Up next, Justine Picardie, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar UK for the past year, spoke of magazines as conversations and as a balacing act: beginning with her childhood conversations with her sister; balancing the discussions between a big corporate entity like Hearst and creativity; the closer conversations with her audiences through blogging; and the conversations between the Creative Director Marissa Bourke and herself as partners in bringing the magazine to life.
The title has obviously found it’s groove again under their stewardship, driven by a strong sense of (and mining of) it’s long and prodigious history. Reigniting the practice of using iconic writers of the time (then it was T. S. Eliot, Irving Penn and E. M. Forster – now it’s Zadie Smith and Tracy Emin), Picardie has also turned the title’s focus back towards Art and the art of fashion, culminating in a Harper’s Bazaar Art supplement with the latest issue. As Marissa Bourke’s old title ELLE UK moves into a different space (taking digital language onto it’s printed pages), I hope she can bring some of the pose from her time there to Harper’s, not least to give it a clearer voice away from it’s competitors Vogue, Tatler and Vanity Fair.
This lead into a panel discussion between a range of female magazine editors, though their gender seemed to be the only thing they had in common. Their titles reflected the range of women’s-interest titles (for want of a more accurate term) available, but each was as brilliantly different as the magazines they represented. Justine Picardie was joined by Penny Martin from the becoming-iconic The Gentlewoman, Debbi Evans from new launch Libertine [declared interest here, I helped a tiny amount on their launch issue] and hard to pidgeon-hole Oh Comely‘s Liz Ann Bennett, all chaired by Kati Krause.
Given more time, this panel and other editorial women could made an excellent conference in itself, given how there are so many great (and so many dire) women’s magazines currently published. The discussion touched on digital being “the thief of time”, titles becoming magalogs based entirely around shopping, The Gentlewoman being “personality-centred journalism”, and how feminism is implicit in their titles. Both Libertine and Harper’s have reprinted great essays from the past, proving great content is always great.
Davey Spens from Boat Magazine filled the next indie mag-maker slot with aplomb. The love of his craft shone through while sharing the story of the “postcard of human narratives” that is Boat. With 50% of the content from locals and 50% from outsiders, each issue decamps to a new city and explores angles that are often overlooked. Sarajevo, Athens, London and Detroit have all be explored. I liked his observation that there’s “no snarky comments at the bottom of a magazine page”.
“Globalization = diversity = good” was a starting point for Patrick Waterhouse of Colours magazine, the seminal title backed by Benetton and their creative arm, Fabrica. His recent revival of the mag as a “survival guide to the world” has been impressive, getting close to the heady days of founding editor Tibor Kalman. His presentation kept us alert with a admirable mix of slides, short animations, talking and films. Using stories as “jumping off points” the themed issues (Transport, Shit, Art etc) reminded us that magazines can still surprise, impress and educate in innovative and compelling ways. The recent Making the News issue is highly recommended.