Fashion Magazines: Women's, Glossy, Art | What's The Difference?

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I must say I enjoy discovering the politics behind the fashion industry. Recently, I've made extensive research about fashion magazines, their  purpose and how they distinct. In this article, I will talk about the difference between women's and niche (art & fashion) magazines.




First of all, fashion magazines are not all the same. The first group - women's magazines - I believe you are very well aware of, as these are the magazines which surround us in every waiting room. Duffy (2013) describes women’s magazines as a mirror to the Western social life, “blending entertainment and advertising content” and including sections such as advice columns, fashion recommendations, and insight to the stereotypes of feminine identity. Their content has far from art, and their main aim to target as many women as they can and create engaging content for such audience and make money out of the high number or advertisements included in the magazine. Personally, I don't find much of a value in articles about 'New Trends of this Summer' or 'Your Sexy Evening Look'. Do you? Surprise, surprise - the initial aim is not to educate you what to wear, but to make you to buy new clothes. The content is produced with the commercial purpose. These magazine's often follow certain stereotypes, which often - sadly - Western audiences like to see. Along to to McCracken (1993) such readers participate in a contraction of the idealised images. Women's magazines strictly follow the Western beauty standards. There are other issues, such as lack of inclusivity amongst the captured models, and proposing the 'one and only' ideal lifestyle and values every successful women should have. Readers constantly exposed to such content will have their perceptions and attitudes affected by those magazines. Examples of these magazines are: Elle, Vogue (although Vogue's content radically vary depending on the country of production), Harpers Bazaar. 

On the contrary, independent magazines  are more critical towards the mainstream attitudes generally and they are usually excluded of advice sections. Their approach is rather experimental, with different style of photography, styling, writing and graphic design.  The commercial aspects are sidelined.   Furthermore, Lynge-Jorlén (2012) identifies independent magazines in two distinct sub-genres: Glossy niche magazines (for example POP magazine) which depict fashion as something frivolous, while the other sub-genre, art fashion magazines, fashion is perceived on the same intellectual level as art. Independent fashion magazines are positioned outside the mainstream of fashion media. They emerged in the 1990s, they are often printed in a limited amount and aim to link art and fashion together. Examples: Buffalo-Zine, Dazed, I-d, Re-Edition, Curated by... 

Jorlén (2012) claims, that these magazines are produced by professionals working in the image industry and consumers are the same people, or an audience with a very specific lifestyle with an interest in art; photography, styling, design, and fashion. “They mix mainstream popular culture with art and high fashion — and the clothes featured are innovative and avant-garde items from the new collections of high fashion labels. As such niche fashion magazines merge edge and elite, bridging the avant-garde and the establishment.” (Lynge-Jorlén 2012, p.9)

Jorlén (2012) claims, that these magazines are produced by professionals working in the image industry and consumers are the same people, or an audience with a very specific lifestyle with an interest in art; photography, styling, design and fashion. “They mix mainstream popular culture with art and high fashion — and the clothes featured are innovative and avant-garde items from the new collections of high fashion labels. As such niche fashion magazines merge edge and elite, bridging the avant-garde and the establishment.” (Lynge-Jorlén 2012, p.9)

Having looked at these niche magazines, they don't include as many advertisements as women's magazines and are produced in a very limited amount. So where do these magazines get money to run their business? Niche Magazines cost more money. But that's still not enough. The truth is, that many niche magazines are not profitable business and the content creators run them on the top of their full-time job; the magazines are driven by passion, not commerce. Being independent of resources from advertisements allow these magazines to create content freely, with no restrictions and focus on bring real value to its pages. Other independent magazines manage to produce work within a small team, they might include more adverts than the not-profitable magazines, more advertorials ( = an advert with an editorial layout and story), generated a work on a thigh budget and actually make some profit to its editors & the rest of the tam. However, they prefer to sustain their high symbolic value and keep their small readership over producing the majority of their content with nothing than for commercial purposes - as it's happening in women's magazines.

In the end, I must stress that I am not trying to criticise editors & producers of women's magazines, as I understand that in some countries, for example in my home-country Czechia, these are only magazines providing work opportunity within the fashion magazines sector and I can only imagine, how hard it must be to work under the restrictions coming from above of what should content include or not. I've seen a few issues of Vogue CS, and I am proud to say that it's one of the most ' values bringing' women's magazines I've seen. I believe that bringing conscious and educated people to create responsible, socially and politically aware, inclusive and sensible content for women's magazines, will have a bigger impact on the society, than producing new niche magazines, which have a very small and distinct audience - and those are usually the people, culturally, politically and socially aware, whose attitudes and opinions don't need to be really challenged... I do think that we should judge each magazine individually, but be equally critical to all of them.

PS.: I wrote an essay discovering this topic in depth and analysing visual examples. In case you want to read it, just hit me up here or e-mail me. x


Ane Lynge-Jorlén (2012) Between Frivolity and Art: Contemporary Niche Fashion Magazines, Fashion Theory, 16:1, 7-28, Available at: https://doi.org/10.2752/175174112X13183318404104 (Accessed: 15 Dec 2019). 

McCracken, E. (1993). Decoding Women’s Magazine. London: Macmillan, chapter 1.

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