I am an outrageously partial reader when it comes to Elle. Which, uh, sorta happens when the magazine was your first post-college professional experience. However I will say in all sincerity and honesty: The newly redesigned Elle? Absofuckinglutely gorgeous. Though small changes had been made to the magazine following the installation of new creative director Joe Zee back in February, this, the September issue, is the first to exhibit the full Zee effect. My conclusion? Divine. After the jump, learn more about what's changed... or rather, what's changed for the better.
The cover: Where once a Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat sensibility used to dominate, the new (scandalous, Lindsay Lohan!) cover has been pared down: The gold lettering of the title is replicated in some of the coverlines, offset by other ones in always-fashionable black and set against the traditional solid white Elle background, making for a strong statement of sophistication. Hell, it practically makes Lohan look classy.
The FOB (front-of-the-book): Once opened, the first thing that jumps out is the change in typeface given to the magazine's page numbers at the bottom of each page, as well as accompanying text repeating the name of the magazine and where to find it on the web. (Is there anything that exists without accompanying URL anymore?) It's a small detail, yes, but one with a great impact. As for the FOB fashion pages themselves, where they were once muddled collages, they are now sleek and Euro-minded, making for much easier reading and causing me, at least, to occasionally confuse the magazine with one of my favorite fashion rags, French Vogue.
The fashion spreads: Here is where one sees the biggest change in the new and improved Elle, and everything — the styling, the photography, the concepts, the narratives — is exceptional. In fact, the opening fashion spread, "Bright Young Things", is so effective it compelled me to do something I have never ever not ever done before: Haul my ass to a store to buy something the day I saw it in a magazine. (Prada shoes. The price? Yeah, don't ask.) The story on Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Charlotte, je 'taime", is equally awe-inspiring. And the "Made in America" feature was styled by Mr. Zee himself, encompassing the same cool, sporty, all-American style seen in his advertising work. (An honorable mention goes to Mr. Zee's work in Lohan's photospread: Damn! Sistah looks hot!) All of it is hilarious and fresh and young and smart and contemporary: The things that editor in chief Roberta Myers' says the new Elle has set out to be.
The verdict: Exceptional. Gone are the redundant and increasingly banal images of the Gilles Bensimon years, swiftly replaced with the crispest, most relevant-looking American fashion magazine currently on the market. Yeah, yeah - I know my fellow Jezebels will continue to hate it for touting all sorts of "expensive shit" and the inclusion of a column featuring the fashion musings of Nina Garcia (Pregnancy! No fun 'cause you get fat!) but even they, I predict, will have to admit that this is the only book on the market worth resting their eyes on. Because in the end, if you threw all that silly "editorial" stuff in fashion magazines out the window, there's no way Elle wouldn't win the beauty pageant.