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BY DESIGN : Q & A : David Lauren : Young Blood

October 27, 1994

When the first issue of Swing magazine hits newsstands this week, it will join a host of publications trying to voice the concerns and interests of Generation X. What separates Swing from the competition is its 22-year-old editor and publisher--David Lauren, son of designer and marketing genius Ralph Lauren.

While the younger Lauren won't say if dear old Dad is among the private investors backing Swing, the magazine's impressive initial circulation of 100,000 and distribution deal with Hearst make it clear the famous name didn't hurt. And the name of the magazine? Swing, explains Lauren, is what the nation's 46 million 18- to 29-year-olds can do to an election. With that notion of power in mind, it's not surprising that profiles of America's most powerful twentysomethings are offered up in the first issue.

Question: What's the point of the magazine?

Answer: It's a reaction to the times in which we're living. It's to say to my peers: Everybody thinks this generation of Americans is lazy or unimaginative. I'm going to show you that young people today are intelligent, worldly, curious and they're looking for something to inspire them.

Q: There were no magazines that did this?

A: I looked around and saw that no one had put together a magazine that I could take seriously. Magazines targeting my age were mostly about music, fashion, celebrity gossip, horoscopes. They were saying the only way to target this group is to do MTV-style trendy downtown images. What I'm doing is a reaction to hip-hop and all the crazy graphics that go through a page and are very distracting. I'm saying there's a huge America out there that looks for quality reading. My goal is to do it clean and honestly, with simple integrity.

Q: With the debut of Swing, you came out with a magazine before your father could publish his magazine, Lauren.

A: We're a little astounded ourselves. It seemed like it was going to take us longer. Things that were supposed to be difficult were easy, and things that we thought would take us an hour took three days. We're proud we were finished by this date.

Q: What did your father say?

A: I just showed it to him for the first time just a few days ago. He thought it was fantastic. My parents were very proud.

Q: It's obvious he wishes you well--his companies have six ads in the debut issue. He's not an investor?

A: It's all private investors. I can't say who they are.

Q: Was he an influence on any part of the magazine?

A: Naturally, in the sense that I grew up in that world and was inspired by things that my father has done. But this is something for people in their 20s. It had to be done by us. My father didn't want to become too involved. He wanted us to do it by ourselves because we understood the market. He's too busy. The magazine really has nothing to do with my father at all.

Q: You grew up in privilege, while many of your readers, one would assume, are struggling.

A: My parents kept us very well grounded. They grew up without any money and tried to instill in us that we'd have to make it on our own. I walked to school every day and saw the homeless on the street. I went to Duke, one of the best schools in the country, but I was exposed to people who didn't have enough money to finish school. The people I portrayed in the magazine are people who are not from a particular background, but who've succeeded at something based on their own creative merit and their own energy. That's what I admire.

Q: Having a famous father seems like it could only be an asset and door opener. Is this the case?

A: It works both ways. Some people expect you're going to carry on a tradition of quality and integrity. But there's always somebody out there who doesn't feel you can do it on your own.

Q: Why don't you have fashion spreads?

A: We're not a fashion magazine, although there might be a statement about style that we can make through a story about someone in fashion. We're a general-interest magazine, a lifestyle magazine. I tried to create a smart magazine to express who we are in a positive way. And to deal with the issues as they affect us.

You're only going to read about politics, for example, because it has something to do with your life. Take something as offbeat as the S&L scandal--most young people wouldn't care to read about it because it has nothing to do with them. But if you can take the story and explain how that's going to affect college loans, getting your first job, starting a business, paying the mortgage on your home or getting married--all of a sudden it's pertinent to your life.

Q: Politics and business seem to be the gist of Swing. But there are some titillating tidbits on sex, alcohol and rock 'n' roll. It's interesting to see pieces on new, nearly lethal bar drinks, cigar smoking and rock climbing juxtaposed with stories on urban sexual myths and retirement plans. What a message of immortality versus mortality.

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