MARIE CLAIRE’S PRACTICAL FORMULA
Byline: Lisa Lockwood
NEW YORK — With fashion “Do’s and Don’ts” mixed in with features on “Available Men: A New Search Strategy” and “China’s Desperate Wife Hunters,” the newly launched U.S. edition of Marie Claire seems one part Cosmo and one part Glamour.
But Bonnie Fuller sees things differently. The magazine’s 38-year-old editor, coming off a five-year growth stint at YM, says the magazine is positioned “between Glamour and the super high-end magazines like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue.”
Wherever the magazine might find its footing in the crowded fashion/beauty field — some see Marie Claire going head-to-head with Glamour, others say it’s aiming right for Elle — Fuller says practicality will be the publication’s battle cry. Before any outfit is shot, she says, a fashion staffer must endorse it and feel strongly that she would wear it.
The combination of flashpoint features and how-to fashion is clearly aimed at selling. A Hearst executive says plans for the magazine, published every other month, are “more aggressive than anything we’ve ever done.”
The pressure will be on Fuller to deliver readers in big numbers. Hearst is expecting circulation to ultimately hit between 1 million and 2 million.
The first issue, a September/October test, was available exclusively on the newsstand and had a 60 percent sell-through, or just under 700,000 copies, said Tom Wolf, vice president and general manager of magazine development at Hearst. The second issue, dated Winter 1995, didn’t fare as well and is expected to have a 50 percent sell-through.
Through a combination of response cards, direct mail using the Hearst database and outside lists, and crossover inserts, the magazine guarantees a 350,000 rate base in the first half of 1995 and 400,000 in the second half. The reaction so far is largely positive.
“They seem to have struck a chord, as far as it’s an interesting balance between the beauty/fashion and service books,” said Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president and director of print media at McCann Erickson.
“It’s not beauty/fashion on skinny 17-year-olds or how to prepare a hamburger. What it seems to be is a little bit of relationships, men, friends, kids — a good blend of that.”
“I like it. I think there’s always room for something good. I don’t care how many other magazines there are out there,” said Marc Balet, creative director and an owner of Balet & Albert, an ad agency.
“It really speaks to a very clear audience, older than Mademoiselle. It comes across as a user-friendly book. There’s a lot of information there. It’s slightly aspirational without being stratospheric. The clothes look good.”
“At first I was bored by it. But now that I read it, it’s nice, accessible fashion,” said Steve Klein, media director and managing partner at Kirshenbaum & Bond, an ad agency. “It’s nicely put together stuff that people can buy and wear. While Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue battle it out for the editorial high ground, they step in and say this is the consumer middle ground,” One observer, commenting on the test issue, said she was disappointed since the magazine targeted a much less sophisticated reader than she had anticipated, and an audience less sophisticated than its ad base.
In fact, negotiating the delicate balance between up-market and down-market is Fuller’s biggest challenge.
Fuller joined Hearst in February 1994, after five years of editing for YM’s teenage audience, and had to shift gears fast. Part of Fuller’s success at YM was having a direct dialog with teenagers about relationships, hair, school, sex, fears and boyfriends. During her tenure, she repositioned and redesigned YM, boosting its circulation from 925,000 to 1.8 million, while newsstand sales went from 130,000 to 467,000.
Now she’s editing a magazine whose target reader is between 33 and 35 years old.
“The reader’s us,” says Fuller. “You, me, my staff…women who have really busy lives, are working, have relationships and families. These are women who want it all and are trying to have it all. They need a magazine that has it all for them.”
As for where Marie Claire fits into the highly differentiated fashion/beauty arena, Fuller notes, “Women can look at the fashion pages and find it’s really a true guide to what to put in their closets. We give them a lot of practical information.”
“Most women want to look good, but it can be very intimidating. Even sophisticated women can be intimidated and confused,” she says.
In every issue, fashion features will include “101 Ideas,” “Marie Claire Recommends,” “Directions” and “Shopping” — all of which give hands-on information and are patterned after the 24 editions of Marie Claire worldwide.
In addition to giving pages of advice on how to dress, the magazine will do on-location fashion shoots with various photographers, including Patrick Demarchelier and Peter Lindbergh.
Fuller also says she’ll present a beauty well, in addition to a mix of articles on relationships, health, politics, work and emotional issues.
Among the fashion/beauty advertisers in the March/April issue are LancOme, EstAe Lauder, Laurel, Clinique, Max Mara, Guess Footwear, Chanel, Bijan, Gucci, Emanuel and Ellen Tracy .
Marie Claire was founded in 1937 by French industrialist Jean Provost. Launched as a weekly publication, the magazine’s goal was to mix current issues with fashion and beauty coverage. Publication was halted during World War II. Relaunched as a monthly magazine in October, 1954, it has grown to become France’s leading up-market women’s magazine.