Since athleticwear has somehow morphed into acceptable workwear, it’s only natural for fitness magazines to keep trying their hands at fashion.
Such is the case with Shape, a magazine well-known for years of covers featuring celebrities of all grades in swimsuits or ab-baring workout gear. The magazine was acquired in 2015 by Meredith Corp. — but was actually founded in the early Eighties by a female bodybuilder — and unofficially relaunched in May with a much keener view of fashion.
Although the title has been shifting in that direction since last fall, editor in chief Elizabeth Goodman Artis ended up tapping Brooke Ely Danielson as Shape’s first fashion and lifestyle director. She was tasked specifically with expanding the fashion offerings in the magazine, which has grown to five full sections from three, and also seems to be an ambassador of sorts for moving Shape into “lifestyle” territory and further away from its history as hyper-focused on fitness and exercise.
“We’re seeing sneakers go down the runway and people are investing more in their health,” Danielson said in explanation of why Shape is taking on a fashion tone after decades focused on fitness. “The whole thought behind it is investing in yourself.”
This is on message with the September issue, featuring on the cover actor Aja Naomi King, who’s best known for her role on “How to Get Away With Murder” (making her part of a cadre of September fashion covers featuring black women, including Elle, Vogue and Glamour). Although sparser in overall design, the cover only mentions exercise once, with “beauty,” “energy” and “inner strength” getting the bold type treatment.
And King is certainly on a fashion shoot in her cover — her abs are even covered by a heavy-knit sweater; her portrait is in black-and-white, the universal signal for “arty.” A year ago, Kate Upton was on the cover in briefs, unzipping a jacket surrounded by words like “heavy weights,” “strength game” and “healthy meals.”
But the shift toward lifestyle and fashion content, which didn’t work out so well for Condé Nast’s fitness-turned-wellness/lifestyle glossy Self magazine, has yet to take such a hold online. Shape’s web site is still very much about fitness workout gear and eating habits. “Weight loss” is even a main tab on the landing page, prescriptive terminology that even Weight Watchers has been inching away from.
While Danielson, who’s held roles at vogue.com and Glamour, is focused almost entirely on print and injecting that product with a balance of “grounded” fashion and fitness, she did hint that the digital product is in for a change later this year. “It will get more integrated — I hope,” she said.
But what works on the page certainly doesn’t always work online and it seems to be something Shape will have to overcome, at some point.
“There’s magic in print and I don’t know if online can execute what that magic is,” Danielson said. “I think time will tell.”
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