Harper’s Bazaar: The September Issue

Anyone interested in what Glenda Bailey has done to Harper’s

Bazaar is advised not to bother picking up the latest issue, hitting

newsstands now. The September issue of any women’s magazine is

something of a flagship, but the powers that be at Hearst are going

to want to forget this 400-page monster ever happened.

The heft is pretty much the only impressive thing about it. The

rest of it looks like it was put together by a headless chicken –

a bit like the masthead on page 60, which amazingly doesn’t have

an editor or editor-in-chief at all. Top of the list is the creative

director, Michel Botbol, who probably won’t last much longer.

The front cover is OK at best, featuring a Patrick Demarchelier

portrait of a heavily-made-up Nicole Kidman (kinda ironic, then, that

the top strapline is “BEAUTY: How to Get the New Natural Look”).

It’s ironic, too, that the first thing that falls out of the

magazine when you open it is a blowout card touting subscriptions

to Talk magazine – featuring Nicole Kidman on the cover. Also

worth noting for a magazine which is meant to be at the top end of

the market: an annual subscription runs to $10, which can’t even

cover the cost of postage, and, at least on my copy, Nicole has nasty

white spots under her left nostril and on her top lip, which look

as though someone’s been cutting corners either at the printer’s

or at the repro house.

Inside, it’s lowbrow fluff for at least 250 pages: the combination

of front-loaded ads and front-of-the-book bite-sized-chunks seems

to drag on indefinitely. It’s not done well, and it certainly

doesn’t give the impression that the magazine is a window onto

a rarefied, more glamorous world.

As we approach the feature well, we have to tiptoe our way around

a “special advertising section” (that’s advertorial

to you and me) which begins on page 207, takes a break on page 224,

restarts on page 257, and continues until page 282.

Finally, on page 315, the fashion begins. This is the point of a

fashion magazine, right? I mean, this is where Bazaar gets to show

us what it’s all about. The first spread is by Patrick Demarchelier,

of nothing in particular photographed against a plain background.

Some of the photos are better than others, of course (the best, harking

back to the Irving Penn glory days, is on page 330, if you’re

reading along with mother), but the first one is dreadful, and none

is excellent.

The second story, by Carter Smith, is the best thing in the book.

It’s a fashion spread which ought to be the sort of thing Bazaar

does in its sleep, but it turns out that the magazine is finding it

harder than ever to get really high-quality fashion photography.

Because from then on in, it’s just depressing. Craig McDean,

like Patrick Demarchelier, is obviously just snapping away in his

sleep here: 12 pages of white girls in black frocks on white backgrounds.

Then there’s Patrick Demarchelier’s Nicole Kidman story:

it’s dreadful, once again against a plain background, with nothing

approaching the quality of the cover photo. Sølve Sundsbø

has a seen-it-all-before I’ve-been-looking-at-too-many-Nick-Knight-photos

studio session, and then we’re back once again to Patrick Demarchelier

portraits on plain backgrounds, first for a beauty story, then for

a Marc Jacobs story, and then for a profile of an actor. That’s


Of 69 fashion pages, Patrick Demarchelier has shot 35, and might

as well have shot Craig McDean’s 12 for all the respite they

gave us. I’m sure he’s on some sort of long-term contract

with Hearst which more or less forces them to give him lots of work,

but this is ridiculous. He’s past it: while he can generally

be relied on not to totally fuck up, filling your pages with Paddy

D is not going to give you the kind of respect in the fashion world

which Harper’s Bazaar desperately needs to regain.

The next issue should start to show Glenda’s hand: we’ll

begin to see how she copes with a fashion title. The worry is that

she’s going to bring the book downmarket, and less fashiony:

I have a feeling that if she’s bright, she’ll go the other

way, and try to drag it back upmarket from the middlebrow ditch into

which it currently seems to have fallen. Kate Betts got fired for

putting Britney Spears (shot, surprise surprise, by P.D.) on the cover

of the August issue; I have a feeling Glenda Bailey’s not going

to make the same mistake.

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One Response to Harper’s Bazaar: The September Issue

  1. Jenn says:

    This may sound stupid, but do you guys publish mags in the U.S or is this a UK based mag. I would really apprechiate if you could answer me.


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