THE FACE GETS REJUVENATED
Byline: James Fallon
LONDON — At the tender age of 17, The Face is getting a lift.
The British publication that helped pioneer a whole genre of youth-oriented magazines here is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, drawing top-name photographers, stylists and advertisers like never before.
Founded in May 1980, The Face is benefiting from the renaissance of London leisure life — from restaurants to clubs to music to fashion.
“It’s all part of the British resurgence,” said editor Richard Benson. “The Face stands or falls in relation to the British youth and club cultures. There’s a lot happening in those now, and we’re part of that.”
Which is why stylemakers such as photographers Mario Testino and David Sims and stylists Isabella Blow and Carine Roitfeld are back in its pages. The Face launched a lot of careers in the Eighties, and still gives its editors a freedom they don’t find elsewhere, industry observers say.
Regular advertisers these days include Giorgio Armani, Lee Jeans, CK Khakis, Kenzo, Guess, Diesel, Cerrutti 1881, Nike and Patrick Cox. The Face is getting a bigger piece of the ad pie than its competitors because its circulation is larger — three times as big in some cases — and because it’s seen as a safe bridge between the old standbys (British Vogue and Harpers & Queen) and the alternative youth mags (I.D., Dazed & Confused, Loaded, Maxim, Mizz and Don’t Tell It!).
“Style magazines generally are undergoing a mini-boom, and The Face is part of that,” said Derek Woodgate, marketing director at Lee Jeans Europe in Brussels. “It’s more accessible than most. The Face has a much broader readership than many of its competitors. There’s been a broadening of what traditionally has been seen as alternative, partially because of the fragmentation of youth culture. The Face, because it was the first, is still the giant among alternative magazines.”
A spokesman at Giorgio Armani in Milan, which advertises its less expensive hipper products in the magazine, said The Face has a following and readership that are vital from a business and marketing point of view.
“Its point of view, image, identity and place in the fashion world are of tremendous influence,” he said. “It’s a specialist magazine that’s important because it tends to influence what’s happening elsewhere. The Face is still very copied, and it really looks good now.”
Ad revenues at The Face are up some 50 percent over a year ago, and circulation is up slightly, to 113,000 in the second half of 1996 from 112,227 in the first six months, according to Audit Bureau of Circulation figures.
Benson said that because The Face is such an established title, it would be difficult to achieve any dramatic circulation increases. Readership has risen only by 10,000 to 12,000 readers over the last several years.
What has changed is the number of ad pages, which are up 24 percent this year. In 1996, ad pages increased 27.3 percent, to 815 from 640 in 1995, said ad director Rod Sopp. The growth in ad revenues stemmed partially from a 10 percent rate rise.
“We’re getting more ads from the same people we always did, plus we’re able to get more money for it because everyone’s realizing we’re so, so hot,” Sopp said, adding that a full-page color ad in The Face now costs $8,910 (5,500 pounds).
As for editorial content, The Face continues to touch the areas in which its readership is most interested. The May issue includes a cover story on the American singer Beck, a piece on the new Wes Craven film, “Scream,” with mini-profiles of Neve Campbell and Rose McGowan, and another on the growing popularity of Gothic style in everything from fashion to music. The April issue had a cover story on The Chemical Brothers band and others on the film “Romeo and Juliet,” mountain climbing versus clubbing, and drugs and the media.
Benson, who has been at the magazine for five years and has been its editor since September 1995, said The Face hasn’t drastically altered its focus, which is the 15-to-25-year-old group and all its interests. He’s simply done some sharpening and injected a bit more humor into the magazine.
The main difference, he says, is London’s major transformation in the last five years as Britain’s economy has improved.
“It’s a lot easier to do a magazine like The Face now than it was in the recession years of 1992 and 1993,” Benson said. “That was a bloody awful time. We talked then about what The Face should be, and the plan we set out then is pretty much coming to fruition now. We want it to be something that is uniquely British, with a real London esthetic.”