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Memo Pad: A Sexier Town & Country… Defending Mobama…

The March issue of Town & Country, David Lipman’s first as creative director, brings a healthy dose of sex to the magazine.

A NEW LOOK — AND GOODBYE: The March issue of Town & Country, David Lipman’s first as creative director, brings a healthy dose of sex to the magazine. Goodbye, Ina Garten and Nora Ephron. Hello, Lauren Santo Domingo, sans bottom, kicking her feet up in an armchair. “There are many ways to be rich these days,” said outgoing editor in chief Stephen Drucker. “We just wanted to make it feel modern and a little sexier.”

The final shoot in the magazine, by Nino Muñoz, features $73 million worth of diamonds on a soaking wet model without a stitch of clothing on. Twenty-three security guards were on hand at the shoot. “I love any page with the words ‘price on request’ six times,” Drucker said.

If the art emphasizes sex, Lipman’s redesign brings a sense of order to the magazine. He and Drucker simplified the book into three sections: people, style and living. Candid party photographs — cutout and overlapping — bring a new vitality to the front. That said, well-quality writing is largely absent in the heart of the magazine. Billy Norwich’s profile of “The Next Mrs. Astor” is a good start.

But for Drucker, it’s the end. The magazine is still his through the April issue, but after that Jay Fielden is taking over. “What I’d say is this: redoing a magazine is a long, long race. And sometimes you run it as a marathon and sometimes you run it as a relay,” Drucker said. “I’ve just run the stage of this race that I run the best, and now it’s time to pass the torch to Jay.” He was most proud of trying new covers on the magazine and “stretching the Town & Country brand.”

Newsstand sales were up 25 percent in the second half of last year, and the March issue was up 9 percent in advertising pages over the previous year. “We’re so proud of the cover that for the first time we’re mailing out the issue in an envelope that is see-through,” said Jim Taylor, Town & Country vice president, publisher and chief revenue officer.

If numbers weren’t an issue, then what? Moving Drucker over to Town & Country after five years at House Beautiful was one of Cathie Black’s last moves before she left Hearst. Drucker said he had no problems with Hearst and he complimented Hearst Magazines president David Carey, but he said leaving the magazine after only nine months was not the plan when he started. “I’m not the first person who ever came back from Christmas vacation with the idea of doing something different. The explanation is really that simple,” he said. Drucker’s last day is Feb. 28.

— ZEKE TURNER

DEFENDING MOBAMA: Last week, Sally Singer appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and continued the pile on regarding First Lady Michelle Obama’s selection of a red Alexander McQueen gown for the China state dinner at the White House. Obama has been criticized for not choosing an American designer, but Singer, the editor of T: The New York Times Style Magazine, went further, noting the dress didn’t fit well and would be better suited for a more diminutive woman.

But Obama might be pleased to hear that one fashion editor has her back. “I totally disagree with Sally,” said Kate Betts. “I think you can’t wear that dress unless you are 5’11” and you have the kind of posture and presence that she has. And it’s hard for her to pick one designer, but I don’t think she did it on purpose. It wasn’t a jab at the American fashion business. I think she wears what she loves and she wore it for the color.”

Betts is talking a lot about Obama these days to promote her first book, “Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style.” “I think she’s done an incredible thing for the fashion industry because her effort early on to bring new faces into the story brought the proverbial second row to the front row,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for that to happen officially for a long time.” Betts got access to the First Lady as part of the White House press pool. She also spoke to Obama at the Time 100 gala. “I reported a lot around her,” said Betts. “I talked to a lot of people in Chicago who she worked with and people who were friends at Princeton. It’s clear that she had an interest in style going all the way back then.”

Betts contends that as the first African-American first lady, Obama is iconic and her style has become a part of our times, just like Jackie Kennedy was in the Sixties. “She [Jackie] defined that moment and I think for many woman, Michelle Obama defines this moment.” As for Obama’s next style steps, Betts predicted the First Lady will begin wearing more established designers and will begin to adopt a more traditional “first lady look.” “She has been known for putting virtual unknowns on the map and this went along with the whole campaign early on, which was about change and newness,” said Betts, who is already at work on her next book, a memoir. “Any image is calculated, obviously, and I think she wanted her choices to be more democratic. But in the end, she just wants to wear what she likes.”

— AMY WICKS

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