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Feb 21, 2023
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A new concept for the French version of Harper's Bazaar

Translated by
Feb 21, 2023

Along with Elle and Vogue, it is a name that harks back to the fashion magazine industry's greatest years. Created 155 years ago in the United States, Harper's Bazaar, now owned by the Hearst group, is one of the sector's leading titles. But, although it is present in more than twenty countries, Bazaar had never explored the French market. On February 23, this will be done with the launch of its first 100 page issue in French, dedicated to fashion. This initiative is led by the Prisma presse group, which has acquired the licence for France.

One of the four Harper's Bazaar French covers - Harper's Bazaar France

This is a major event, as creative news in the specialist press has been rare in recent years. We remember the arrival of Vanity Fair, initiated by Conde Nast ten years ago, or L'Etiquette, dedicated to men's fashion by the So Press group, in 2018. This time, it is Prisma that has reached an agreement with Hearst to launch the 28th international edition of Harper's Bazaar. The French group has entrusted the editorial management to Matthias Gurtler (already head of Gala) and the magazine's editor-in-chief is Olivier Lalanne (ex-editor of Vogue Homme and GQ France).

Lalanne promises a unique tone: "It's a very beautiful title and I have editorial freedom. I defend the local approach and I didn't want to implement international content. Hearst management was very receptive. If tomorrow the American Harper's publishes an exclusive interview, I could take it. But I'm under no obligation. So this is a magazine that speaks to the world with a French accent. Compared to the American version, which has a more societal and political tone, I want to make Harper's Bazaar a fashion reference in France. The advantage is that it's already a strong name, it's a brand. It occupies a territory where in reality there isn't much competition. And the ambition is to bring the magazine as close as possible to a coffee table book. An object that you keep with pride."

Attracting advertisers and readers

A coffee table magazine with a clean design, printed in Germany and priced at 4.90 euros per issue. Over the year, Bazaar will publish ten issues, and promises 300 pages and 150,000 issues on newsstands. Its team, which has dedicated offices in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, will draw its inspiration from the codes of the 1960s, the great years of fashion and the fashion press, to offer content that it hopes will be different. "We looked at the great decades of luxury and fashion, what the codes were and how I could interpret them and make them relevant today," explains Lalanne, who plans to invite authors to write short stories about fashion every month. In this way, the editor-in-chief wants to show the world through the lens of luxury and fashion and to do so by means of surveys, interviews (JW Anderson in the first issue), point of view stories and, of course, series of photographs. The editor-in-chief denies that he lets advertisers dictate his choices.

"I chose to launch the magazine with four covers," explains Lalanne. "There are three brand advertisers but also a young Korean designer who is not known at all, who has no money... But I thought it was very important to show from the outset that we were also there to support young designers. Brands are also looking for magazines like us to have this credibility. Advertising is fundamental in these magazines, but not at any price. It is [the magazine's] credibility that is at stake."

To produce this Harper's Bazaar, the editorial team is made up of around twenty contributors, with Franck Durand as creative director, Elodie David-Touboul in charge of fashion and Florine Delcourt on culture. And in terms of image, the title wants to have a pioneering approach. "This is Bazaar and I made it my duty to have great photographers. And for the first issue I asked Mario Sorrenti to do the covers. But besides that, I want to push young photographers. And to create a kind of Factory. In the same way that there were the Bourdins and Newtons at Vogue in the 1950s and 1960s, to have young talent that we will retain and push. So we're going to do both, with experienced photographers and ones we will find."

Harper's Bazaar France

The fact remains that the development of this project is a challenge for both the editorial team and Prisma. The French Harper's Bazaar, which is showing itself to be very ambitious in its content, will have to find its economic model.

"For Prisma, Harper's Bazaar is something new. They can't develop it in the same way as their other titles. This would be a mistake," says Lalanne. "Of course distribution is an issue, but compared to many brands that stretch their universe but give up on print, we are the opposite. We start with the magazine. What is really important is to establish the title over time. To do this, you have to be consistent and repetitive and above all not be opportunistic. This is what builds trust with readers and advertisers. And then, once we have convinced them, it is possible to imagine many things that can be profitable, such as brand content for brands, developing the Bazaar concept with different projects or even creating documentaries, which I would love to do."

Harper's Bazaar wants to make its French voice heard in the Parisian luxury world. By bringing a different tone to the press, it intends to seduce advertisers... and take pride of place on the coffee tables of fashion enthusiasts.

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