wish list

diana kowal

Fashion is fuelled by desire. It is consumed with the feverish speed and hunger with which a fire consumes its fuel. What’s new is old before it can even hit the shops.

Nothing fuels this fire more than fashion magazines. The emergence of new hybrid shopping magazines, such as Wish and Lou Lou, are adding to the blaze.

It’s easy to make a shopping list when you know what you need, but when it comes to shopping for style and keeping up with trends in fashion, making a list is harder than you think. These magazines basically do it for you.

Sidestepping the usual formula for fashion glossies – elaborate photography, editorials and eccentric sets – these magazines skip out on articles about health and lifestyle and focus only on the task at hand: shopping. They’re very elaborate catalogues.

While disconcerting to many fashion magazine purists, the truth is, there’s a market for it. Marilisa Racco, editor-in-chief of Style magazine, an industry publication for designers and merchants, says good on them.

“There’s obviously an audience for this. You can’t blame them for finding a niche and being successful. The object here isn’t about purity to the industry; it’s about making some money. It’s nothing to be ashamed about.”

Racco also says that any promotion of Canadian designers and talent is a positive move for the industry. She warns, however, that these types of magazines may change the future of advertising and marketing in the industry.

“If a magazine like Lou Lou has a four-page spread with the best jeans, and one company is mentioned twice, it’s highly unlikely that they take out an ad on the next page. There just wouldn’t be a need for it.”

The beginning of the magazine-cum-catalogue trend was sparked by the Condé Nast publication Lucky in the United States. The magazine focuses on all things shopping and calls itself “the voice of a friend you love to take shopping.”

Condé Nast is also the publisher of Vogue, a magazine synonymous with style and often the very definition of it. Vogue also includes many articles about art, lifestyle, health, trends, music and much more. So will these new magazines win over readers of traditional fashion magazines?

Susan Roberton, fashion program coordinator at Humber College’s business school, says there is a separate market for it. “It offers a streamlined approach to shopping. It’s simplified. Average women could never relate to traditional fashion magazines, so those who used to read them will continue to. But the market for shopping magazines has always existed – those who want to know what’s in now, not next season.”

That seems to be the big draw for women who don’t look two and three seasons ahead, but want to know what to wear now and where to get it. The median age of Lucky readers is 31.9 years, with a median income of almost $70,000, according to the circulation demographics data offered by the magazine.

Jane Francisco, editor-in-chief of Wish magazine, says Canadian women are ready for a similar formula. The magazine calls itself “a shopping list for life” and it markets itself to every woman, specifically those 25 years and older. “We target both the woman who loves to shop, and the woman who doesn’t. We make shopping easy – even fun,” says Francisco. “It’s sort of like a laundry list; things to do rather than just to buy. It’s beyond shopping; it’s about integrating it all.”

It seems to be working. Since its release in mid 2004, Wish magazine has sold over 100,000 copies in combined subscriptions and newsstand sales of its first seven issues. Francisco says that the company speculates future subscription rates will rise to 75 per cent of total sales in 2005.

The big draw for readers is the simplicity and convenience, says Francisco. “Women are looking for a one-stop shop idea where they can find ideas, find solutions, and close the loop by having someone sort through the information. When we talk about trends and high fashion, it’s really brought into the realm of ‘what does this have to do with my life?’”

According to Francisco, serviceable information as education – especially in a condensed format – seems to be the direction magazines as a whole are headed.

Focused education about services and products is key to these magazines, says Humber’s Roberton, and the attention is on items that are accessible to the general public rather than celebrities. “My students love these magazines because of the cosmetic product knowledge they offer. Consumers need to get this knowledge before they buy.”

Francisco says that’s the philosophy of Wish, to offer “products from every price point – from high-end luxury goods to great bargain pieces. Then we show you how to put it all together.”

Francisco says that the traditional fashion magazines won’t lose readership due to these new hybrid glossies. She says that Wish attracts people who still buy fashion or home or food magazines also, but get a quick fix of information from this magazine. “The women who want to read about the designers and collections will still pick up a fashion magazine . . . it offers them a form of entertainment,” says Francisco.

In a world that is ever becoming higher paced and where attention spans are getting shorter, there is certainly a place for fast-food fashion. The effect it will have on the future of the magazines we have come to know and love is yet to be seen, but trends are already emerging. As a self-admitted fashion magazine junkie, Francisco remains optimistic. “Certainly I’ve been seeing magazines move into the realm of more practical, however, sitting back and getting lost in a magazine is still a big draw,” she sighs. Those who have always had their nose stuck in a Vogue will continue to do so, at least for the time being.

The problem with that? Well, none, as long as you can find the time.

Photos by Diana Kowal