JUDGING APRIL BY ITS COVERS

Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — Spring has sprung, and WWD has decided to grade the April covers of some leading fashion titles. But for objectivity’s sake (since Fairchild-owned Jane and W are included), we’ve assembled a panel of judges from indie magazines Blackbook, HX, Index and Big to rate them. If this seems like the publishing equivalent of letting the geeks, freaks, outcasts and bohemians in high school judge the trust-fund kids, well, that’s exactly the idea. The panel is comprised of: Blackbook’s Evan Schindler, publisher, editorial director and creative director, and Anuj Desai, editor in chief; HX’s Matthew Bank, publisher; Big’s Marcelo Junemann, publisher and creative director, and Index’s Peter Halley, art director and publisher, Ariana Speyer, editor and Stacy Wakefield, design director.

Vanity Fair
Index: B
“The actresses have this soft, unreal look — they’ve airbrushed them to the point of unrecognizability. It makes it impossible to relate to them as people.”

Big: A
“This looks like every other Vanity Fair Hollywood issue cover, we’ve seen the grouped actress thing many times before — but it still looks really good.”

HX: B-
“Usually VF’s Hollywood issues are glam; this one is matter-of-fact, dull. I only recognize Kirsten Dunst; the rest of them look like they walked off the street and into a photo shoot, and I want more.”

Blackbook: B-
“The actresses all seem removed, alienated, wrapped up in their own contrived, competitive world. There’s no sense of community. Hard to choose a personal favorite from among them, which is the fun part. I like the anti-glam aspect of it, though.”

OVERALL Grade: B

Jane
Index: D
“The blended logo is a trend whose time hasn’t come. Without the cover lines it might have been OK, maybe even a good W cover, but it’s like telling you three different and conflicting stories about the magazine.”

Big: A
“Very strong cover — I love the close-up. It’s less commercial looking, and makes a very strong statement — it could be a W cover.”

HX: C+
“It’s such an extreme close-up of Uma Thurman that you don’t even know it’s her, it takes away from the impact. Plus, I hate the blended-color logo. Everything about it is wrong.”

Blackbook: A-
“Excellent. A perfect expression of Jane as a magazine. I like the close crop on Uma, accentuates any flaws she may have — it’s real, no bullshit, perfect for the times we live in.”

OVERALL GRADE: B-

Elle
Index: A-
“This is hot, pop, and it just jumps out at you. Fresh colors and really strong, professional-looking design.”

Big: B
“We’re in Glamour/Marie Claire territory here, except the photo and layout are better.”

HX: A-
“The photo is very engaging, and slightly retro. Interesting angle and good photographer. I know pink sells, but there’s still way too much pink on the cover.”

Blackbook: C+
“The presentation of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos makes her look androgynous, like a drag queen — which may be scary for Elle readers. There’s too much emphasis on the magazine, its logo, its screaming cover lines, and not enough on the subject.”

OVERALL GRADE: B+

W
Index: A+
“W’s our role model, because it’s simultaneously elegant, provocative, and weird. I just wish they did more cover portraits. Still, they’re a cut above other American magazines.”

Big: B
“W normally has stronger and more sophisticated covers than this. The Hugh Grant back cover looks like a cross between a J. Crew catalog and the cover of men’s Fashion of the Times.”

HX: A-
“In terms of covers, W has less to prove on the newsstand than the others. Lauren Bush looks real and alluring; sexy lighting. She has a lot of make-up on, but it still works. On the flip side, the ‘Men’s Portfolio’ line runs over Hugh Grant’s busy shirt so it’s hard to make out.”

Blackbook: A+
“This is W at its finest. ‘Burning Bush’ as a cover line is very daring — we would even have struggled with that one. Plus, you revisit the image after reading that cover line. More American magazine covers should be like this.”

OVERALL GRADE: A

Harper’s Bazaar
Index: A
“Although this isn’t breaking any new ground, it’s absolutely gorgeous. It could be a poster. It’s such a strong combination of photo and design.”

Big: A
“Very nice. They’re doing what Fabien Baron did when he redesigned it in ’92, and they’re going back to their Alexey Brodovitch roots. It’s the classic look of Bazaar, and how can you go wrong with that?”

HX: A+
“My, my, what do we have here? Terrific photo, and love the one big cover line. I’m so happy they returned to the old Bazaar logo, and multiplying it makes it even better.”

Blackbook: A-
“This is a great cover, both Kate Moss and Bazaar at their best. It’s daring for an American magazine to use the logo as texture. The cover design and the subject have synergy — and I love the one single cover line.”

OVERALL GRADE: A

Marie Claire
Index: A
“This is a photo you can look at for a very long time — it works on so many levels. It’s not just one gestalt — it’s narrative. The only problem is the working-class, generic photo that makes it look like strange pornography.”

Big: B-
“This is a bad picture — the actresses all look alike. Ultimately, this could be any mass-market magazine, no distinctive personality to it.”

HX: C+
“Boy, do I not like this. The actresses look dipped in makeup, and the smorgasbord of different fonts makes it worse. It looks much more cheap and downmarket than Glamour.”

Blackbook: D
“They did everything wrong on this cover — taking young leading women and making them look like plastic housewives. Plus, the screaming cover lines are vying for attention with the subjects. Cameron Diaz is usually funny and comfortable, and she has a yearbook smile face here.”

OVERALL GRADE: B-

Vogue
Index: C
“Technically, it’s good, but it’s also really boring. Depicting Angelina Jolie as a haughty aristocrat should be exciting, but for some reason it isn’t. I guess they’re just playing it too safe, making it staid instead of exciting.”

Big: B+
“I think Angelina Jolie’s pose is very strange. Still, it’s sort of elegant. If you saw it without the logo, you’d know that it’s Vogue.”

HX: B+
“It looks better than most recent Vogue covers, and it does capture Jolie’s personality — personality being something Vogue covers don’t usually have. All the cover lines create one giant run-on sentence that makes it look like the magazine will fall to the right out of sheer text density. Angelina needs more air.”

Blackbook: B+
“I’d like to see celebrities stop looking so arrogant, but Angelina Jolie does stand out. Too many cover lines, though.”

OVERALL GRADE: B

Glamour
Index: B-
“OK, Conde Nast clearly isn’t going through a really strong design period right now. This lacks the rhythm and nuance of Marie Claire. If I was a really sick person, this would be my favorite cover. It has a really Seventies kinky, almost porno look to it.”

Big: B-
“I don’t know — what did I say about Marie Claire?”

HX: B+
“There’s such a change in cover lines in the post-Bonnie Fuller era: they’re much more straightforward now.”

Blackbook: B+
“The design is kind of avant-garde, they have enough confidence in their book to place the subject over the logo. The cover girl seems genuine, real, relaxed.”

OVERALL GRADE: B

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