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Money. Power. Prestige. With so much at stake, Anna Wintour of Vogue and Liz Tilberis of Harper's Bazaar are locked in a . . . : Clash of the Titans

May 17, 1992|MARY ROURKE | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

To lead the charge, Tilberis was reportedly offered the $1.2-million mega-salary--although Bazaar officials will not confirm it--with perks including the education of her two preteen sons. (Tilberis has denied receiving a seven-figure salary. And indeed the going rate for a fashion magazine editor's salary is estimated at $300,000 to $500,000.)

Ten top editors got swept off the Bazaar staff as Tilberis prepared to build her own hand-picked team. The coup was not a complete surprise. With steadily falling ad pages--down to 1,051 in 1991 from 1,426 the year before--and a widely held view that the magazine has lost its identity, changes seemed inevitable.

"Bazaar was so notoriously bad they wanted to make a statement," said Annie Flanders about the clean sweep. Flanders, now a Los Angeles-based style consultant, founded Details magazine and recently sold it to Conde Nast. "What they did was brutal. But I understand the need to get the people you like to work with you."

Now, the new key players seem to be in place. Tilberis named Paul Cavaco, a high-powered New York publicist, as fashion director; Fabien Baron, who worked at Italian Vogue, as creative director, and his wife, Sci Sci Gambaccini as senior fashion editor.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 28, 1992 Home Edition View Part E Page 4 Column 3 View Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong circulation figure--An article about fashion magazines in View on May 17 gave an incorrect circulation figure for Mirabella magazine. The correct figure for 1991 is 560,563.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 28, 1992 Home Edition View Part E Page 4 Column 3 View Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong circulation figure--An article about fashion magazines in View on May 17 gave an incorrect circulation figure for Mirabella magazine. The correct figure for 1991 is 560,563.

But Tilberis' most audacious move was to snatch Patrick DeMarchelier away from Vogue, where he topped Wintour's short list of favorite photographers.

While things have been popping at Harper's Bazaar, they haven't exactly been quiet at Vogue.

As Tilberis moved to Manhattan, Wintour was heading a victory tour across two continents.

To celebrate her magazine's 100th anniversary--as well as the industry's No. 1 ranking in circulation, ads and popularity--Wintour hosted a party that swaggered from Milan to Paris and on to New York.

The New York bash was held in the palatial public library on Fifth Avenue and kicked off a display of 100 years of Vogue photographs. More proof that New York had become one big Vogue entourage was a window at Bloomingdale's, dominated by a Wintour-mannekin, wearing her signature black sunglasses and brown bobbed hair.

Statistics tell the story of Vogue's success more objectively. Vogue's circulation is 1.2 million, while Harper's Bazaar's is 700,000. Translated to last year's ad revenues, that is almost $103 million for Vogue and less than one-third that, just under $31 million, for Harper's Bazaar.

"Harper's is in trouble," said Dan Foote, media planning director for Davis, Ball and Colombatto, a Los Angeles ad agency. "Once an advertiser wouldn't think of overlooking them. Now, you easily could."

But the fact is, Bazaar isn't the only one in trouble. Across the country, fashion magazines face a soft economy, an increasing serious-mindedness and rising reader preference for narrow-niche publications ("I read muscle magazines first," one Los Angeles fashion boutique owner said).

More important, advertisers are looking for alternate ways to promote their products. They're cutting back on ads in the glossies and investing in mass market.

"Retailers don't believe anymore that an ad in a fashion magazine will send people streaming into their store," said Foote. "The '90s are the value decade. Advertisers have to get a pay-back for ads. Image has become secondary."

At Escada, a vast fashion empire with 10 divisions under its roof, marketing vice president Sydney Brooks said the increase in options for advertisers is creating a challenge for magazines. Among the competition: cable TV, outdoor advertising and direct mail.

With so much going so wrong, you might expect Tilberis to seem worried. But perched in a taupe-and-black office at Harper's Bazaar, she beamed with enthusiasm during a recent interview.

"I'd like to broaden things," she said, describing her plans for the magazine. "America sees itself as supplying everything on its own. Not that I'm for international European fashion exclusively, but there is room for more of it."

She also wants to expand coverage of arts and women's issues.

But before any of this can be set in motion, there is that awkward matter concerning "the embargo," as she calls it.

After Tilberis accepted her new job in January, Wintour put out an all-points bulletin to her regular photographers and writers: If they work for Harper's Bazaar, they will be banned from every Conde Nast publication worldwide.

"We've had to talk severely to the photographers," Tilberis said, as confident as a child's take-charge nurse. "We'll show them the magazine and let them weigh out how much they'd miss Conde Nast."

Now that she has wrestled photographer DeMarchelier from Wintour, it would be silly to imagine Tilberis poses no threat. Rumor has it she is now after Steven Meisel, another Vogue photographer.

Despite Vogue's tremendous lead and Wintour's favored edge, people on the creative side of the fashion magazine business seem to genuinely like working with Tilberis.

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