NEW YORK — “All along I was having bets with my dad about who would come out with his magazine first,” said David Lauren, the 22-year-old editor and publisher of Swing, a magazine geared to people in their 20s.
Lauren is the son of Ralph Lauren, who has been quietly developing his own magazine — Lauren — with Hearst Corp. for three years. But that project has been on the back burner for a while, and it looks as if it might have evaporated.
No such problem with the younger Lauren, whose Swing is set to debut in September. It is being financed by venture capitalists and distributed by Hearst. Ralph Lauren, chairman of Polo, whose products worldwide generate $3.7 billion in retail sales, is not an investor.
“There is no help from my father in any way, then or now,” said Lauren, who created this magazine with a group of friends in 1990 while he was a sophomore at Duke University. They put out seven issues that were supported by advertisers such as Tropicana, IBM, Hecht’s, AT&T, Benetton, Drakkar Noir and Chaps by Ralph Lauren.
While Lauren didn’t seek his father’s help, he realized that when it was time to go national, having a Chaps ad would help bring in other fashion advertisers.
“This is a lifestyle magazine for people in their 20s,” explained Lauren. “My aim is to inspire people to become involved in politics, business, the environment and sports. There’s a very negative look at this generation — the slackers — but there are 46 million people between 18 and 29, and I believe they are very intelligent and want to be spoken to intelligently.” He said they also represent $125 billion in buying power.
Lauren said one of the aims of Swing — named for the 18-to-29-year-old generation that represents the “swing” vote for most political and public policy decisions — is to make politics accessible to people in that age group.
Lauren said his magazine would explain the savings and loan debacle, for example, in terms of how it might affect someone taking out a first loan or getting a mortgage on a house. The magazine will also contain stories on rock bands and issues such as drugs, AIDS and sex.
What prompted Lauren and his friends to start this magazine in college was their frustration with existing publications.
“Everybody reads everything, but it doesn’t speak to them. I might want to pick up Forbes to read a business story, but what really interests me is somebody from my generation starting a record company. That’s an inspiring story. I want to know what their entrepreneurial spirit is about. I want to know the steps not to take.”
While Swing will clearly have a political bent, Lauren won’t forsake fashion coverage. But how that will evolve is still being determined.
“I don’t think we’ll be doing fashion spreads,” said Lauren, adding it wouldn’t be to the magazine’s competitive advantage. However, he noted that he might do a story about why denim is always in style or what kids buy in thrift shops. How he’ll treat his father’s company in his fashion coverage could pose a sticky problem, but he said he’ll make those calls later.
Lauren said Swing’s attempt to reach a dual audience, plus its political focus, will set it apart from the competition. He noted, for example, that Details — one of the most successful publications at targeting young men — has a different mind-set.
“Swing is much more political and more lifestyle-oriented than Details. It’s not downtown or trendy. We’re much more traditional — more American,” said Lauren. He added that most of the fashion magazines targeting this age group are aimed at women.
The magazine will use freelancers who have written for magazines such as Details, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, said Lauren.
Swing, which will be published 10 times a year, has an initial circulation rate base of 100,000 and will cost $2 on the newsstand. A four-color full-page ad costs $5,000. Lauren declined to divulge how much money was invested in the magazine, but said that, according to his business plan, he expects to make money by the second year, “although we’ll have to pay off our debts.”
“By the fifth year, we’ll be off and running,” he predicted. He’ll be based at 342 Madison Ave. here.
Advertisers committed to the first issue are Pepe Jeans, Seagram’s and, of course, Ralph Lauren.
David Lauren admitted that being Ralph Lauren’s son has been a help to his publishing venture, but added that’s it’s also a hindrance.
“It works both ways. You can get in the door, but you have to stay in the door,” he said. “I feel that if you keep working hard, you’ll find your way. I’ve been exposed to a certain life that gives me insight and a sense of myself and quality, and it gets translated into my own thing.”