For fashion magazines, it’s crunch time

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Milan, Italy – Last Thursday, Vanity Fair Italia editor-in-chief Simone Marchetti visited the set of her magazine’s last cover shoot.

Typically, these events bring together a small army of makeup artists, assistant photographers, editors, bookers, publicists and caterers, often traveling from other countries, in addition to the celebrity and the photographer.

But this time Marchetti shared the space with only the photographer, an assistant and the cover star, Dr Caterina Conti, a pulmonologist at the hospital in Bergamo, an Italian city that has been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus. Everyone wore masks and stood two meters apart, washing their hands after touching anything on the set.

The set, cover star, and closed set were all major starts for Vanity Fair Italia, a bi-weekly focused on fashion, entertainment and cultural coverage, featuring prominent stars and artists. But the pandemic coronavirus crisis in Italy, which has left nearly 70,000 people infected and more than 6,000 dead, has forced a change of priorities. The magazine turned its cover to heavier topics and ordinary people, like a family of pharmacists in Salerno working to care for their neighborhood even though their daughter is infected. All proceeds from the new show will be donated to the Bergamo hospital. Its previous issue, titled #IosonoMilano, was devoted to the city and the inspiring stories of its people.

“This virus and this situation has forced us to change,” said Marchetti, who described the pandemic as an opportunity to redefine publishing and reach new audiences online and in print. “We can’t put a star on the cover anymore, right now.”

Vanity Fair Italia’s coverage resonates: Its web traffic is the highest ever (a record 14.2 million visitors in March so far) and the free online download of the #IosonoMilano issue has attracted 12,000 new readers.

Glossy magazines around the world are facing a similar identity crisis. Everything from their pace of posting to their focus on luxury fashion is likely to feel out of sync at best and deaf at worst for readers isolated at home, who follow rapid public health updates and worry about the issue. the economy.

The outcome of GQ arriving in readers’ mailboxes this week, starring Daniel Craig – in what would otherwise have been a major coup for the James Bond star as the latest blockbuster hit theaters – already makes it seem like ‘he comes from another era. (James Bond won’t be hitting theaters until November.)

American by Vogue The next issue will always include an editorial featuring fashion from the next Costume Institute show, as it does every year to match the Met Gala held the first week of May. But the Met Gala has been postponed indefinitely, and the Metropolitan Museum is closed until at least July. As he sent his May issue pages to the printer over the past two weeks, Vogue has had time to reframe many of his planned stories in light of the pandemic and the lockdown in most US cities, as other headlines have.

The pandemic is also straining a business model that was already struggling, as advertisers and readers move online. The coronavirus crisis is keeping editors and readers isolated at home, following public health updates and worrying if packages and even magazines can carry the virus (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says ‘there is no evidence that Covid-19 is shipped by post). Newsstand sales are expected to fall as bookstores and magazine stores close. With economists predicting a deep recession, brands are seeing print ads as one of the first places to cut costs. Digiday reports that 88 percent of publishing executives expect to miss their revenue targets this year.

What can magazines do to find purpose during this time? For Vanity Fair Italia, the response has been to galvanize the Italian community and remind them of their history of overcoming challenges.

At the end of February, as the coronavirus began to spread in Italy, Marchetti and his team rethought their editorial plan and created an issue dedicated to the strength of Milan, the first major Italian city to experience a large number of contaminations. The issue, titled “#IamMilano”, featured essays from 64 Milanese personalities, including fashion designers Miuccia Prada, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana.

New issue of Dazed with Billie Eilish available free online | Source: courtesy

Unable to photograph all of these people as the city closed, the editorial staff used existing black-and-white images to create a collage cover. The magazine was distributed free online and in print in Milan and Lombardy. An Instagram feature that allowed users to put their own faces on the cover went viral, harnessing readers’ desire to express their pride and connection to Milan, Italy or their own afflicted cities.

Based in london Stunned The magazine is also making its latest issue, released on Tuesday, available for free online a week before its release in stores. Founder Jefferson Hack said the staff at the publication took the time to clarify their purpose in light of the coronavirus crisis, and were focusing on using their communication channels to “guide and inspire our audience” and listen to them and involve them in creative projects.

“How many Netflix shows can you watch before you go crazy?” He asked, pointing out that Stunned must be genuine, socially responsible and transparent, otherwise it risks alienating its audience. “The bandwidth for bullshit is really low.”

His conversations with advertisers have also changed, now focusing on how they can relate to humanitarian aid projects.

“It’s a shared purpose clarity relationship and where we’re aligned, business will follow,” Hack said. “There is no more business as usual after this.”

Hack said that Stunned will not print a physical issue for the summer edition, but will instead publish it online. The team plans to engage readers in the content, such as having them submit interview questions for topics on Instagram.

Condé Nast does not intend to skip the print editions. In the United States, most of the publisher’s titles finished sending their May issues to the printer last week and this week, and were able to photograph and write most of the content before the publisher passed. at home work about two weeks ago. But by the time these issues come out in mid-April, their reader will be in a very different reality than editors might have predicted in early March, before the school years and the Olympics were canceled.

It was time to make some changes to the text of the article and the letters from the editor.

“We’ve tried to keep things open, we’ve tried to say at various times that we don’t have a crystal ball, we don’t know where you’re going to read this,” said Seduce Executive Beauty Director Jenny Bailly.

But producing his next issues will prove to be more difficult. Staff work from home – Vogue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour is leading a morning all-staff meeting on Zoom – and no photoshoots are scheduled. On Tuesday, Wintour announced a new fundraiser with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to benefit struggling American fashion designers, which will include a series of Vogue.com videos of interviews with small business owners.

Magazine printing teams will see their creativity tested as the lockdown continues indefinitely. More than Seduce, Bailly said the beauty magazine has already completed several filming sessions for the summer issues, but is also bringing in illustrators, photographers with home studios and creative partners who live together and can collaborate together.

As Allure’s infamous beauty closet sits in the now empty office, Bailly said staff have plenty of home products to review and recommend in future articles, and are hosting virtual “office” meetings. with brands and advertisers showcasing upcoming products through Zoom.

“We can still create very beautiful, inspiring images without leaving our homes,” said Bailly.

We can always create very beautiful, inspiring images without leaving our homes.

In China, organizing photo ops remains a challenge, and editors like She Chinese beauty director Lettie Tsang, who traveled to Tokyo in late February for a shoot, must self-quarantine for two weeks upon her return. (All trips, even domestic ones, to China require two quarantines, one at destination and one on return.) “I think for all media we will have more digital content in the future for sure,” he said. she declared. .

For now, in the United States and Europe, the printing presses are still operational.

But Chinese fashion magazines have already faced printing delays. At the start of the epidemic, In the style China combined three numbers into one because the printer shut down, but has since stuck to its weekly schedule. The magazine had photographed most of its covers before the Chinese New Year when the pandemic escalated, so the covers remained as expected. But within the magazine’s pages, much of the coverage has shifted to virus-related content, but with a more positive twist focused on self-care and the effect on culture. There is still no future trip planned, especially as the pandemic outside of China worsens.

Another challenge is with advertisers, who are cutting their budgets because they anticipate a sharp drop in sales this year. Kering stores are closed in much of Europe and North America; Chanel has completely closed its stores and factories.

“We want to help them, they are our partners”, Vanity Fair Marchetti from Italy said of the advertisers. “We’re on the same boat, but people still buy magazines. They want information more than ever.”

Additional reporting by Casey Hall.

We are tracking the latest information on the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the global fashion industry. Visit our live blog for everything you need to know.

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