Elle Collections shows why print is still in fashion

The new issue of Elle Collections, the British fashion magazine’s bi-annual title dedicated to the catwalk, is out now. CR spoke to editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy and acting creative director Tom Meredith about how the 10th edition continues to bring a distinctly left-field editorial design approach to mainstream publishing

The new issue of Elle Collections, the British fashion magazine’s bi-annual title dedicated to the catwalk, is out now. CR spoke to editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy and acting creative director Tom Meredith about how the 10th edition continues to bring a distinctly left-field editorial design approach to mainstream publishing…

Elle Collections is now in its 10th edition and offers its readers the chance to pore over the latest seasonal trends on the catwalk, covering a host of runway shows. It has a print run of 65,000 but its design and art direction perhaps suggest it’s the work of a much smaller, independent stable. For the four-strong design team at Elle, it’s a reaffirmation of what print does best, but this time the new issue will also have an iPad app to support it, scheduled to appear in a couple of weeks.

Photography by Anthea Simms (top) and Nick Knight

The relaunch of Elle magazine itself was a catalyst in driving the direction behind Collections, explains editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy. While retaining a wealth of imagery, she also decided to include written features within the catwalk magazine (the new edition includes a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Robin Givhan, for example) alongside a host of ideas and visual concepts that weren’t necessarily suited for the main issue.

“We just felt this was a place to be really creative,” she says of Collections, “to see how we can use paper and be a bit experimental. Magazines can get a little bit boring and turning out the same thing again and again is a bit of a crime in an industry like fashion, which is so unbelievably creative.”

Product and street-style shots get plenty of space. Photography by Hedi Slimane (top) and Tommy Ton

For Tom Meredith, Elle’s acting creative director (while Marissa Bourke is on maternity leave), it’s important that Collections behaves differently to its parent magazine. “It’s a celebration of print as well as fashion,” he says, “so we purposefully go from using glossy stock, to uncoated, back to glossy again. Sometimes, as with the Autumn/Winter 2010 issue we’ll have something special like Rob Ryan’s tribute to Alexander McQueen which we ran on a card stock.”

Fabric prints were photocopied to achieve these striking pages of colour. Art by Lisa Rahman

There are a range of other interesting visual devices in the magazine, most notably the images of various fabric prints that were made on a photocopier in the Elle office. After ten issues, some of these elements have become signature hooks of the Collections series. “The catwalk photography already exists,” says Candy, looking over the photomontages of blended colours from runway shows that appear in the latest issue, “but we take a thousand pictures and make something more abstract out of that. It’s indulgent, but it’s useful too.”

These blended photomontages have become a staple of the Collections issue

There’s also the sense that Elle Collections continues to wear its more esoteric influences on its sleeve, if you’ll pardon the pun. Meredith is quick to acknowledge the work being done at magazines like Fantastic Man, Lost + Found, New York – with a nod to their Look catwalk edition – Acne Paper and Apartamento. But what Elle does so successfully, as magCulture’s Jeremy Leslie has remarked upon in both his blog and CR column, is bring that sense of experimentation to a mainstream title. “Ideas bounce around in magazine-land,” he remarked, “it’s what you make of them that counts.”

Candy admits that the “entry points are different with the Collections reader, they don’t navigate the magazine in the same way as they do with Elle.” Built within the design choices, however, there’s some hard commercial thinking behind what goes in an issue and what doesn’t. “Yes, some things I wouldn’t allow in the main issue,” she continues. “For instance, there’s a rule that we have no print on pictures, because it slows the reader down. When she picks up a copy she’ll move through it quickly and if there are elements that are too hard to read, she won’t buy it.”

Indeed, in Collections, there’s also a sparing use of typography (Meredith has only worked with Caslon and Courier in Collections to date) but the type always makes its presence felt, often appearing over the images, or in tightly cut-out caption boxes.

“We’ve had a very successful commerical year, despite a recession, and it’s because of what we’ve done with the design, ” says Candy. “We didn’t do it to become more niche or edgy, we did it from a business point of view. I look at Collections as the thirteenth issue of the magazine, really. It’s the one we would do at the end of the year, but it’s much better doing it each season. It puts a real glow around the brand.”

Elle Collections Spring Summer 2011 is available to buy from newstands now. You can also get hold of it here. Elle Collections – The Preview iPad app will be available from February 15.



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