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Vision Quest

A new fashion mag steps into the ring.

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Now that Condé Nast has swallowed up Fairchild's Jane and W, just about every fashion book in the field will have the same address. This consolidation may provide boutique magazines -- like the European Big, Purple, and Dutch -- with the opening they've been waiting for. But no one in New York is better positioned to capitalize on this moment than the mod squad at the magazine-cum- art book Visionaire. Already the darlings of the fashion aristocracy, this week they launch V, a new high-concept but mass-market publication. "It's like doing classical music and pop music," says Stephen Gan, Visionaire mastermind and V's editor-in-chief.

Unlike Visionaire, V will actually look like a magazine, with glossy oversize paper folded into standard proportions. It will function like one, too, selling ads for $10,000 a page and competing with stalwarts like W, which serves a similar audience of sartorial sophisticates.

"This is really appealing to the fashion-forward market," says Ellen Oppenheim, media director of the ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding New York. "But one thing about that market is it's very fickle." Gan maintains that V has a waiting audience: "There is a gap between Sassy and Seventeen readers and the Harper's Bazaar reader. If you're talking men, there's even less to choose from. We felt the lack of a younger, almost street mentality."

V's $5 cover price is a fraction of Visionaire's $150, but the finished product hardly slums. Top advertisers jockeyed for prime pages (CK Jeans took the inside spread; Gucci the back cover). The September issue, pointedly devoted to men's fashion while everyone else is focused on women's, has the de rigueur celebrity cover -- actor Jude Law -- and seemingly every fashion luminary from Gucci stylist Carine Roitfeld to Bruce Weber contributed art or bite-size text.

Questions as to how a tiny magazine could command such high-voltage talent without bankrupting itself are perhaps answered by the fashion-media world's whispers about trust funds. But when pressed about the financials, Gan demurs. "The whole money thing is not that big an issue. Visionaire has been a sort of creative workshop; many people are paid, some work part-time." He shrugs. "We're very lucky."

It'll take more than luck for V to gain a wider audience (its print run is 30,000, compared with Visionaire's 6,000), as only the initiated will get the jokes. Gan turns to a shot of avant-garde designer Jeremy Scott, shirtless in a tux and bow tie like a headliner at Chippendale's. "It's very funny," he insists, chuckling to himself. "See, he's wearing Gucci." "We're targeting someone who follows fashion and style with the same devotion we do," chimes in V editor Alix Browne. "This is not a service magazine."

V's hyper-niche strategy, while alienating to readers accustomed to saccharine profiles and helpful knockoff guides, may provide it with an edge over the other fashion books racing to InStyle-ize. "When you advertise in Vogue or Elle, the reality is, those are aspirational publications," says Alan Jurmain, media director at ad agency Lowe & Partners/SMS. "Ninety-nine percent of us don't wear those plastic see-through one-piece outfits, but this may be a way to reach the one percent who do."


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