How Fashion Mags are Making Magic with their September Issues

The September issue: In the publishing world, especially for the fashion industry, it’s generally recognized as the most crucial issue of the year. September issues generally land with a thud, loaded with advertising and extra pages to kick off the new fashion season.

So what happens now? What can we expect when the September issues hit the newsstands next month?

“The fashion-agenda setting power of a September issue may have waned over the past few years, in part due to the rise of influencers,” writes Kathryn Hopkins in WWD. “But they’re still the most important issues of the year for glossy magazine publishers, chasing ad dollars more than ever during the pandemic.

“That’s why having skipped some issues due to coronavirus-related production and advertising concerns,” she continues, “most magazines are making a comeback for September, with publishers even extending their deadlines to allow more time for ads and content to roll in.”

Of course, it’s been a wild ride on the editorial side of things, without knowing in advance where and how they could manage photoshoots or even obtain the needed clothing and accessories. But as Hopkins reports, as the country began to loosen restrictions, “editors were able to carry out fairly small-scale, socially distanced shoots with bare minimum crews and learned quickly that they needed to be equipped with a backup plan for every situation.”

InStyle’s EIC Laura Brown learned quickly that the best, most carefully laid plan could be sidelined by a crew member exposed to COVID-19 that closed sets and disrupted plans, or trunks of fashion pieces that didn’t arrive. Somehow they’ve still been able to stick to their monthly issue schedule so far this year.

We weren’t sure what we could physically shoot. The whole time I was driving with one eye closed or something. Plan A, plan B and plan C for everything,” Brown said.

“We’re just planning things and being safe, but I am not wed. I want to achieve things, but I am super pragmatic,” Brown continued. “You just have to move with it, but also try to be as clever and reflective of what’s going on as possible.”

Her reward for all this hard work and fast pivoting? According to Hopkins, Brown managed to score a cover shot with Dr. Anthony Fauci. The overall message of InStyle’s current issue is timeless – “the unsubtle concept being that you can’t quarantine the joy of fashion,” Brown notes.

Vogue, Marie Claire, Town & Country – these titles and many others have taken editorial innovation to the next level during the pandemic… and it could lead to some good changes in the industry itself.

Marie Claire’s new EIC Aya Kanai sees the smaller sets and fewer choices as a positive, as editors learn to live with less in an industry known for excess.

“If I’m styling a photoshoot, as I am at the end of this month, I’m calling in the pieces that I know are critical to get the story done and I don’t want a lot of extra fluff and frankly I can’t have it any way,” Kanai said. “I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the time of having 20 racks of clothing for an eight-look photo shoot. It’s not necessary. Period.”

Like everything industry, the fashion industry undoubtedly gained valuable insights into what truly matters during the pandemic. And while ad numbers may be down this year, creativity is at an all-time high. We’ll be keeping an eye on the newsstand next month, that much I know.