Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Of Fonts and Fashion

In the editing class I teach, we focus on newspapers, so it’s always a treat when I can bring in a fashion magazine. Last week we were analyzing fonts, and how fonts are carefully chosen to appeal to a certain audience; indeed, to resemble that audience in each letter.

One of the magazines I selected was Harper’s Bazaar, which has undergone two significant redesigns in the not-so-distant past.

We considered Bazaar’s Alexey Brodovitch–designed nameplate, as presented on a Liz Tilberis–edited cover. We discussed the serif on the letters, the weight of the letters, their height, and agreed that this Bazaar was designed for an elegant, slender lady.

And Tilberis did a fantastic job, from her first cover with Linda Evangelista, through her December cover with Kate Moss and a snow globe, if I remember correctly, and beyond, applying her keen editorial eye to fashion and written stories.

But then, when Kate Betts took over after Tilberis’s untimely death, I was in thrall, from the change in font on the nameplate to the relocation of the folio—page numbers now appeared on the sides of the pages, which I thought were much easier to find.

The somewhat futuristic font that Betts’s designer employed announced a new Bazaar (and indeed, the word Harper’s was greatly reduced to running inside the “B”), one that was more youthful and energetic. Betts filled her pages with bold photography and thoughtful articles that I really wanted to read—not puff pieces.

Of course, not everyone shared my opinion, and Betts’s tenure at Bazaar was disappointingly short.

Now the original font is back, and has been for many a year. One of the early pieces in the new old Bazaar had Joan Collins reminiscing vacuously about fashion; I couldn’t take it. I cancelled my subscription, deeming Bazaar worthy of a peek only at the doctor’s office or for browsing in a bookstore.

I miss the substance, the sense of daring that both Tilberis and Betts brought, each in her own way. I like to read magazines that are in dialogue with each other, and right now, aside from grudgingly buying Vogue each month (I am so tired of actresses being heralded as design inspirations), I read British publications: Vogue, Harper’s UK, Selvedge.

I think it’s time that U.S. Vogue had a formidable competitor again. What do you think?


enc said...

I agree with you that we/US could use some competition for Vogue, but so far no book has been up to the task. Elle has tried valiantly, but has only ever been a close second.

enc said...

Dear Miss Cavendish: this post you wrote inspired me to ask a question on my own blog, and in doing so, I cited this post and your blog. I hope that was okay!

miss cavendish said...

I used to love ELLE in the late eighties; in fact, my first fashion "publication" was a letter to the editor, which I have immortalized, affixed to a framed cover.

I miss the glory days of ELLE when strong women like Elle MacPherson, Ashley Richardson, and Rachel Williams were modelling.

miss cavendish said...

enc--I'm delighted. Let the conversation begin!

--miss c

enc said...

Late '80s was the time I loved Elle, too. The models (you mention) were so cool, the hair was completely outlandish, and the makeup was OTT wacky. The book was so creative then!

ALL THE BEST said...

I love this blog post! Very interesting. Thank you.

Deborah said...

Oh, I so agree with you about this subject! I subscribe to Harpers Bazaar but only grudgingly - my reasoning is I might possibly find something of interest - or sophistication or elegance that I wouldn't want to miss - alas that's rarely the case. It usually goes into the trash the same day it arrives in the mail. I also subscribe to American Vogue and W, but make a point to buy British Vogue and Tattler's every month - they provide so much more substance. Oh, I recall very clearly the days when Kate Betts was editor at HB. Do you know where the talented Ms Betts is today?

miss cavendish said...

Kate Betts is now editing TIME Design & Style, which apparently appears four times a year (I've never seen it). She can also be found on the TIME website, blogging about fashion.

miss cavendish said...

Kate Betts is now editing TIME Design & Style, which apparently appears four times a year (I've never seen it). She can also be found on the TIME website, blogging about fashion.