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A Preview of Harper’s Bazaar’s ‘Best Covers’ Issue

With all the jockeying and politics that goes into magazine covers these days, it's amazing to think that monthly fashion magazines used to be created with just paper and pen. In a nod to their near-145th year of publication, Harper's Bazaar has put together a collection of their covers dating back to 1867, when fashion publications relied entirely on illustrations. We have an exclusive preview of the issue, which is chock-full of iconic drawings and images; we also chatted with Glenda Bailey about the challenges of creating cover concepts today.

Would you ever do another illustrated cover?
I would love to do an illustrated cover. We encourage illustration in the magazine, and yes, absolutely I would consider an illustration for the cover. The thing is, we really try to produce timely covers, and obviously with photography, you have the immediacy. Also, we get fabulous access to models and celebrities, so we want to use that. But if the situation were right, I would love to use an illustration for the cover.

What's an example of an illustration that could work for a cover image?
It would have to be something very timely. A few years ago, when the Simpsons movie came out, we got their illustrators to do illustrated version of the collections that had shown that season, like Chanel and Versace. We could have easily put one of those illustrations on the cover. That's the sort of very timely thing that we would consider.

One could argue that, with all the photo editing technology that's used these days, a lot of photographed covers have an illustrative quality.
Well, we try to do as little as retouching on covers as possible, because we want it to be real and immediate. We use photographers who are, by nature, very light with retouching. For example, Peter Lindbergh famously did a set of portraits for us of supermodels without makeup, completely un-retouched. But on the other hand, we also work with another photographer, Jean-Paul Goude, whose art form is indeed Photoshop. Some people actually think that he invented the art form of, as he likes to call it, "French Correction." He creates — he almost paints — by manipulating his images, and that's how he chooses to express his creativity. And that's his point of view, and his images can be staggeringly fabulous. But to say that retouched photographs are similar to illustrations would be too much of a generalization.

You were one of the first fashion magazines to create separate newsstand and subscriber covers in 2004. How did that idea come about?
Well, I started it with the January issue in 2004, and then February 2004 was the first time that we did two completely different cover concepts. I'm ashamed to tell you that it took me 16 years of being an editor-in-chief to work this out, and we were the first. For magazines like Bazaar, there's a very loyal subscriber base who knows all that Bazaar stands for as a fashion magazine and prefers a more artful image on the subscriber copy. And then for the newsstand, you're attracting new readers who don't necessarily know all about the content of your magazine. So therefore, you're producing a poster to catch their eye amongst all the competition. This has been such a successful formula, and at the time I was very criticized for doing it, but now many magazines have started to create this themselves, which I just think is the greatest form of flattery.

Newsstand covers have been accused of becoming increasingly homogeneous. Do you agree?
First and foremost, for a magazine to be successful, it must sell. As Tom Ford used to say, "It's not a successful fashion collection unless it sells," and that's the same for a magazine. You want to produce an eye-catching cover that is going to capture the attention of your potential reader. But that doesn't mean that you don't want to be creative. I wanted to use some of that great imagery that we feature inside the magazine and put it on the cover, and that's why I came up with the two-cover concept.

Do you try to avoid having the same pieces of clothing on your cover as other magazines?
Well, we always want to shows the greatest looks of the season, and often, people at different magazines have the same opinions about the best looks from each collection. The key is really how you choose to feature it. We try to come up with cover concepts that are completely original no matter what clothes are in it. For example, last year, the Alexander McQueen collection was so exceptional, and we wanted to feature it in a very meaningful way on our cover. So I had this idea to do something very surreal, almost like a Dali landscape, so we got a beach and a giraffe and we convinced Demi Moore to climb a very unstable staircase going into the sky in her 10-inch Armadillo shoes. And of course, that Alexander McQueen collection had been featured in many magazines, but none of them in an image like ours. And that cover won an ASME.

Bazaar did some iconic covers with Princess Diana. Have you looked into having Kate Middleton on your cover?
Well, Kate is a very beautiful young woman, and we've been very fortunate to show some of the great Kates on our cover — Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett — and it would be a great pleasure to have Kate Middleton on our cover.

Photo: Hearst Magazines

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