Magazine Review: Harper’s Bazaar Oct 2007

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The October issue of Harper’s Bazaar is, as usual, a spritz of clean. You will appreciate the purity especially after coming away from October’s American ELLE (see previous review), which was really a bad case of editorial cloy.

[But of course, Ac.Stet is not trying to compare Bazaar and ELLE, as they target different readers: Ac.Stet feels ELLE targets a younger girl, just out into the workplace and not sure of who she is, just as ELLE isn’t really sure who it is after its revamp in September. Bazaar targets a woman over 35, who is more mature, more secure and has a higher income bracket to afford to even begin to dream about the couture featured on Page 126.]

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The cover stars Mary-Kate Olsen in Gucci. And if you are a subscriber, luckier you: subscribers get an even purer cover with Olsen perched in top-of-the-line Ralph Lauren. The only line of text you get is “Heavenly Fashion” … ah, divine simplicity.

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The coverlines are bold, short and succinct. The October theme is Age, and how to look good at every stage. Okay, we get it. Quickly. As the Prada-wearing devil Miranda Priestly would say: That’s all.

The only bone to pcik with the cover is the girlie font (Ac.Stet suspects the Bazaar font is either Minion or Arno). It may be better with a cleaner font like Verdana, to keep with the new clean-and-lean spirit of the Bazaar style.

Let’s dig in.

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Did Ac.Stet miss something or did Bazaar dove into its 140th anniversary walk-down-memory-lane section without any warning? There was no preamble, no sub-heading to prepare readers for what they are about to read and all of a sudden, after a barrage of ads on Page 80, readers get an avalanche of “the Mazzola Years”, “the Tilberis Years” and “the Betts Years” … all this even before the content pages. Tres Bizarre.

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And the content page is always lovely. It is not alike any other magazine that simply bunch up the list of contents in one box and shepherd the accompanying visuals into another corner. No, the Bazaar look is uniquely, well, Bazaar: All rows of lovely diminutized pictures of the spreads ahead, with columns of short-and-sweet feature titles. It brings to mind how you would organize your walk-in closet: to remind yourself which shoe is in which box, a Polaroid is tacked to the front of each box, with a short description to tell you what’s beneath the lids. A very effective brand signifier, if Ac.Stet may say, that stamps the Bazaar look.

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There is something about the effectiveness of color that must be said. On the Smart Shopping pages on Page 183, the palette of forest greens and moody purples not only works aesthetically but immediately puts a clarion cry that fall has come.

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On Page 200, there is the eye-joy that is the Buy-Keep-Store section. Pages like these are an industry standard practice where as much freshly-launched product news as possible are put out. It is always a arduous test of spatial dynamics because the sub-editor has to juggle catwalk pics with product etch-outs, fashion spreads, paparazzi shots, red-carpet shots and text … all these on an 8×11.The Buy-Keep-Store utilizes a grid format. Okay, nothing ground-breaking but not many people know how else to maintain the balance, keep the page clean and most importantly, draw people to read it without turning them off from potential clutter (American ELLE, take note.)

Page 229 launches into the cover theme: Fab personal style at every age. While ELLE also themed its October issue with personal style, Bazaar does it 10 times better because of the age breakup, good writing and better page layouts. And it even has 9 quick-tips for how to dress in timeless style, which makes the Little Black Book of Style by ELLE’s Nina Garcia completely redundant.

One thing Ac.Stet realizes about Harper’s Bazaar is that it actually has pretty readable fashion feature stories. Of course, the level of intellectual discourse is not on par with VOGUE. The Grey Lady or The New Yorker, but it does analyses fashion phenomenon by delving somewhat into academia, but not too much as to turn the average reader off. Harper’s Bazaar treats fashion seriously but not to a point where it becomes rocket science.

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On Page 219, stage actress and Arthur-Miller scion, Rebecca, writes about her obsession with shoes – beautifully illustrated with delicious Giuseppe Zanotti wedges. Although Ac.Stet never had the satifaction of wearing women’s heels, he does empathize with the talismanic power Ms. Miller writes about whenever he trots about Milan in his Jil Sander by Jil Sander (not Vukmirovic or Simons) boots, or his Ferragamo sneakers, or his Giorgio Armani boots, or his …

On Page 253, the ubiquitous Simon Doonan – who is quoted anywhere and everywhere from Paper to Out Magazine to New York Post – writes a really original piece, “Are Your Clothes Aging You?”

Ac.Stet remembers in another fashion editing life how difficult sometimes it is to plough for story ideas on fashion. It really takes real talent such as Mr. Doonan, whose professional and extra-curricular experiences as retail veteran, window-dresser, witty industry observer and full-time gay man, to really come forth with such great stories. Ac.Stet applaudes Bazaar in snagging him as a columnist.

Mr. Doonan talks about how in fashion, psychography now determines demography. Following which, not being tech-savvy like hulking over your Blackberry, instantly ages you well beyond your years. And then he says not having a MySpace account “ages” you the same way. To that, Ac.Stet must say, oh my god, sweetheart, you are really either very old or very out-dated. Not knowing that Facebook is the new MySpace, is the same as not knowing Chelsea’s the new Soho for art folks.

The trap most fashion writers fall into when they try to bring discourse into fashion stories is when they try to force it. This is unfortunate because either the resultant story makes no sense, or equally worse, the story comes away feeling rather pretentious.

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Such is the case with the article Arianna Huffington wrote about “The Politics of Fashion” on Page 287. Huffington, the blogger who refuses to acknowledge that she is a blogger (Financial Times, Oct 2, 2007), writes about how politicians are increasingly dressing better, spending more and engaging professionals to help them look more appealing to voters and the media alike. But by focusing on John Edwards’ $400 haircut scandal, (newly minted Nobel Prize winner) Al Gore’s waistline and Condoleeza Rice’s Ferragamo spree during Hurricane Katrina, Huffington is not really writing about the politics of fashion, is she? She’s writing more about “The Fashion of Politics”.

Of course, saying “The Politics of Fashion”, rather than “The Fashion of Politics” definitely makes Huffington sound more intelligent. But the reality is, it does not. Politics of fashion is the domain of people like Katharine Hamnett, Teri Agins, or even New York Times Guy Trebay, who is more a social critic than a style writer.

Especially when Huffington writes like this:

“It made me wonder: Have we gotten to the point in our looks-obsessed culture where a svelte waistline is a prerequisite for higher office and a double chin an automatic disqualifier? Has a trim physique become a sign of virtue and cottage-cheese thighs a sign of indolence and sloth? Is this the reason …? Are we ready for a black president or a woman president but not a fat president? How’s that for an inconvenient truth?”

Why does she want to channel the annoyingly rhetorical Carrie Bradshaw from Sex & The City? Wouldn’t she rather want to adopt a more grown-up prose like that of, say, Sara Gay Forden in dissecting the murderous politics of the Gucci empire?

Moreover, Ms. Huffington dearie, shame on you – online political commentator, you – for saying that we Americans are not ready for a fat president. I mean, what do you think Americans were readying themselves for when John “His Rotundity” Adams, William Howard “Big Bill” Taft, Theodore “Teddy Bear” Roosevelt, Grover “Stuffed Prophet” Cleveland were in power?

Miss Huffington, please stop.

Other things that shouldn’t stop are the Olsen spreads. Here’s one, not really representative of the entire shoot. With her orange hair, Mary-Kate Olsen does resemble a dwarven Patricia Field or a nostalgic French child prostitute:

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Anthony Wards’ picture spread is nothing interesting except for the stark but haunting beauty of Daria Werbowy on the opener:

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Elsewhere, it’s the usual pout-and-skulk pictures.
Where are the standouts, you wonder.

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~ by acrylicstetson on October 12, 2007.

3 Responses to “Magazine Review: Harper’s Bazaar Oct 2007”

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