Art, Fashion, Money
Shirine Saad | Apr 30, 2010 | Comments 0
After eighteen years of glory, W magazine, the fashion and art bible, is suffering. The current recession and the crisis crippling the magazine industry have undermined its basis of success and forced a rethinking of its editorial vision. The era of the forward thinking creative director Dennis Freedman has come to an end: he resigned in early April. In an ailing economy there is no longer latitude for his expensive shoots, artistic experiments, and satiric take on the industry. To trace his tenure is to mark out the contours of a brief, creative confluence of fashion, art, and consumer fervor in the magazine world – and of a period of sardonic exuberance in the luxury echelons of the world.
The cool version of W was born in 1993, a dramatic year for American fashion magazines. At Harper’s Bazaar a new power duo of editor Liz Tilberis and art director Fabien Baron planned to restore the glossy’s lost luster, working with such art photographers as Cindy Sherman, Nobuyoshi Araki and Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Anna Wintour strove to turn Vogue into America’s leading fashion title. And at W, a small team of editors sought to turn a 20-year-old, biweekly newspaper supplement of the fashion trade publication, Women’s Wear Daily, into an innovative new consumer magazine that would mix European-style sophistication with an aggressive commercial strategy.
If the then modest magazine could never compete with mass-market behemoths Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar for readership numbers, W’s editorial director Patrick McCarthy, design director Edward Leida and creative director Dennis Freedman brainstormed about reshaping it into a cutting-edge publication that would challenge the big books for impact and influence. For months, Freedman and Leida exchanged ideas in Leida’s Honda Prelude while commuting to and from W’s midtown Manhattan office to their houses on the eastern end of Long Island. Rather than copying other monthlies, their plan was to appeal to the very wealthy in a booming economy and become a trendsetter in the industry by experimenting with photography and design. W would distinguish itself with a bold vision, bringing a downtown twist to its uptown sensibility. It was to stay true to its newsy origins and to publisher John Fairchild’s legendarily witty coverage of society and culture. “It is our goal to keep the feisty spirit of the magazine that we have successfully published for 21 years,” claimed the editorial staff in the July 1993 issue. “As for size, W will be big – much bigger than any fashion magazine – and we trust, much more exciting.”