So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

Back in December, Jennifer Aniston was on the cover of Vogue, with the Star-worthy cover line, "What Angelina Did Was Very Uncool." Now the July issue of Harper's Bazzar features a paparazzi photo on the cover. What's going on?

In an interview last week with mediabistro.com, Features and Special Projects Director Laura Brown says:

I book Bazaar's covers — it's 12 a year, so it's a lot of work. It involves persuasion and diplomacy in equal measure.

Oh, to be sure! And how do you decide whom to feature? Quoth Brown:

We put women on the cover to sell magazines, and we do not compromise…
Harper's Bazaar is a very illustrious magazine, and we're respectful to people we put in the magazine. That works in our favor, and we get lots of press, so it's not much of a battle.

And:

We have a 141-year-old brand to protect.

Sorry, how, exactly, does a paparazzi snap of Angelina Jolie "protect" the Harper's Bazaar brand? Here are Ms. Brown's thoughts on Angelina:

I think a woman who manifests curiosity about being compelling and straddling all different worlds would be Angelina Jolie. She manages to compel all of us in various incarnations, whether you work at the United Nations or read Us Weekly.

So basically, it's important to have Angelina on the cover — even if you didn't shoot her yourself — because people are curious about her. Huh. Well, obviously a magazine grows and goes through changes. Here's what Bazaar looked like when it started, in 1867:


So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

Here's what the magazine looked like in the 1920s:

So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

(1920)

Then there were the glorious, classy Avedon years, from 1945-1965:

So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

(1956)


So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

(1958)


So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

(1965)

Colorful, fun, arty!

In 1992, the late Liz Tilberis inherited the magazine, which had looked kinda crappy in the late 70s, and restored it to its whimsical elegance:

So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

(1992)

Does the July issue's cover seem at all in keeping with any of this? Or with its story — known in the biz as a "write-around" — does it seem more closely related to something In Touch would do?


So Bazaar: Are High-Fashion Magazines Turning Into Low-Rent Tabloids?

Here's the thing: Fashion magazines used to be the realm of models. Now that celebrities dominate the covers, editors struggle to keep things interesting month after month. There are only so many "stars" to go around. Kate Bosworth on Vogue? Snooze. And, anyway, people don't expect to get "dirt" from a glossy fashion publication, since the star — and her publicist — probably have approval over everything. Readers look for salacious stuff in the gossip rags. And aren't fashion magazines supposed to be about fashion? Not the same 12 actresses Photoshopped into androids? Yet fashion mag editors know that big stars sell issues, so they're stuck. They'd rather put a paparazzi photo of Angelina Jolie on the cover than a gorgeous picture of a nameless model, even if the latter is closer to "protecting" the "brand." But who are the fools here? The editors, for pushing low-brow crap masquerading as part of a brand's legacy? Or readers who buy the crap? And on some level, do you suspect that Laura Brown knows that she's misleading readers? When asked, "How would you say you've gotten to where you are?" she replies:

Delusions of grandeur and a smile.

So What Do You Do, Laura Brown, Features & Special Projects Director, Harper's Bazaar? [mediabistro.com]

Related: Bazaar 140th: A Glorious Look Back At 140 Years Of Bazaar Editors And Photographers [Harper's Bazaar]

Earlier: Prominent Feminist Explains Why Angelina Jolie Is Best Thing, Ever