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I absolutely hate fashion magazines with a passion, yet I have a year's subscription to Harper's Bazaar. Why? Because as an artist, this magazine delivers the visual goods!
I'll be honest - I'm not a girly girl. I don't give into this whole 'look like a model' complex that's plaguing the world, so the idea of hundreds of pages advertising makeup and cute outfits really doesn't appeal to me (and nor should it to you!). But there was that one fateful day I was sat at the hairdresser's feeling unoccupied, so I reached for the pile of magazines.
They were just as I expected, and didn't make for an entertaining read (or look) at all. But then I found a copy of Vogue, and... I became entranced by a colourful advert. Yes, that's right. That happens to artists sometimes. This copy of Vogue had loads of other beautiful ads too, and I wondered if I could find a magazine or book DEDICATED to bringing me these wonderful works every month.
...No, I never found that magazine. So I settled for Harper's Bazaar instead.
First published a whopping 142 years ago, Bazaar is the ladies' choice for fashion news and shopping. Well... it was, up until around 1930 when the world itself took a turn for the worse in regards to women's appearances. I own the collection of issues (in book form) from 1867 to 1898, and they're a damn sight better than anything churned out of publishing houses these days. Good ol' Victorian fashion!
So, the truth of the matter is that I love Bazaar for the completely wrong reasons. People hate how much advertising this mag has - but the ads are what I love! Beautiful colours, nice clothes, great locations, great ideas... they all spark me as inspiration for future projects. Granted, they tend to print a few of the nicest ads at least six times throughout the year but more often than not each issue has lovely new content - a differently themed photo shoot for example, which is great!
Now, onto the quality of the articles. After having read several dozens by now, my verdict is: Absolute rubbish, and I could care less. I can't even see top celebrities reading this stuff, but perhaps I'm wrong. The attitude of Bazaar's writers is the direct incarnate of everything I detest - the 'spend your money on cosmetic surgery' and 'how to choose your next really really expensive yet tacky looking bag' attitude. All girly magazines have it to an extent, it's just how corrupt the media is today. The difference with Bazaar is that it's expensive products as opposed to more affordable ones. Don't fall for it, girls!
So, any REAL good points about this mag? ...No. Oh, wait! They let you try out expensive perfume via those little sniffy (as in, you peel back and sniff) pages. I'm quite impressed at how they manage to make the product smell like what it's called.
In addition, though it still relates back to advertising in a way, some issues actually present fashions that are wearable and appealing. In the 'shop' section of the mag they cram so many clothes into one page it's hard not to have a seizure at first, but quite a few times I've found designs that I like.
I've never really been one for celebrity or fashion magazines, not because I'm not interested in the topics, but because they rarely show any depth and there's nothing to get into and read. Fashion items tend to be aimed at everyone other than me and I feel I've wasted my money every time.
The upper market publications such as Tatler, Vogue and Elle tend to have a little more in them in terms of reading material but to my mind they're more coffee-table trash than anything else.
Unfortunately, Harper's Bazaar can join them in the coffee-table rubbish pile, soon to be swept into the bin. Billed as one of the world's most influential fashion titles and aimed fairly and squarely at the discerning, sophisticated fashionista, it promises informed coverage of fashion, the arts and beauty. For me, it doesn't live up to these promises.
Bazaar is a weighty tome each month with in excess of 190 pages. This actually makes it rather unwieldy. It's certainly not handbag material and the stiff binding makes it fairly hard to read on anything other than a flat surface. My main complaint though is that of those 190 pages around 170 are adverts. Whilst I accept that marketing is a main aim of these publications the advertising in Bazaar is excessive. In the February issue, from the cover one has to wade through 9 double spread adverts and a single page ad before you get to the contents - that's 19 wasted pages. From the contents page there are then 16 pages of ads before you get to the first piece of content, the "Editor's Letter". Real content is very limited. There are just 8 articles which have more than one page of text and a couple of those are rather piecemeal affairs comprising a single paragraph about celeb A followed by a single para on celeb B and so on. Meaty articles can certainly be counted on one hand and for the cover price of £3.70 I'd be left feeling severely ripped off (in fact I'm not, I'm on a 6 month research exercise for the magazine so I'm not at all out of pocket).
The advertising is aimed fairly and squarely at the well off. Prestige brands such as Prada, Channel, Tiffany and Bally predominate and it's the odd advert that promotes high street spending. Articles on wardrobe pieces will see little under £500 and beauty items promote products costing upwards of £100. OK, so maybe I'm not quite the target audience. I could spend that kind of money quite easily but chose not to. Ex-colleagues of mine certainly did so I know and move in the kind of circles that the target audience should fall into. Bottom line is, I resent paying to be advertised to in such an obvious way.
I'd love to be able to tell you about the reporting style of the magazine but, unfortunately, it's so bereft of content that I'd be hard pushed. If there is a predominant style then again, it's one of name-dropping and fashion advertising. It's the "one must have this item to be included" rather than more wholesome down to earth in-depth reportage.
Bazaar tried something very different this month. Normally all of the articles that exist will be about things in the fashion world or perhaps an artist, writer or established celebrity. This month they included a few pieces on love and sex. This resulted in a rather odd magazine. The Editor's letter suggests that, despite being part of everyday life, the last time discerning adults would have read about the subject would have been in teen magazines. Alas, don't go and buy the issue thinking you'll get a grown up J17, it's all rather dull: a piece on how X met Y (the only difference between this article and the short paragraphs found in Hello, Chat or the like is the "class" of the celebrity - older and less crass), a piece on the psychology of love addicts quotes more learned sources and uses longer, more technical words than a similar article in Prima or Glamour might but it ultimately boils down to the same, rather bland, voyeuristic piece. The three-page spread on Erotic Art is a little better and probably unique but ultimately it's still a sales pitch, albeit for a different class of goods.
I'm hugely disappointed in this tome. Its billing and its reality are worlds apart. For me this isn't even good enough for coffee-table material. Give me Conde Naste Traveller or Country Living any day - they might not have the glamorous models but they do have words... that's what I like to read!