Sizing Up September

NEW YORK — September is do-or-die month for fashion magazines, and WWD has once again asked undernourished bohemian editors to sit in design judgment of their Town Car-hopping Establishment colleagues. The panel of indie judges is comprised of...

NEW YORK — September is do-or-die month for fashion magazines, and WWD has once again asked undernourished bohemian editors to sit in design judgment of their Town Car-hopping Establishment colleagues. The panel of indie judges is comprised of Evan Schindler, publisher, Blackbook; Peter Halley, publisher, Index magazine, and design director Stacy Wakefield; Eddie Brannan, creative director, The Fader; Veronique Kolasa, founder of Le Book, and its international development director Michael Kazam. They rate Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Marie Claire and WWD’s sister publications W and Jane.

This story first appeared in the August 16, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


Le Book: I would have preferred the back cover as the front cover, but Bazaar is clearly trying to bring back iconic photography of its golden age. I like the barcode on Drew’s ass. A

Index: The intriguing thing is that Bazaar is not particularly literary, so bringing this kind of elegance to meat-and-potatoes editorial seems to have a lot of potential. They seem to be on the verge of some new level of service magazine. A

The Fader: This is totally hot. Foil is brilliant, it twists it out and makes it both retro and futuristic at the same time. Typography and placement of the photo is brilliant, on both front and back covers. A+

Blackbook: Some creative marketing for a change — using the back cover creatively to highlight the L’Oréal insert. People who know nothing about magazines will still get it and feel it. They use words and cover lines as a design element. The words flow like Drew’s dress — it’s soothing to the eyes and very appealing. She’s slinky and aquiline and so are the words. Bazaar is showing confidence in being Bazaar. A-



Le Book: Elegant. This is what every other magazine should be. The key is that the logo doesn’t take up the entire cover; the concentration remains on the image. A

Index: All W does is inspire jealousy in me at this point. Cover lines are neat, and we’re really taken by the three shades of red: in the W logo, Reese’s lips, and the dress. It’s amazing. A

The Fader: It’s not one of W’s better covers — too conservative, lacks the gravitas of their usual covers. It looks more mainstream and Cosmo-like. C

Blackbook: Cute, clever cover — but too cute. A step back from the great W covers this year, like the Winona Ryder and Lauren Bush. Plus, if you don’t have a hot cover line, don’t push it with ‘Nouveau Reese’. You don’t need to. You’re W. B-



Le Book: The packaging of the issue, promoting the Gap insert, is too glaringly commercial. They’re essentially bragging about their ads, which detracts from the impact of the cover. Nonetheless, it’s elegant and organized. B+

Index: For Vanity Fair, this is a very safe cover — very post-9/11. Jennifer Connelly’s head looks like it’s screwed on incorrectly. But, considering the bipolar editorial content, it’s a decent cover. B.

The Fader: I’m a big VF fan, except on a design level. It’s an uncomfortable image, she looks like her head has been Photoshopped onto her body. Still, typographic treatment is classy, elegant. B-

Blackbook: Unusual cover combination, green and purple, which I like. With less verbiage and cover lines it would have been great. They don’t need to overload you with words — they’re Vanity Fair, and it’s Jennifer Connelly. Connelly’s pose is very strange. She looks uncomfortable, in stark contrast to her on-screen presence where she’s very comfortable. Bad use of some of the most beautiful hair out there. B-



Le Book: Seductive pose, seems like an atypical Jane cover. B+

Index: They’re learning from Marie Claire, but they’re not as good. I don’t know who would buy this. Jane seems trapped between two aesthetics: an Internet-modern Wallpaper on the one hand, and downmarket Marie Claire on the other. They also have the worst cover lines — it’s like everyone was on vacation and the interns designed it. C-

The Fader: Jane is a design favorite of mine, it tries to pass itself off as Cosmo-esque but it’s darker and sharper. It’s a Trojan horse, a cute party chick who you later find out has a Ph.D. That’s what the cover conveys: great shot, love the dateline, love the logo. The bad cover lines, though, screw with the successful image. B+

Blackbook: Too many distracting cover lines — very clichéd, regular-looking cover. I’m a big fan of Jennifer Love Hewitt, and she looks great, but no thanks to the magazine. Also, the necklace is a too-cute, boring way to celebrate Jane’s birthday. C



Le Book: Crisp, clean shot, but too much type. And this fascination with numbers. Bazaar lets the image do more of the talking. Is this shot supposed to represent the issue? Then you don’t need as many cover lines. Has American culture changed so much since the Sixties that you need this much noise on the cover? B

Index: They needed another week to work on it — it has zero impact. Great composition, though. Still, how can you be a leading Condé Nast title and continually have zero excitement? B-

The Fader: Bit of a dog’s dinner here, everything’s been thrown in. Was this actually designed? Looks like someone cut out a bunch of cover lines and laid them on without knowing what the image was. Really, it’s quite simple: it wasn’t actually designed. With Vogue’s gravitas, it’s remarkable that they wouldn’t want an approach more akin to Bazaar. Too bad, because there’s a decent photo behind all that mess. D for ‘Demeaning’.

Blackbook: I give Vogue credit for their elitism and haughty self-awareness reflected here. They smartly place this hip, cool chick in a Versailles-like couture setting, thereby tackling two audiences in one fell swoop: couture and youth culture. But then the cover lines come along and ruin much of this achievement. Do I need the ‘750’ planted on my forehead like a ‘666’? The use of art is great, but Vogue’s use of type is a fashion faux pas. C



Le Book: Very soft in comparison to the other covers. At least the text isn’t glaring. Am I a great fan of the photo? No. It’s very safe, it’s not taking any risks. B-

Index: Sarah Jessica Parker looks terrifying, like an alien. As for the colors, this is pink and blue at its worst. The typography is great, but the photo is dreadful. C

The Fader: I didn’t recognize Sarah Jessica Parker at all which, in my opinion, is a good thing. They’ve chosen a shot in which she looks closer to the Elle readers’ age group and appealed to those same readers’ dwindling hormones with the pink-blue baby deal. Again, utterly random cover line typography and placement, particularly bizarre between the E and L of the logo. But overall, probably a relatively successful cover. B-

Blackbook: The tag lines totally overtake this cover. Sarah Jessica Parker becomes a secondary consideration, Elle magazine becomes a secondary consideration. I mean, why emphasize tag lines when there’s nothing unique about them — all magazines have them. Elle may be panicking over their market performance, and you see it in this cover, in Parker’s eyes, everywhere. This is the panic cover. D



Le Book: Very flashy — it’s a carnival. It will probably sell well on stands, but between the serene photo and the screeching cover lines it has an identity problem. C

Index: If Marie Claire was last night, this is the next morning. Glamour isn’t trying to invent a design language; they just do a great job. It’s easy to dismiss it as loud and obnoxious, but it’s actually hot and daring — you can spend a lot of time with it. It’s reminiscent of Bauhaus experimental typography. A

The Fader: If I was the photographer, I’d be pissed about what they did to the photo. Two shades of pink, both of which clash with dress. Idea was, subliminally, ‘Pucci’, but execution turned it into ‘Poopie’. Still, they did succeed in lifting up a fairly staid photo. C

Blackbook: Cover is too unsophisticated, too loud, too desperate, too frantic. Relax, baby. Work on your product, believe in your staff and your own magazine. This is corporate insanity and desperation. And a negative message for women, for pop culture, and for fashion. You literally couldn’t fit another thing on this cover, it’s so cluttered. The covergirl (Diana Kovalchuk) is a beautiful woman — why not let her be beautiful? F



Le Book: Very patriotic — it should have been the Fourth of July issue. But otherwise garish and filled with bad taste. C

Index: They’ve taken a page from Stephen Gan’s book — this really turns us on. The colors are gorgeous, the layout is sincere. It’s the most effective of all the covers, if you leave personal taste aside. It’s almost as good as W. A

The Fader: This is scary. Cover line says “Faith Hill: What Makes Me Feel Sexy.” Wearing autumn gold leaves makes her feel sexy? Looks like a Walgreens Christmas ad for a cleaning product. D

Blackbook: This frightening cover will make you want to pick up your pace as you pass the newsstand. If magazines record the state of pop culture, we’re in big trouble. This shows a culture that’s frantic, desperate, nervous, screaming, hysterical, and begging for attention. Cover lines are almost insane. Faith Hill looks like a bugged-out transsexual who is, for some reason, dressed like a warlord. F