LONDON — Talk about a makeover: Wallpaper is being transformed from sterile chic to (gasp!) sexual fun.
This story first appeared in the February 11, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
For new editor Jeremy Langmead, the magazine is now all about embellishment, laughs and sexual sparks. It’s a major switch from the version of Wallpaper founder Tyler Brule, who packed every issue with stark furniture, spare fashion and spare food — not to mention enough items from Sweden to fill a mall of Ikea stores.
From the models to the typeface to the tone, Langmead is out to gussy up the magazine that once claimed to embody all that was cool and minimal. But, then, it was the Nineties.
“I spent part of my childhood in Norway, so it’s like I’ve been there, done that,” said Langmead with a laugh.
His first issue — March — will hit the U.S. newsstands on Feb. 20, although Langmead said the June issue will be the first to truly reflect all the changes he’s put in place.
And there are quite a few.
“I want better models who actually look as if they’re enjoying themselves — I don’t want that Scandinavian dead-eyed look where you knew the man and the woman in the picture would never have sex,” said the 37-year-old editor over a plate of sole and mashed potatoes at the uber-hip West End restaurant J. Sheekey.
Langmead, who was formerly life and style editor at The London Evening Standard and editor of London’s Sunday Times Styles section, also wants to bring a sense of humor back to the magazine.
“I feel like when it launched, it had a sense of humor. But then it became po-faced and started taking itself too seriously. It had a constipated feel to it. I think a magazine can still be high-end and sophisticated, but still enjoyable. Enjoyable isn’t a sin,” he said.
To wit, March issue coverlines feature: “Marrakech: Souk It and See,” and “Are You Too Important to be Busy?” — a story that explores stress, or the lack thereof, as the new status symbol.
Other new features include the use of high-profile photographers — Helmut Newton is shooting a story for the June issue — more newsy and lifestyle feature stories and a unisex beauty section. “I am obsessed with beauty, packaging and product,” said Langmead, who is separated from the writer India Knight and a father of two.
Langmead is also out to “make the pages work harder” with a lot of product. “I want people to buy something.” He’s in the process of redesigning typefaces (“They’re ugly, cold and clinical,” he said), and plans to make the covers “stronger and more conceptual.”
Each month, the magazine’s back page will feature a pinup: a unique piece of art from a different artist each month that readers can tear out of the magazine and, presumably, frame and put on their wall.
Although the 274-page March issue is heavy on fashion coverage — and fashion advertising from the likes of Emporio Armani on the back cover and Gucci, Tod’s, Prada, Paul Smith and Dior on the inside — Langmead stressed that he doesn’t want to turn Wallpaper into a fashion rag.
“Yes, I want it to have stronger fashion coverage, but Wallpaper will never be a fashion magazine. Instead, we plan to feature stories inspired not by the catwalks, but by what we see at the Milan furniture fair or by a chair we spot in a backstreet shop in Paris,” he said adding that all fashion shoots will take place on location and will feature buildings, interiors and landscapes, as well as models and clothes.
Then there is the business side of a magazine that was more of a critical than commercial success in its heyday. “It wasn’t run as a conventional business,” Langmead said. “There was quite an eccentric approach and a lot was done last minute.”
Asked to address the rumors that Wallpaper’s days are numbered, as reported, Langmead didn’t blink. “I wouldn’t have left the Evening Standard had I not been convinced by Norman Perlstine’s [editor in chief of Time Inc., which owns IPC, publisher of Wallpaper] enthusiasm and support for the magazine. He feels very strongly about it and wants it to be a huge success,” Langmead said.
He added that there was no time frame on the turnaround of the magazine, the circulation of which is about 120,000 worldwide, according to the British Audit Bureau of Circulations. “This magazine still has its core readership, a big fan base and it’s still making money and there’s no reason to close it,” Langmead said in a refrain he’s no doubt repeating to advertisers constantly. “Yes, AOL Time Warner is planning new magazine launches, but none of them remotely clashes with Wallpaper.”