The Delicate Balance


When They Were Queens
That the big fashion magazines see the need to be price-conscious also points to a major shift in the role of the editors of those magazines. Though the fashion figureheads still wield significant influence over clothing designers and fashionistas alike, they are not the all-powerful beings they used to be. The clout that was once theirs alone is increasingly being usurped by writers and tastemakers in other media. Consumers can now get a wealth of style news and advice from any number of Web sites, blogs and TV programs. A further erosion of the fashion magazine editor's dominance has come from lifestyle and celebrity magazines, which over the years have been busy rolling out their own fashion content.

As a result, fashion editors have made the dismal discovery that slaving long hours to put out a magazine -- however great an issue it might be-simply isn't enough anymore. To retain the relevance of their magazines and their own editorial titles, editors have learned to become ambassadors for their brands.
It's a stretch that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. Joanna Coles, editor of Hearst's Marie Claire, sees herself as an editor for today's times. "The Devil Wears Prada was very much about a moment in time -- and that moment has passed," Coles says of the book and movie inspired by legendary Vogue editor Anna Wintour. "I'm in the trenches with the readers," Coles adds. "I wake up in the morning, and I feel like I'm living a life [similar to theirs]: I'm under time pressure, I'm under financial pressure and I want to look as good as possible, but I also need to get out the door."

Coles and her peers are especially busy these days as they jockey for TV opportunities in an attempt to replicate the exposure that Elle once enjoyed from its long-running partnership with Bravo's Project Runway. On August 20, Runway returned for its sixth season -- with a new network home (Lifetime) and a new magazine partner (Marie Claire). The popular show continues its association with judge Nina Garcia, who jumped to the Hearst title from Elle last year.

Fortunately, Elle has been able to make up some of the lost ground. The magazine scored a role on MTV's The City, which centers on the life of a young employee of a major design house. Harper's Bazaar is looking for a TV outlet for its Fabulous at Every Age feature, having already created a contest and book around it. The appetite for fashion reality shows has far from subsided, as the soaring ratings for Runway's season six premiere would seem to indicate. Marie Claire has drawn 8 million views in the past 18 months to its online podcast. Called The Masthead With Marie Claire, it goes behind the scenes of day-to-day life at the title, including editors' meetings and photo shoots.

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