March 9, 2007

Back to Basics

If any of my readers out there are curious about how and why the fashion magazines work the way that they do, and are interested in reading more about the fundamental issues and production cycles of magazines, I would recommend Brian Moeran's academic article “More Than Just a Fashion Magazine” from the journal Current Sociology. I've been reading it for my thesis project and although most of the information seems obvious to me, that might just be because I'm more immersed in the fashion industry than the average glossy magazine reader! Like me, Moeran asks in his paper "What are the purposes of a fashion magazine? ," and in order to find out he very impressively conducted "more than 40 open-ended interviews with fashion magazine publishers, (feature, fashion, beauty) editors and art directors working in Paris, London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong"!!

For example, although we as bloggers might enjoy speed in reporting events and trends, the article explains the production cycle of magazines, and why the year is split into March for Spring fashions and September for fall trends.
Although there have been indications in recent years that the traditional two-season fashion system is giving way to more fluid, continuous production schedules attuned to consumer demands and the technological ability to supply them, the spring/summer and autumn/winter seasonal distribution of clothing remains very important for fashion magazines on a number of related accounts, both cultural and economic. First, it imposes order on a potentially chaotic mass of clothing that needs to be shown and described to magazine audiences. At present, readers are more or less reassured by the fixed seasonal boundaries within which trend changes take place. Second, that very order is an essential part of magazines’ production processes since, without it, they would be obliged to forego their current fixed annual structure of issues and devote far more time and energy to the planning of more content-varied monthly editions. This would make it difficult for a magazine title to maintain a regular monthly publication schedule on the basis of its existing personnel and financial resources. Third, it structures conveniently the solicitation of advertising material, which itself forms the financial base influencing a publisher’s decision to launch, maintain or cease publication of a particular title. (729)
It can be a bit dry to read, but hey, if you are curious...

Edit: I wrote to the author to say that I thought his paper was very useful for my project...and he wrote back! I'll have to go look for that Fashion Theory article now!
F.y.i. I've also written on Vogue in a special issue of Fashion Theory last year, in case you haven't come across my piece. What with all the cultural studies people nowadays fascinated by reception (with just the occasional -- and futile -- attempt to look at production), I seem to be the only one interested in the economy/culture clash in the study of women's magazines. I'm trying to finish a book on the subject, but have decided -- at my ripe age -- that I'm going to write something more or less in the style of the magazines themselves... and to hell with academic writing!


Julie said...

Interesting. It is amazing how artificial all of this really is and how much the changes in media will distrupt the flow of our entire industry.

Chic Inspector said...

Hey would love to read that article is there link to it or can you please email the article. You got me very interested.

fashion theory said...

Julie: It's interesting, isn't it? I think the other problem is that the production cycle is obviously finite no matter how much the media cycle speeds how to reconcile the two?

Chic Inspector: I'll email it to you now. It's long but many of the conflicts and issues have been reflected in my own interviews with editors for my work, so very useful.