GILLES JUST WANTS TO HAVE FUN: Apparently, Gilles Bensimon knows the value of quitting when you’re ahead. As he prepares to be honored by the fashion industry, and with Elle enjoying a resurgence in both advertising and newsstand sales, the magazine’s 61-year-old publication director and chief photographer is finally contemplating retirement — or at least semiretirement. Bensimon told WWD he most likely will spend another three years in his current job before shifting into a role that will allow him more time with his family, including his two daughters, now ages seven and four. “It’s difficult to talk about because I don’t really decide things that far ahead,” said Bensimon, who is in the midst of negotiating a new contract. “I do a job I love. I’m not bored at all. Every day is an exciting day.” Bensimon’s remarks came during a conversation about the CFDA’s Eugenia Sheppard Award for fashion journalism, which he is slated to receive on June 6.
— Jeff Bercovici
BEKKEDAHL TO G+J: Russell Denson has taken a page out of David Pecker‘s playbook, snapping up a freshly unemployed publishing executive to fill out his management team. Denson, Gruner + Jahr’s chief executive officer, has hired Carolyn Bekkedahl to serve as executive vice president and group publisher, overseeing ad sales and marketing for all but one of the company’s titles. Of G+J’s six publishers, only Fitness’ Katherine Rizzuto will continue to report directly to Denson. Bekkedahl’s noncompete agreement with her previous employer, American Media Inc., prevents her from managing magazines in the fitness arena.
Bekkedahl, who left her job as president of AMI’s Active Lifestyles Group in April, noted that she worked for Denson before, when he was ceo of Weider Publications. But she said there was a deeper reason she decided to accept the job: “I couldn’t get Yahoo to work at home. I need an IT department.”
THE CARTOON NETWORK: Given the recent push The New Yorker has been on to draw attention to its cartoons — from last October’s book, “The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker,” to the magazine’s recent implementation of serial comics, to the new cartoon contest on the back page — a line of T-shirts might just seem like the next step in shamelessly promoting an element of the brand. But this time, at least, the idea didn’t come from The New Yorker. It came from Comme des Garcons.
The Japanese fashion company oddly approached New Yorker publisher David Carey earlier this year with a request to rifle through the magazine’s archives and use a few cartoons for a series of designer T-shirts. Four months later, the garments, emblazoned with funnies from the early Eighties through last year, are available in New York, Paris and Tokyo — though presumably some of the humor will be lost on patrons in the latter two cities. (The New Yorker, like WWD, is owned by Advance Publications Inc.)
Carey, who was in Washington this week for a party, coincidentally honoring New Yorker cartoonist Danny Shanahan, said by phone, “People always want to meet the cartoonists. They are kind of rock stars to our readers.”
While none of the complimentary shirts sent by Comme des Garcons fit Carey, his almost 12-year-old daughter opted for the one depicting Che Guevara wearing a Bart Simpson T-shirt.
— Sara James
LIVING THE FANTASY: The Academy Awards has often been referred to as the Super Bowl for women. Until now, that has been a metaphor. Next March, however, women (and men) watching the Oscars will actually be able to cheer for their “teams,” thanks to something called Fantasy Fashion League. The concept is modeled on fantasy football, a game that allows would-be head coaches to put together squads whose fortunes depend on the statistics of real-life athletes. Erica Salmon, a writer and editor from Pitman, N.J., saw firsthand how addictive it could be, courtesy of her husband, a CPA. “We had a brand-new baby, and all my husband [could] talk about is which running back he [was] going to play,” she recalled.
In place of running backs and quarterbacks, Fantasy Fashion (fantasyfashionleague.com) uses designers, who score points by getting their clothes onto the covers of three magazines (In Style, W and Harper’s Bazaar) and onto the bodies of celebrities at various award shows. Just as in fantasy football and rotisserie baseball, Fantasy Fashion League participants pay a fee (in this case, $18 to $24) for the chance to draft teams and compete in six-team leagues. The inaugural season kicks off in September with the Emmys, and concludes with the Oscars. The winner in each league goes into a drawing for a $1,000 shopping spree at Zappos.com. If it sounds complicated, just ask somebody who lives with a sports nut, suggested Salmon. “The women whose husbands have played fantasy sports get it immediately.”