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PARIS — Is French Vogue a magazine for ladies — or laddies?

This story first appeared in the December 3, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That’s the question being posed here in the wake of a surprising holiday gift that comes with French Vogue’s December/January issue: a pinup calendar as racy as the ones polybagged with men’s titles FHM and Max this month.

Shot by photographers Ines Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, the black-and-white Vogue calendar features 12 top models in sexy, come-hither poses, including Trish Goff wearing only a sweatshirt and Helena Christensen wiggling her way out of a swimsuit.

Carine Roitfeld, editor in chief of French Vogue, said the calendar, a first for the magazine, was intended as a keepsake for the holiday double issue. She characterized it as a high-fashion play on the likes of the Pirelli calendar — and not meant for locker rooms. “I think the pictures are free of any vulgarity,” she said. “It’s more artistic than pornographic.”

Roitfeld said it’s too early to glean reader reaction because the magazine and calendar are just being delivered to subscribers. But she said she doesn’t expect an outcry in France, where nudity is commonplace in advertising and magazines.

To wit: the Vogue issue that comes with the calendar has a healthy share of flesh, too, with a topless Gisele Bündchen cavorting in micro-miniskirts and a 12-page shoot with emerald jewelry displayed on bare breasts, backs and buttocks.

Meanwhile, Didier Suberbielle, the new president of Condé Nast France, paints a bright 2003 for French Vogue. The magazine’s advertising was flat for 2002 at about 1,400 pages, but Suberbielle projects a 5 percent increase in pages for 2003.

Suberbielle defended Roitfeld’s dramatic new direction for French Vogue, likening her arrival at the magazine to John Galliano joining Christian Dior five years ago, insofar as both charted a radical new direction for a French institution.

Detractors in Paris fashion circles grumble that French Vogue has abandoned its classy roots in favor of an edgy aesthetic. But Suberbielle said French Vogue’s subscriber base remains stable at about 25,000. What’s more, circulation growth is not the chief goal, but rather Vogue is seeking better readers with higher income, he added.

The magazine also is seeking more international scope by expanding its coverage of key fashion capitals like New York and London. Suberbielle noted that roughly 30,000 of French Vogue’s 110,000 copies each month are sold on newsstands outside of France, with the U.S. representing the largest foreign market.