Mags: Grazia's glossy debut

The recurring thought I had while sifting through the 172 glossy pages of Grazia is 'How the heck are they going to be able to deliver one of these every week?'. Seriously, it's a lot of content. There are a lot of ads, too, mind – 58 ad pages in total, plus 9 promotional/marketing pages = 39% of pages. Still, I've no doubt the team is lacking in the sleep department. And there's confirmation on the Ed's letter page (which could have used another sub). Former Harper's BAZAAR editor Alison Veness-McGourty leads in with:

"There are rumours doing the rounds that I get up at 4am to do this job. Well, honestly, I mean it's just not true. 4am is when I go to bed."

There are 36 full-time editorial staff working to bring us Grazia each week under the guidance of workaholic (and mum) Veness-McGourty, in addition to seven contributors/correspondents, 14 advertising staff, two production staff and the highly paid suits at ACP/PBL, Hearst and Mondadori Magazines who oversee the whole shebang. For the sake of all this talent, and the sheer passion of McGourty and her hard-working team, I hope the magazine's high-end style of fashion/celebrity/gloss, mixed with NW-style goss and, of course, Kate Moss, resonates with the Australian magazine buyer (and, of course, advertisers whose budgets are, no doubt, a little trimmer this financial year).

Journey with me as I flick from front to back...
  • High-end labels Louis Vuitton (super-shiny gatefold: show offs) and Prada lure us into the glossy world of Grazia. Clearly, this is a magazine for the career girl/fashionista/supermum who buys Harper's BAZAAR or Vogue and is looking for a weekly dose of similar content to satiate her desire for the new, celebrity gossip (in chic surroundings) and inspiration for hitting the shops (like she needs another excuse!).
  • Zac Posen poses with models backstage on the Contents page, which is followed by beauty ads for L'Oreal's Infallible Lip Duo Compact, Elizabeth Arden, Clinique (love the pretty ad for Nude Blush) and Rimmel London (featuring... Kate Moss! Total number of Mossy pics inside this issue: 6).
  • In her editor's letter, AVM tells us what her magazine is all about: "It's about being gorgeous, glamorous, it's about gosh!! It's about a rip-roaring stellar (Stella...) read that hopefully with enthral you and appal you with its intensity... we may be in the grip of a recession, but we will walk through it together, from the cheap and chic, clever and canny buys to the most expensive purchases... I want Grazia to be a must-read for all your news and your shoes, to give you celebrity with integrity and glamour; plus the very best mix of fashion and beauty... like a good book you can't put down."
  • 'The Week in 10' presents us with 10 covetable fashion items, which is totally boring, though I like the inclusion of art editor Sarah Birnbauer's 'must list' (YSL bag, Luella top, Lee jeans) and can see it serves a purpose. I think they can do better.
  • Next up is fashion features director Edwina McCann's 'Shoes with news!' column, where she tells us she's ditching her all-black uniform in favour of colour, inspired by Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned. A small tribute to Marcs designer Mark Keighery also.
  • The four-page cover story 'Why Kate won't change for anyone' is really just an excuse for us to check out Mossy in a bikini, with those ubiquitous on-the-yacht holiday shots padded out with a story about her breakup with Jamie Hince, her apparent reluctance to settle down and her BFF Davinia Taylor.
  • Other features include 'Elle: 'Love is imperative', three-pages on the supermodel in light of Arki's relationship with Uma ("I've got a fabulous life. I am in a fantastic space and I feel confident and blessed." Not even just a little peeved?) and 'Madonna's brother speaks exclusively to Grazia'. I'm so over looking at/hearing about Madonna that I skip over it and while I like to look at pretty pictures of Elle, I don't care for reading about her (can't relate on any level – and she always comes across as kind of aloof).
  • Jodhi Meares, holding a very large eagle, is given three pages to explain why she opted out of hosting the Next Top Model final (we're not given anything really new to munch on – we know she's not an entertainer and loathes the spotlight). She's a pretty bland subject, though, for some reason she appeals to me.
  • The first serious feature is 'Zimbabwe: Will life ever be normal again?' a first-person account by Cathy Buckle of life under Robert Mugabe's regime.
  • 'Grazia: This Just In' is next, written by Edwina McCann, who is glad she's not Angelina Jolie this week (McCann also has twins) and says if Angelina starts to look emaciated soon it's because of the double workload (no mention of her entourage of carers).
  • Grazia Exclusive: 'Like, totally epic' is two pages devoted to the Australia costume wardrobe. Yawn.
  • 'Confessions of a celebrity stylist' is a first-person piece by Erin Vincent, who went to LA to fulfill a dream and got a fill of celebrity crap (many actors are "spoilt, demanding and just plain tiresome", can you believe?). Revealing comments about J.Lo and Gisele and a revelation that the American dream ain't all it's cracked up to be. Good read.
  • Tabloid fodder comes via 'I begged them to make him stop', another first-person piece; this time by midwife Robin Moon who worked alongside 'butcher' obstetrician Graeme Reeves.
  • Nivea has gone to town with a six-page ad spread.
  • Aussie model Alexandra Agostan pens 'The Princess Diaries', giving us her account of modelling for Dior.
  • 'Cult blogger' Ugly Debty (current total debt $131,373.87) gets some publicity with her as-told-to contribution 'In the red! I blew $130k on Jimmy Choos'. She's kept her debt a secret from her family and friends and banker husband (the ultimate deception!) and instead is blogging her way back into the black. Handy hints on reducing debt are included. She makes me feel positively saintly.
  • We enter the fashion section via ads for Covergirl, Just Jeans and Diet Coke and a giant still-life picture of a Brit-inspired Chanel handbag. This is followed by two pages of artfully displayed pumps, a full-page picture of Nicole Richie in ballet flats, a page of ballet flats, a page in tribute to a pair of $2070 Louis Vuitton pumps, a rather uninspiring picture of Kate Moss toting a Mulberry Smithfield bag accompanied by seven similar black bags for us to choose from, a page of metallic bags, a page of totes in shades of yellow, tan and burnt orange, a page devoted to Prada's lace bags and a page of purses.
  • We then get 'Tagged & bagged!', a page breaking down the outfit details of a celebrity (Jennifer Hawkins in Dior this week), 'Style Dash', a single outfit idea, 'G!Rated', fashion director Mark Vassallo's nod to printed dresses available at Myer, 'Quick Fix', another single outfit idea, a page promoting and a three page ad for Dotti (Target and Wheels & Dollbaby also have pages attached to the section).

  • The first fashion spread, 'It's only rock & roll', runs over 12 pages and features model Louise Van de Vorst, Daniel Johns' girlfriend (way to get some work by association!), who vamps it up in leopard print, fishnet tights, skinny jeans, feathers, fluoro heels, red lipstick and a lot of bling.
  • The second shoot, 'Under the influence', is decidedly more demure (in contrast to the headline), which references Yves Saint Laurent's major collections. Very clever.
  • Sportsgirl gets a two-page promotion (there's a Grazia Fashion Cupboard in select stores). Avon's up next (two pages) and O.P.I's ad leads into beauty and health director Lucinda Pitt's column on her age awakening.
  • 'The new rules' is a four-page beauty feature (three hot looks to love this season – berry lips, golden eyes, satiny skin) with backstage shots, instructions and product suggestions; 'G!Rated' is Lucinda Pitt's pick of smoky eye makeup buys; 'The best beauty advice you'll ever get' is two pages of insider knowledge, again by Lucinda, which gives us the 411 on finding expert colourists, manicurists and facialists; and 'One wonderful find' is Giorgio Armani's Designer Modelling Compact Foundation ($94).
  • The health feature is 'Busting the health myths!', which tackles 10 myths, such as 'you should stretch before you exercise' to 'wearing glasses makes your eyesight worse', which I found to be informative (lots of expert quotes) – possibly the best value feature so far.
  • 'My name's Wendy and I'm a drunkorexic' is about a binge drinker who skips meals (get drunk and forget you're hungry!). Deeply disturbing, though I'm not one to judge women's unusual eating habits (I have a few of my own quirks!). A stark warning about getting into the weighing yourself game: "Now I weigh myself every morning. If I put on a few kilos I'm disappointed, but it soon comes off if I'm on a 'drinking, no food' day." Sadly, for many women, the mission is weight loss, not health, so our bodies suffer – the long-term health implications rarely get a look-in. Food for thought.
  • In stark contrast, Matthew Evans' 'Out of the pantry' food column, in which he recounts 'five days in the life of the ultimate foodie', gives us reasons to be excited about eating. His writing is (for want of a better word) yummy. On his preparation of Granny Smith apples: "I core them from the top using a melon-baller... crack a few of autumn's walnuts... I push chunks of them into the apples' holes, add a dot of butter, then pile as much brown sugar on top as the apple will hold. What cascades to the tray mingles with juice from the apple and the occasional dribble of butter." Hungry yet? Evans also shares my love of Sirena Tuna in Oil, so now I admire him even more (foodie crush!). Possibly by favourite page so far. And it's followed by an ad for my chocolate of choice – Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate.
  • The 'Well Travelled' page gives us five destinations to consider for cocktail hour, while 'My French Love Affair' is Collette Dinnigan's gastronomic/accommodation/spa recommendations written in 'Dear Grazia' letter format.
  • 'Grazia Girls OS' is two pages of columns from the magazine's London and New York correspondents, Aussies Elizabeth Colman and Anna Johnson respectively. I enjoyed the escapism and visual pictures both writers painted. Good read.
  • Catherine Martin (costume designer) gets five pages to take us through the opulent home she shares with husband Baz Luhrmann.
  • 'See Watch Do' is a page of entertainment bits (two short film reviews; a festival to attend; and single TV, book, album, art and music reviews). This is followed by a two-page feature on The Dark Knight.
  • 'Meet the BrIT Girls' is up next, which profiles the "new wave of brash young things who have taken over the clubs, A-list parties – and the headlines." The roll call includes Pixie Geldof, Peaches Geldof, Daisy Lowe, Agyness Deyn, Nathalie Press, Ben Grimes-Viort, Alice Dellal, Alexa Chung and Jaime Winstone.
  • Promo pages and star signs round out the issue, with 'Oh goodie!' the last page ("each week we're giving away a stunning It bag jam-packed with luxe goodies!"), followed by an ad for Portmans and the Estee Lauder back cover.
All this leads me to ask, is Grazia necessary? Are we getting anything here we can't get elsewhere (blogs, mags, websites, newspapers...)? Is it strong enough to supplement some of our other magazine purchases? Could it become an 'only buy' for some women? Will I wait with desperation for it to land each Monday at my newsagency?

Grazia is essentially a blending of Shop Til You Drop, WHO weekly, Famous, OK!, the newspaper supplements (like Sunday magazine and Body & Soul) that I adore, and, perhaps, UK ELLE or Australia's own Harper's BAZAAR. As a committed magazine buyer/blogger, I'll be sticking with it for as long as my budget allows. Though I'm not overly excited by this debut issue, it definitely has the potential to be a weekly must-read.

At the moment, it seems to be servicing advertisers as much as wooing readers, which I don't think is safe. I'm in awe of the amazing team that has been pulled together to put the magazine out – some of Australia's best writing and styling talent – but the magazine seems to be lacking spark. Is it humour? Wit? Too many bland features? Too many sparse still-life pages? Too many first-person columns? Is it taking itself too seriously? Is it trying to be all things when all it really wants to do is go shopping and find a new lipstick?

I love the idea of a weekly magazine devoted entirely to the materialistic pastime of shopping and improving one's makeup bag and wardrobe, alongside some meaty features and celebrity gossip (a la Marie Claire), yet I'm left wanting. Quite simply, it doesn't inspire me to shop.

You know what I'd like to see? I never thought I'd say this, but more celebrity pictures (with accompanying still-life and/or style suggestions) – but this is, perhaps, because that's what I've come to expect from a weekly. I'd also love more bitsy/scrapbooky trend compilation pages, insider interviews (I'm a sucker for features where we get invited into the wardrobe of a chic woman), street style pictures (surely Sydney is fertile photography ground, in addition to NYC, Paris London and Rome), a page (or several) of chain-store must-haves (perhaps there could be three levels of must-haves: chain-store, designer, high-end designer), workwear suggestions/lunch-time buys (like UK ELLE), beauty looks to try for the week and fashion/shopping news, in addition to some escapism via the travel section express.

Overall excitement factor: 6
Feel-good factor: 4/5
Eye-candy rating: 3/4

Kudos to the team and looking forward to watching the Grazia evolution!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Anonymous said...

HiPS PS There. I too whipped out to buy Grazia, because i'm always happy when a new mag launches in Australia. My first thoughts? A rip-off, at $5, and for a weekly. No quality to the pages or the styling, covers,, hurried feel (of writing) BUT, in its defense, it doesn't actually make me feel dirty like the last time i bought FAMOUS (which is, actually, such a nasty magazine).
I thought with a title like Grazia (European, exotic), and the post-Harpers team, it would be a bit more stylish. But, alas, i actually think Ok! services this weekly market a lot better. Still, it's early days...thanks for the review
Oh! PS Have you seen IN Style this month? The cover is fairly bland and i looked at their masthead and they seem to be working on skeleton staff...looking forward to your review of that one!

Anonymous said...

Your review is spot on Erica!!!! I also felt that the magazine lacked something - that X factor that meant I could not put it down. I don't think I could read this magazine in one sitting - at the moment, there's not enough content and visuals there to hold my interest for that long. However, will give it a go for a couple of months. I thought your suggestions for content were excellent and would definately make me want to read it.

Style On Track said...

I am with anonymous, for a weekly magazine $5 is too much to spend. The magazine is nice and thick but that is a bit deceiving considering the amount of ads, not to mention double page ads (ah!) I also agree with yourself and Megan that the magazine lacks something, I finished reading it and felt like i hadnt really been inspired and the articles wern't overly new ideas

Great review as always :)

Anonymous said...

gwas -
as well as your review being exactly as to what i felt (i'm 17!) whilst i was reading through the much anticipated Grazia, i'd like to thankyou for presenting this review in dot point form!
sounds like such a silly thing but i find myself just skimming through your more recent reviews which are written in huge chunks of words, rather than your older reviews which were in dot points and oh-so-easy to read and take in!

- a daily reader (& lover!) of gwas.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I rushed out this morning to buy it after reading so much about it... and was oh so disappointed.
Most of it felt like a glorified shopping catalogue whilst the 'serious' articles were not things I was interested in reading.
I agree with you- the food page was definitely my favourite page (and made my tummy rumble).
$5 isn't much if it is a good mag, but it certainly feels like a lot right now!!!
I will be flipping through next weeks issue at the newsagency before making a decision to purchase.

Unknown said...

I feel what anon is saying but I think what's great about FAMOUS is it doesn't take itself too seriously while maybe Grazia needs to inject a bit more personality. I think the personal pieces, like the one from Edwina McCann, help to do this.

Apples said...

Great review.

While something does seem to be missing I think it will find its feet. People may have expected with this much money and pressure it would be perfect from the get-go but magazines need time and reader feedback to get it right. I will give it more time.

$5 is a good price. The monthlies have been cut from my budget (hello free reading at Borders), $8 plus for Marie Claire is ridiculous. $5 leaves me feeling less guilty if I want something to read on the tram.

I like the concept, they have a good chance of survival being different to the other weeklies, most likely NW or Famous who don't pay for exclusives.

Blogs are more of a worry to the other weeklies. You can't get all your fashion/beauty/lifestyle/news from the one blog, few are comprehensive enough or local enough. You can however get all your celebrity news from one or two places, i.e. Perez.

Grazia and the economy will kill off one of the celebrity weeklies this year is my bet.

Please in the next issue no whining in the editor's letter. I'm sure you're working very hard but there is nothing more tedious than reading about how tired/hardworking/hard done by the editor/team is. You are writing for more than the industry/mag obessed girls.

Lady Melbourne said...

Great review!
I used to buy the British version when I lived in London and I could justify the 1 pound or what ever it was price tag, but I did find after a couple of months in production that as you put it, 'it seems to be servicing advertisers as much as wooing readers, which I don't think is safe.'
I hope the Ausssie version can live up to expectations, but for $5 a week it would have to be pretty bloody good.
I love this blog!

Top bird said...

Thanks for such a meaty review, GWAS. I was gagging for this post as I can't get my mitts on the debut Oz issue over here in London.

Loving the sound of Matthew Evans' column (I'm a fan from his SMH Good Living days) and looking forward to seeing more from Edwina McCann (always admired her style).

It will be interesting to see how it all evolves over the next few months. xx

Anonymous said...

I also rushed out to buy the magazine today. I'm in WA and throughout the day went to 3 different newsagents in 3 wide-spread suburbs and none had it. At the final newsagent, a representative from (mag distributor) Gordon and Gotch was there who told the retailer (and myself who was eves dropping) that the GRAZIA was due to come out today in WA, but "for some reason it's been delayed to Wednesday".

Poor planning for a launch issue, I think.

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Anonymous said...

oh my golly i can't wait. we haven't got it here yet in hobart -- GRRRR!!! -- i just rang my local supermarket and they said hopefully tomorrow. wow the page count sounds huge for a weekly -- they won't sustain it. your reviews and scans leave me breathless with anticipation, especially after readign the other comments.

Anonymous said...

i knew it wasn't going to be flash hot when on the editors letter page they recommended coloured ray-bans as being hot for the new season!!! isn't this ment to be a fashion forward magazine?? (and also the part about cut off jeans for summer... ummm hasn't everyone been wearing them every summer?)

the website colours also are nothing new... pink, grey + silver(white) colour scheme is absolutley everywhere (first issue of Art World for example)... you'd think they would have come up with something new....
i had much higher expectations from such a hgihly qualified team, and all those ads just seem like they are mocking you as the reader...
hopefully it can only get better!

Anonymous said...

Forking out $5 EVERY week is insane no matter how good it will be (which it it NOT at the moment....) Maybe they should make it at least a fortnightly or a monthly like some of their international editions and also I felt the website which is free to browse pretty much gave the same feel/ideas as the magazine so like why pay for it every week?? Just for pretty ads?? In comparison the monthlies are looking much better value for money ;p

Anonymous said...

Wow!! She is looking amazing in these dresses!!

Anonymous said...

I thought the same thing about Grazia. I was disappointed, and was surprised to see the list of staff. 170 (incl front and back page), including the 59 adverts. I thought it was over the top and it didn't know what it wanted to be yet. Some of the articles weren't up to date. Angelina was last week, and Kate Moss as a highlight? It's cheaper to buy Vogue on a monthly basis than fork out five dollars a week.

I thought New Woman was better. What do women decide? or do they buy every weekly magazine? Grazia is yet to find its identity. The UK site is quite minimal in terms of content, and the UK subscription offer may indicate that the mag isn't that popular, at one pound per issue.

Anonymous said...

It's such a let-down, poorly constructed and even more poorly written. Even the Editor's letter alienates me.

Anonymous said...

I used to buy Grazia in the UK and have to say I loved it...however the celeb culture is everywhere over there. For instance I'd much rather read about Elle at a fabulous London party than say Lara Bingle at the Grazia Launch... Yawn! A-list celeb I think not.
Just to let you know also- the first version of Grazia in the Uk too was thick and adequate for the asking price. Each version following became half the length and I wouldn't be surprised if that's what happens here...

One thing is Grazia UK at least contained a bit more fashion content at the high street price point, why does every magazine in Australia serve up the luxury brands every chance they get... We all know how fabulous designer clothing is but finding something nice at cheaper prices- well that's of interest to most of us...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your review! When I read the mag (didn't get my hands on till today) I wasn't sure if it was just me thinking there was something missing from Grazia, but now I know other people feel the same way. The features were pretty shoddy to be honest - they could probably have had less features, but longer ones that were meatier and I hate to say it, more well written. Despite Grazia's high-energy layout, the features seemed as if they were written when the writer was half-asleep.
I did like the fashion spread with Daniel Johns' girlfriend though, great inspiration for a night out (JUST inspiration). And I LOVED the food section, cannot WAIT to try out those apples!
I guess Grazia was tying too hard to be everywhere at once, and in the end it just missed out.

p.s. I liked the price! $5 is such a convenient price - no need for fiddly change or anything! I think I'm just lazy though...

Anonymous said...

Your review is absolutely spot-on Erica. Also, they should hire you on a consulting basis as your suggestions were excellent!

Having recently returned from living in the UK (where my addiction to UK Grazia bordered on the pathological) I was eagerly awaiting the OZ edition and when I got hold of a copy on Monday I was truly disappointed. In one word: Underwhelmed. Where is the wit and spark that the UK version has in spades? The cover is terrible, the masthead size and fonts in general...the cover would not 'sell' the magazine to me. I would have thought the art direction would have been fairly easy to get right as they are really just copying the UK edition but it is truly terrible in parts. There are far too many long and boring features and I agree that they are taking themselves WAY to seriously. How ridiculous is the editor's head shot?!? Also, the fashion editor wearing shades in his??? Literally too cool for school. I thought the reference to Daniel John's in the shoot with his girlfriend was beyond naff- it's not a teen magazine.

Furthermore, rather than coming across as a pale imitation of the British version I was really hoping that they would find a distinctly Australian 'voice'- even the inclusion of some Aussie vernacular would have endeared me. There weren't enough high-street buys either which is what makes the UK one so great. Admittedly the British high street is truly fantastic and one of a kind but I think there could have been some more affordable inclusions on the fashion pages. Clearly, the cover story was just an excuse to put Kate Moss on the cover as she will always sell a magazine...undoubtedly a shrewd marketing decision. What makes it even more ridiculous is that I'm pretty certain she hasn't even broken up with Jamie Hince. Also, who care's about Elle??? Thought the food page was great. End rant.