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FAN CLUB: “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t really like her a lot,” said Ralph Lauren. “We hardly ever do this.”
It was Thursday night, and Lauren was standing on the second floor of his store on Madison Avenue and 72nd Street in the middle of a party he was throwing for new Architectural Digest editor in chief Margaret Russell. The whole scene felt like a coronation. The Condé Nast executives present — chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr., chief executive officer Charles Townsend, editorial director Tom Wallace — were in a good mood, especially since Russell’s debut March issue was a success, what with an 80 percent jump in ad pages, the biggest bump for any monthly magazine for the month.
“I think that the prognosis is good,” said Russell. “It’s such an exciting time for us. I couldn’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be.”
So good that there wasn’t even any awkwardness in the air considering that the title Russell gave up — Elle Decor — is sailing right along without her. (Ad pages for Elle Decor went up 40 percent in March.)
Asked how she managed to relaunch the magazine without upsetting loyal readers who were used to 35 years of stewardship under former editor in chief Paige Rense, Russell said, “Oh, you know, we’re upsetting some people, let’s be honest. But there are so many more people who have sent such a sense of goodwill to us. People don’t like change. AD is going to look like AD — we’re not changing the way it looks. But we are photographing things in a different way. We’re casting a wider net — we’re bringing more creative people to the magazine.
“There’s nothing shocking about what we’re doing,” she continued. “My goal is to have it be very fresh.”
Certainly she has her fans.
“Peggy has taken a wonderful institution like Architectural Digest and really upped the game,” said Loews chairman Jonathan Tisch. His wife, Lizzie Tisch, said she was at the newsstand recently and was taken by the “The Age of Elegance” March cover. “It was sitting next to some shelter magazines, and the cover was, ‘wow.’ This looks kind of spectacular,” she said.
And Lauren, the man who has been loyal to Architectural Digest for years, also is fully on board for the Russell era.
“I grew up with Paige Rense and I thought she was great and terrific,” Lauren said. “Margaret has a different sensibility,” which he described as “younger, modern, more casual, warm.”
“She has history, she has background, she’s got taste and she’s a pro,” he continued. “She’s going to bring something that’s fresh and new and keep the architectural customer that always loved it and add another audience.”
— JOHN KOBLIN
AND SPEAKING OF ELLE DECOR…: Don’t expect big changes. Michael Boodro, Margaret Russell’s successor as editor in chief of Elle Decor, isn’t going to redesign the magazine. He hasn’t had to hire a new staff. In fact, his attitude is the complete opposite of Russell’s at Architectural Digest: It’s still very much the magazine Russell left behind. But Boodro also hasn’t skipped a beat. Ad pages are up almost 40 percent March-to-March over last year.
“Peggy is an extremely talented editor, and she’s someone I loved working with,” Boodro said. “Of course, Peggy’s going to be competition now,” he added, “but Architectural Digest is a different magazine.”
His strategy at Elle Decor has been to “carry on and keep it fresh,” he said — “fresh” seeming to be a key buzzword in the shelter magazine category (see Russell’s quote above) and part of the largest, boldest line on Elle Decor’s latest cover, which announces “a fresh take.” He added a new page to the April issue called “Status Update.”
“Listen, I wish I could say it’s all me,” Boodro said about the magazine’s increasingly successful business. “That’s not true. The economy’s turning around, the furniture business is turning around.” He said it also helps that a handful of shelter magazines have closed.
Boodro was optimistic about Hearst’s acquisition of the title as part of its $900 million purchase of 102 titles from Lagardère SA. He’s worked in the Hearst Tower before, but he’s not entirely sure what changes are on the way. “I don’t know, but I suspect that there will be a little more oversight at Hearst on a day-to-day basis — or not day-to-day but issue-to-issue,” he said.
He isn’t worried about overlap or redundancy with Hearst titles, but does hope his magazine will move over to Eighth Avenue. “Our building [the Time-Life Building] is not so shabby, but we are — it would be nice if had a little bit more space. We’re cramped here,” he said. “You know, what I’ve heard is that there’s no room at the Hearst building, so I don’t know.”
— ZEKE TURNER
KIDS CAN BE LUCKY: At first glance, the debut issue of Lucky Kids is somewhat reminiscent of Cookie — the shuttered parenting magazine formerly published by Condé Nast — and of flusher times, when it seemed like every magazine produced a supplement or spin-off. But Lucky’s publisher sees the younger version of the magazine as an opportunity to increase ad share with brands already advertising in Lucky but also have children’s lines such as Little Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney Kids.
“There’s a void in the marketplace that Lucky Kids will fill,” said vice president and publisher Michelle Myers. The first issue of 100 pages, with Angie Harmon and two of her daughters on the cover, will be polybagged with 300,000 copies of the April issue of Lucky. It will also be on newsstands, beginning Tuesday, at $4.50 a pop. Myers declined to disclose the total circulation target.
As for the editorial direction, Lucky Kids is purely shopping-driven, with stories on where to find cute new toys, lunch boxes, organic onesies and little trenchcoats. There are also features about how to decorate a playroom, modern nursery and children’s bedroom. “We decided to leave the parenting stuff — vaccines, healthy eating, etc., to the blogs and magazines that cover it so well already,” said Lucky editor in chief Brandon Holley. “The goal with this first issue is to offer up stylish, inspired ideas that make a mom’s day easier, simpler and a little bit cuter.”
The target reader is women with children aged 0 to 12, with the next issue due out in September.
— AMY WICKS
BRIT WIT: Sears shows its cheeky side with the ad campaign for UK Style by French Connection, an exclusive line launching Wednesday with a party at the Lexington House in Los Angeles. The campaign, created by Lloyd & Co. and shot by Terry Richardson, is being featured in the March and April issues of Us Weekly, Glamour, Marie Claire, InStyle, In Touch and People StyleWatch. A cinema advertisement, mirroring the print ads, will run in 350 movie theaters from March 11 to April 7. The ads have a playful Brit feel, with models donning the royal crown and scepter and cloaked in the English flag. Munch, the English bulldog from the Iams pet food commercials, spouts, “Oh my Golly! It’s at Sears.”
Amid flashing prices suggesting affordability, the cinema ad plays the hit song “Price Tag” composed and sung by Jessie J, who just won a Critics Choice Award in London, the British equivalent of a Grammy. “We were able to effectively combine pop culture with affordable fashion to make a fun, hip and contemporary statement,” said John Goodman, executive vice president of apparel and home at Sears Holdings Corp. There’s also a Web site, ukstyle.com, which features the cinema spot, behind-the-scenes footage from the print shoot and an interactive translator taking American phrases and “translating” them into British slang equivalents.
— DAVID MOIN