2012 February 11
Jane Says! The Gossip on Grazia UK
Gustavo Papaleo View Gallery
(NEW YORK) The most titillating read in the UK has never felt a need to phone-hack (that we know of!). Grazia’s formula comes courtesy of its visionary founding editrix, Jane Bruton.
BY ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV
How can we get the Grazia UK effect?
It’s all in the crashing, exciting mix of high fashion, A-list celebrity culture, and hard news. Grazia UK is ‘no-brow’ mix: it’s not high or low. There’s everything from the latest shoes, to the Arab Spring and troubles in Afghanistan, to Angelina Jolie on a red carpet. Some people still find that mix uncomfortable—how can you go from Victoria Beckham to something terrible that’s happening in Darfur? But that’s how women talk. We jump around from subject to subject, and we’re interested in them all.
How does the newsstand respond?
When I arrived in, we were the launch that everybody said wouldn’t work. In Britain people felt that high-end luxury advertisers wouldn’t pay for a weekly environment, but we proved them wrong! We currently sell more issues in a week than Vogue UK does in a month. I introduced the ‘10 Hot Stories’ section after about a year, and that’s when our sales started to really take off.
What’s your staff like?
‘No-brow!’ It’s a mix from the highbrow glossies and British tabloids, but skewed towards the fashion glossies.
How does Grazia portray fashion?
We really educate people about fashion in a fun, not dry way. We love the fashion crowd. It’s like how chefs have become really famous. We made stars of people in the fashion world. So when we launched our first special fashion issue in September 2009, I always thought it wouldn’t be a bigger sale—it would be more ‘appetizer-focused.’ Last year, we did our first perfect-bound issue of the biannual fashion edition. We had so much advertising, we couldn’t fit it in a normal stapled issue. We also went with a fashion shot of a model on the cover, instead of a celebrity—that was yet another nail-biting moment! The reaction was great. We hiked the price of the issue up, and it still sold really well.
Have you added anything new to the mix?
We started book and film clubs last year, so we’ll be exploring ideas like that further. We’re also planning to do a web film of the making of our next fashion issue.
How does the weekly pace work to your advantage?
We can cover the Chanel show the Tuesday after it happens. We make the monthlies look plodding, old fashioned, and slow.
How did that newsiness emerge as the mag evolved?
The fact that we could cover big news stories so quickly was very exciting. The massive news stories during our first year included the ‘Cocaine Kate’ scandal, Victoria Beckham having her third child, and Jude and Sienna splitting up. Those were all things our readers really wanted to know about—and they concern A-list celebrities, compared to the usual D-list celebrities you see in weekends. Now, we’re truly an agenda-setting magazine.
What are some frequently-cribbed elements of Grazia?
Black and yellow have sort of become Grazia’s signature colors, and over the years, you’ve seen that color scheme everywhere—from the newsstand to the food world. People didn’t really use yellow in glossies before. A magazine editor once told me I’d have to drop it because it looked terrible. But it really works for us, and it wasn’t something everyone else was doing.
Which features get copied the most?
Style-hunter pages have become really popular. Same with our ‘Fashion Jury’ feature, where we get people to comment on outfits, and ‘10 Hot Stories,’ and our debate features. They’ve all been copied by other Grazias out there. Other publications have copied us, too!
What else has Grazia pioneered?
We invented the term ‘pillowface,’ when someone has had too many fillers. ‘Catface’ and ‘treggings’ are two other Grazia-created terms. We’ll also pick up on a certain item everyone is mad for, people go crazy for it. We picked a pleated skirt at fast-fashion chain Whistles, and it sold out in minutes.
What’s the difference between your mag and the Italian original?
Well, we launched at very different times—1938 and 2005!—but in general, Italy’s Grazia has longer-form reads and we’re more bite-sized. Especially in the front-of-book, it’s very pace-y. The UK market wanted something fast, furious, and exciting. So we knew we had to stick to shorter features and inject more energy into everything. Italian Grazia trusted us to know what was right for the UK market, and that trust has paid off. It’s flattering that Italian Grazia saw our success and liked what they were seeing. We were the first Grazia outside of Italy, and now I think there are about to be 16 editions—based on the UK one.
What was your Royal Wedding coverage like?
We usually ship on a Friday, but for the Royal Wedding we moved our deadlines and basically went to press with the entire issue in one day. We pushed our distribution day, too, so some issues could get out the following Monday. It was a bank holiday here, but we were in the office—it was my best day at work, ever, by a long stretch. The moment Kate Middleton stepped out and we learned she was wearing McQueen, a huge cheer went out around the office. We had one of our editors reporting on BBC, journalists on the ground, people in Westminster Abbey, all of us in the office, guests calling to give us color…it was an amazing day!
Which celebrities are you and your readers obsessed with now?
Rooney Mara. We started getting interested in her at the end of last year, and I think we’ll be obsessed with her all of this year. She just hasn’t put a fashion foot wrong—she steps out looking amazing in Givenchy, Roksanda Ilincic, or Nina Ricci. We’re kind of interested in Zooey Deschanel. I love her kookiness, like pairing a Prada dress with tuxedoed nails at the Golden Globes.
How about runway fascinations?
I’m excited about pastels and prints, like what Jonathan Saunders is doing. He’s absolutely on top of his game right now. I’d quite like to get a white trouser suit this year. We kept seeing it at the shows last season. Paul Smith did a brilliant one…
What do you think of British fashion today?
London Fashion Week has just gotten better and better, and I’m really excited about the February shows. And the number of brands coming back to London is important. When Burberry returned a few seasons ago, that was big. Now McQueen is showing the McQ line in London, and Stella McCartney is doing a show for one of her lines. You’ve got an amazing range of talent here. 2012 is going to be a great year for Britain with the Olympics, plus the Queen’s Jubilee.
How did your previous industry gigs prepare you for your current one?
I don’t think anything can prepare you for Grazia! You have to throw yourself in the deep end and hope you’ll be able to swim. But when you realize you can, it’s the most incredible feeling. I’d say there’s a three-month baptism of fire at Grazia UK. It’s really more like a newspaper than a magazine around here, and I hadn’t done a newspaper before. But my first job was on a quite down-market weekly women’s magazine, Chat, so I understood that pace. And then the rest of my career was at monthly glossies. Then I did Living, Etc.—a cool, modern interiors magazine. Then I edited Eve, a glossy for thirtysomethings. I’d had good experience in terms of editing, but it was totally different than anything I’d ever done before. I didn’t expect to love the newsiness as much as I do!
Any trials and errors?
In our second issue, I changed the color of the logo from pink to yellow and my art director at the time told me I couldn’t do that. I said, ‘Why not?’ and his response was that the logo always has to stay the same in the weekly market to build the brand. We broke that rule! We started with closer-in shots of the stars on the covers, like a fashion monthly traditionally does, and then we decided to pull back and get the whole outfit in. We’ve also tried covers with two or more people, including Jude and Sienna or a couple of Real Housewives, and that didn’t really work. We constantly reassess what we’re doing. We really want to stay ahead of the game, and you can’t do that by standing still.
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