NEW YORK — Somewhere, in a distant setting, Bergdorf Goodman will photograph the 2003 holiday-resort edition of its namesake magazine to capture the season’s mood — which for holiday will be “surfer chic.”
Bergdorf customers certainly frequent beaches from Bali to Bridgehampton, but they rarely hang 10. For the holiday-resort edition, to be distributed in November, the concept is to cast a “tough surfer girl” in Chanel (among other designers) and a luxury lifestyle, not Gidget in flip-flops.
The location for photographing the upcoming holiday-resort book has yet to be determined, though the mood is set. “It will be very floral, very feminine, with a lot of color,” said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director. “We are toying with different locales — Hawaii, Australia, South Africa — to create a message for the store, a very proprietary message.”
The magazine, launched in fall 2000, juxtaposes fashion in evocative, offbeat, sometimes striking settings, such as on the side streets of Havana or in a vacated electrical plant in Berlin. The locale becomes as instrumental as the fashion in creating a statement; cues from the runway seem secondary. “We’re not necessarily waiting for trends to decide what we include in the catalog,” said Burke.
For holiday-resort, “The surfer-chic handle is not necessarily just for younger women,” added Michael Calman, senior vice president, marketing. “We’ll mix it up” with styles from the contemporary and more classic sides of ready-to-wear, as well as swimwear and lingerie. “Customers can find something in Dolce & Gabbana and Oscar de la Renta in our stores. That’s what we want to get across in the magazine.”
Bergdorf’s challenge is to maintain the status of its magazine as the competition intensifies. Saks Fifth Avenue will mail its first edition of “5” at the end of October to 110,000 Saks First customers — those who spend at least $3,000 a year at Saks. Bloomingdale’s will launch “B” in October, which store officials said will be an “editorially driven fashion and lifestyle magazine,” and Neiman Marcus publishes the “In Circle” magalog tied to its loyalty program and “The Book,” which is more of a magazine. Neiman’s and Bergdorf’s are divisions of the Neiman Marcus Group.
“Bergdorf Goodman came out with a magazine in advance. Any retailers launching magazines are really going to try to have to reach the same level as we are,” said Ted Deitert, Bergdorf’s vice president and creative director.
Aidan Kemp, associate creative director for the magazine, said it is a collaborative effort between the fashion office and creative department. The magazine is produced in-house through Bergdorf’s own custom-publishing unit, which includes an art director, a producer and a production person. The small staff is supplemented by freelancers.
The publication continues to sharpen its profile as a magazine, not a magalog or a catalog, store executives stress, though readers can call into the store to order merchandise shown in the book. Store associates handle the calls. Bergdorf’s is pushing to increase the editorial content to strengthen the magazine’s identity. The emphasis will be on general interest stories and personality pieces, rather than fashion stories. Bergdorf’s seeks to get another leg up over the competition by distributing the fall ’03 book at the tents in Bryant Park this week during the 7th on Sixth fashion collections.
“It’s positioned as a magazine, and we are stepping up the journalistic side of it to address the active lifestyle of our discerning customer base,” said Calman. “That will also make it more appealing to advertisers.”
Kemp said the photography is geared to be “incredibly editorial” without shocking the reader or getting too avant-garde. “People will invariably refer to it as a catalog. We’ve got to get around that as a perception,” said Kemp. “We have to make sure our work is more uniquely editorial.”
The magazine comes out four times a year: in March to cover the spring collections, in June for a fall preview, in late August for the fall collections and November for holiday-resort. Advertisers are high-end brands, though not necessarily those sold at Bergdorf’s, such as Maserati, Chrysler, Fiji water and Nanz custom hardware.
About 20 to 25 percent of the pages are ads, about 300,000 copies are distributed for each edition to households exceeding $250,000 and two-thirds of the distribution is in the New York metro area, with the balance spread through the U.S. The fall book has 61 pages of ads, about 20 percent more than the year before, and 297 total pages.
According to store officials, the magazine is expensive to produce, but with its advertising becomes a break-even proposition. Burke said store sales get a “very significant lift” after each edition drops.
Since spring 2003, the magazine has utilized a “flip” format to separate men’s from women’s and help give the Bergdorf Goodman men’s and women’s stores distinct identities. There’s a women’s cover and a men’s cover, and the sections are upside down from each other.
In creating the magazine, Dietert and Kemp split up into two teams to hit different locales. They each take a photographer, two photographic assistants, a fashion stylist and an assistant fashion stylist, a producer, a hairstylist, a makeup artist and a model. “We never work on the same thing,” Dietert said. “In the interest of time and money, we will be shooting simultaneously different stories. I will be directing a series of stories, and Aidan will be working a series of stories.”
Each story could be a different spread that covers eveningwear, sportswear or beachwear, which, with the next issue, will reflect the surfer-chic theme and aspects of the surfer-girl life through the eyes of Bergdorf’s. “In a way, we are developing a total lifestyle more than anything,” Dietert said.
“Every story will look very different, have its own voice and the voice of Bergdorf Goodman,” said Kemp.