When it comes to honoring an anniversary as big as Harper’s BAZAAR’s 150th, Editor-in-Chief Glenda Bailey knew one celebration simply wasn’t enough. In fact, the magazine which will officially turn 150 years old on November 2 of this year has been celebrating for most of 2017. The culmination of these festivities reveals itself with an entirely redesigned November issue that hits newsstands today.
“My mission is to create a party that everyone is invited to,” Bailey said, and the BAZAAR anniversary year has embodied the legendary style of the magazine.
In April, the Empire State Building lit up with iconic images from the pages of Harper’s BAZAAR. That same month, the magazine’s history unfolded in Bailey’s new book Harper’s BAZAAR: 150 Years: The Greatest Moments.
“I am a great believer in having a party every day, so naturally when it came to our anniversary, we decided to celebrate the whole year,” Bailey said. “One issue just isn’t enough when you have a history as illustrious as Harper’s BAZAAR's.”
BAZAAR spent most of this year reflecting on the history of the publication, but when it came time to create the anniversary edition itself, the staff was able to focus on the future.
“We cherish the past, but we invent the future,” Bailey said.
In some ways, the November issue is a preview into what the next generation of Harper’s BAZAAR will entail. This edition debuts a five-chapter format: Must-Haves, Ageless Style, News, Beauty and Dream. Future issues will follow the same structure.
The redesign, straight from the mind of Design Director Elizabeth Hummer, is a reflection of one of Bailey's personal favorite collectables, coffee table books. Some favorites from her personal collection include Yves Saint Laurent’s Accessories and House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth.
“Magazines should be more like coffee table books,” Bailey said, explaining that the role of a coffee table book is to be timeless. Magazines, similarly, ought to strike the balance of “timely but also timeless.” Finding a way to navigate these two qualities is what differentiates quality brands at a time when consumers have many options, in print and across digital media.
For Bailey and her staff, this quest to bring BAZAAR content to a higher stature means innovating and carving out new storylines that consumers haven’t seen before.
“Monthly magazines can no longer simply report on what is going on, you have to invent the stories that people talk about,” Bailey said. “BAZAAR has always been incredibly innovative, and that pushes us to be better every single day when we work on upcoming issues.”
Despite this constant state of change that BAZAAR embraces, the core DNA of the magazine has remained loyal to Founding Editor Mary Louise Booth’s original mission.
When Harper’s BAZAAR debuted as America’s first fashion magazine on November 2, 1867, Booth who was a septilingual suffragette had three types of content she wanted to bring to modern women: instruction, fashion and pleasure. While instruction has come to mean the presentation and discussion of ideas or trends, the goals for today’s BAZAAR remain largely unchanged in Bailey’s eyes.
Fashion is central to the heart of the magazine, and the content is designed to integrate seamlessly into all areas of women’s lives.
“Harper’s BAZAAR is not just about hemlines, it is about headlines,” Bailey said. “It is our job to create incredible ideas that nobody has ever seen before, and to produce images that are so striking that you will never forget them.”
Consistently producing memorable content is no small request, but Bailey explained that the magazine has a history of maintaining a staff that is up to the challenge, and that is as true today as it was in the first issue 150 years ago.
“No matter how aware you are that Harper’s BAZAAR has always attracted the best talent over the years, there is nothing like opening an early issue and seeing a byline from Charles Dickens,” Bailey said.
Even with the high-caliber content and staff that put together BAZAAR each month, Bailey said she is perhaps most proud of curating the magazine to keep its tone feeling “warm, friendly and happy.”
In her view, magazines should feel positive and accessible while still giving readers something to aspire toward. Something that Harper's BAZAAR has taken to the next level with the relaunch of e-commerce site ShopBAZAAR in 2017. Led by BAZAAR Vice President, Publisher & Chief Revenue Officer Carol Smith, the platform connects readers with the fashion pieces that they admire from the pages of the magazine.
"Carol Smith was a visionary when she created ShopBAZAAR," Bailey said. She went on to explain how the coming together of "magical editorial content with a brilliant advertising team" is the key to BAZAAR’s success.
“You are going to have to have a sense of humor, too, if you are going to ask Rihanna to get on top of a plane,” Bailey said, referring to one of the two Rihanna covers that rank among her favorites to have overseen during her time at the helm of the magazine.
Bailey has a hands-on role when it comes to designing covers, sketching what she wants to see, both for the newsstand editions and for subscribers, after she’s conceptualized the idea in her head.
The work all feels justified because of the pride the BAZAAR staff feels at delivering quality content to their readers.
“A magazine should reflect the readers’ lifestyles and tastes,” Bailey said. “The whole point of fashion and beauty is to make women feel good about themselves and to help give them confidence. I am very into feel-good fashion.”
All of the celebration and excitement of the anniversary year is the perfect way to usher in an innovative 151st year of publishing, Bailey explained. She credits the editorially minded leadership at Hearst with always pushing for the best, while being supportive of the entire BAZAAR staff.
“There is so much bad happening in the world, that being able to appreciate beauty, feel light and to laugh is so important,” Bailey said. “And that is what Harper’s BAZAAR has done for the past 150 years and what we will continue doing every single day.”