Fashion and feminism are key to 'new' Marie Claire says editorial director
French women’s magazine Marie Claire ushered in its new editorial approach on May 3, introducing a breath of #nouvelair, as its latest social media campaign described it. Marie Claire now has a stronger fashion focus, and is keen to forge closer links between the print and digital editions. Above all, Marie Claire wants to attract more readers and advertisers, after posting a 4.69% decline in total circulation in 2017. Marianne Mairesse, Editor-in-Chief since 2014, then promoted Editorial Director last year, spoke to FashionNetwork.com about Marie Claire’s new direction.
FashionNetwork.com: What can you tell us about this redesign?
Marianne Mairesse: In 2016, we devised a new format for the magazine. But I felt the need to work on its aesthetic again this year, hand in hand with our new Creative Director, Oisin Orlandi, who joined us last January. We have created a new Marie Claire, and there’s nothing contrived about it. I wanted the pages to have a lighter look, to be sharper and clearer. We also decided to introduce eight new columns, to broaden our scope a little more. For example, [French] actor Nicolas Maury will talk beauty on our pages. We also wanted innovative columns, like ‘La rencontre d’après minuit’ (the midnight meeting), a late-night interview or something more contemporary like ‘L’insta décisif’, in which we analyse a designer’s or artist’s Instagram account with them. But Marie Claire remains Marie Claire, and the editorial line won’t change. We are still very much on the side of women, we stand with them, our identity isn’t changing.
FNW: Why did you decide to focus on fashion, when the majority of women’s magazines are going in the opposite direction, trying to ditch fashion and concentrate on beauty, where there are more advertisers and reader demand is strong, or on lifestyle, to attract a younger audience?
MM: Marie Claire isn’t just about fashion of course. We are a lifestyle magazine, publishing in-depth reports and major news stories. Where beauty is concerned, Marie Claire is a powerful influencer, as our readers expect us to be. As for fashion, it’s one of [our] mainstays. In the 1980s, there even was an edition entirely dedicated to fashion, ‘Marie Claire bis’, which notably contributed to the rise in Japanese designers’ popularity, and supported the early careers of labels like Agnès b and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Ever since I took charge of Marie Claire, and Anne-Sophie Thomas was appointed editor-in-chief for fashion, we began working on the magazine’s look and style. We agree on what the Marie Claire style is: something simple, natural and effortlessly elegant, featuring women as subjects and not objects.
To give you an idea of how important fashion is becoming for us, now the fashion section comes before beauty in the magazine, right after our topical pages, with their in-depth stories and news reports. Besides being inspirational, we want to identify trends, we are going for insight, dwelling on the fashion industry’s signature moments.
FNW: What are your current readers like?
MM: Marie Claire readers are free-thinking women, and when they read, they express their free will. We are never prescriptive, we never tell readers what to wear, or what to think. We put forward our opinions, but they are never impositions, because Marie Claire women freely choose what they like, and what they wear.
[The] readership cuts across generations, our readers are aged 30 to 60. In the last two years, we reached out to a younger readership, especially via our work on covers: they are more incisive and unpredictable, going beyond what you’d expect from a women’s magazine, and our readers’ average age is now around 40.
FNW: How are advertisers reacting to the changes in Marie Claire? Do you think you will profit from the new look?
MM: Reception has been very good. In some of the advertisers’ own words, “It's really good.” They recognise the value of Marie Claire, how well we work with images, but also our commitment to written content.
For example, 10 years ago, the word ‘feminism’ was dismissed by many women, while nowadays being feminist is par for the course. We have always been feminist, we rolled up our sleeves and worked for feminism, something which comes across very clearly in the title. We also want to be a fashion magazine with the Marie Claire style, and a beauty magazine that can act as an influencer. Being a monthly publication, we are able to give women time for putting things in perspective, for taking a break. It’s their time for themselves, for reading their magazine. With our new approach we can attract more women, hence more advertisers. For example, we recently started talking about jewellery because, editorially speaking, it’s an interesting topic. We want to know whether, in the year 2018, an engagement ring is something 18-year-old girls dream about.
FNW: Jewellery is also an industry with many prestigious advertisers, isn’t it?
MM: We try to probe into society at large, and its trends. Eventually, having a conversation about jewellery was quite natural. We were keen to tackle crossover topics, like we do for example when we write about wealthy jewellery customers. In the past, these used to be almost exclusively men who wanted to prettify their women. As society has evolved, there are now women who have a much greater purchasing power, and become jewellery customers for themselves. Jewellers need to find a language to talk to them, and appeal to them. Marie Claire has a depth of insight which can generate value, so it was for editorial considerations that we opened up the magazine to jewellery. What drives Marie Claire are our readers, our content and editorial line. Of course, if these can attract advertisers, it's a plus.
FNW: What are your current plans for your online edition?
MM: We are scouting for a new editor-in-chief for Marie Claire’s website, and then we will work to harmonise the brand across all channels: print, online and social media. Our plan is to hold joint editorial meetings and to analyse topics together. Marie Claire must broadcast the same message across all its versions, and always be consistent in expressing its ideas.
FNW: Do you think that the same women read the web and print editions?
MM: Yes, because we address women who have the same mindset, who are in touch with current affairs. We don’t treat women as ghosts and neither do we idealise them, we are close to them and their everyday reality.
And at the same time, no, because usually, print readers who love paper as a medium and regard the magazine as a fine, clever creation, will not necessarily be the same ones who read our articles on their mobiles while riding on the underground. I hope that, with this makeover, we’ll attract more print and web readers.
FNW: Are you planning to introduce podcasts, as other women’s magazines like Grazia do, to attract new fans and advertisers?
MM: Podcasts are something we are genuinely keen on. But we are waiting until we find the right voice. Until now, Marie Claire has spoken out about any and all issues candidly. Anything that is part of women’s everyday reality and thinking, we give space to on our pages. Given this premise, we are very keen to produce podcasts, to give physical substance to our voice.
FNW: Can you explain what you mean by “real-life experiences”?
MM: From the summer, we want to launch a series of discussion groups on gender equality, to try and make progress with this issue. The groups will spend some time debating the issues and eventually put forward realistic proposals for the government to consider, on topics like gender equality, paternity leave, etc. We regularly talk about these issues on our pages, but if we were able to go as far as to change the way things are and improve the condition of women, so much better. We are planning to team up our discussion groups with corporate partners, brands and labels that would then be likely to apply the best practice we have identified.
From next autumn, we would also like to organise charity shop-my-closet events, where women will be able to sell their unwanted clothes, with a part of the proceeds going to a charity association of our choice. We are pushing for a closer personal relationship with our readers.
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