed as editor Glenda Bailey’s official debut — although they said it still has some way to go. And on a totally objective measure — ad pages — they seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude. There are only 84 ad pages in Bailey’s debut, down 35 percent from the 128.61 pages a year ago, according to Media Industry Newsletter. Admittedly, the economy is in a recession and magazines have been struggling for ad pages, but the February Bazaar is 43 percent smaller in ad pages than Kate Betts’s debut in February 2000, which carried 147.87 ad pages. Then there is the debut of Liz Tilberis in September 1992, which had a whopping 251.24 ad pages. Of course, that was a September issue.
Overall, though, the reviews for Bailey’s effort were positive, even if one critic described it as “Vogue meets Lucky,” and another said it’s trying to be too many things to too many people. They praised the front and back covers of Gisele Bundchen, believing that it made a strong statement, although some said privately that the publicity surrounding it didn’t measure up to how much they would have earned if they sold the back cover.
Here’s what an informal survey of designers and advertisers had to say about Bailey’s debut:
Donna Karan: “I loved it. I thought it looked fresh and exciting. I wanted to go to the next page. It kept my interest. I thought it had energy and clarity and it’s something I’m looking forward to seeing the next issue of. I see its potential, and Glenda’s passion for what she’s doing.”
Giorgio Armani (whose dress Gisele is wearing on the front and back covers): “I congratulate Glenda Bailey and Stephen Gan for having the courage to rediscover the wonderful heritage of Harper’s Bazaar. Harper’s Bazaar is once again celebrating fashion as it should be seen, with great beauty, great style and, most importantly, in a way that’s accessible for modern women.”
Alex Gonzalez, partner, A/X Media: “I thought it was the best one since she started. I don’t see the customer yet. I don’t get it. I don’t understand the front and back of the book pages. I think she’s very strong editorially, which we saw at Marie Claire, and it’s very odd. If I were a customer, I’d still go for American Vogue. To me, it wasn’t rich enough. Are you Lucky or American Vogue? But the fashion is stronger than it’s been in the last four months. It was a really intelligent move to highlight Mr. Armani. It’s a real coup, it’s really clever and intelligent.”
Betsey Johnson: “It seems more on-the-pedestal and artsy than before. The best thing is that front-back trip, it makes Gisele seem three-dimensional. It reminds me of my old paper dolls. I think they’re holding on to enough sophistication, which they need to do if they want to go after every girl who’s reading Vogue — especially since I don’t consider Vogue to be the high-class magazine it used to be anymore.”
Camille McDonald, president and chief executive officer of Givenchy, Guerlain and American Fragrances: “This is sophisticated service delivered with strong graphic power. She organized the must-haves of beauty and fashion with great graphic power. It’s like sound-bite luxury. It feeds the fast pace of the affluent reader. She gave a lot of space to beauty, and addressed what’s the new must-have, which is purple eye shadow. I loved the features. They hit two of the three topics we have an insatiable need for — dieting and plastic surgery.”
Zang Toi: “I thought the cover was brilliant, but inside, it still needs a little time. The pages are very confusing and it doesn’t have one singular vision yet. For the first issue, I was very confused. It could have been Visionaire. It could have been Harper’s Bazaar. They’re trying to cater to too many audiences.”
Donald Ziccardi, chief executive officer, Ziccardi & Partners, Frierson & Mee: “The cover looks more artful and I hope they keep it that way. It was very clever with the front and back photo and “Fashion’s Back.” There’s a new spirit in a very good way. It’s reminiscent of the early days of Bazaar. Glenda seems more real. You want to trust her. She’s very connected and she uses these relationships in a very good way.”
Pattie Garrahy, founder and president, PGR Media: “Glenda’s done a good job keeping the high fashion you expect of Harper’s Bazaar. It’ll take six months for her to put her full mark on it. It’s a balancing act. It’s not fully hers yet.”
Kim Vernon, senior vice president, CRK Advertising, Calvin Klein’s in-house agency: “I think Glenda understands delivering the information the consumer wants and also having a lot of inspirational pages. No magazine editor re-creates a magazine in one month. It could take two months to ruin one.”
Jean Hoehn Zimmerman, executive vice president of sales and marketing for fragrance and beauty at Chanel: “Glenda did an excellent job of pulling together a fresh Harper’s Bazaar in a short period.”
Joan Kaner, senior vice president, fashion director, Neiman Marcus: “I loved the graphics and the selections of merchandise. She’s going to be a contender. This issue has a nice energy and nice spirit, and it looks new and fresh.”
Michael Kors: “The great things about the issue are the wonderful sittings and that it’s a really good read. I loved the piece on 24 hours with Iman. They totally captured her. I loved all the cultural things and having different people talk about films and art, rather than have one critic.”
Charles DeCaro, partner in Laspata/DeCaro: “It seems like it’s finding its way but it’s on the right road. The fashion was a good mixture, part avant-garde, part wearable, normal clothing. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I liked how she acknowledged the importance of Diana Vreeland and Richard Avedon at Bazaar. I definitely would advertise in it. We hadn’t yet because we were waiting for February. People will be pleasantly surprised.”