Kim France Got Lucky – Magazine, That Is
Former Houstonian writes her way into unique women’s fashion mag
by Jessica Rossman
Admit it. Lucky magazine is your favorite new women’s fashion magazine. Just admit it. It’s OK. It’s everyone’s favorite. Launched last year to widespread skepticism and even a scoff or two, Lucky is a magazine darling. And it has become so without any of the standard bells and whistles on which its competitors rely. The magazine covers, for instance, don’t feature the model du jour or the hottest new starlet. It doesn’t feature articles with saucy suggestions for your love life or secrets to a flat tummy. Nor does it explore the issues of today’s young modern woman or offer advice on improving your relationships. In fact, it doesn’t really have, well, articles.
But it does have straightforward, no-bones-about-it shopping and lots of it. Lucky has done what no other magazine has had the guts to do: It ‘fesses up. This magazine acknowledges that its purpose – its very reason for existence – is to sell stuff, plain and simple. This, of course, is the purpose of all of its competitors, as well. What sets Lucky so brilliantly apart from the rest is that its competitors aren’t being as upfront about it with readers. Traditional fashion magazines dress themselves up as magazines about issues, such as improving your love life or how to be a better boss at the office, when deep down inside, all they really want to do is get readers to go buy what they see. Lucky is honest about it. It sheds the disguise of being about issues and stands naked as a tool to help you spend your money, laying out for its readers pages of would-be must-haves with the contact information for where to buy them right next to each item, not buried in tiny print in the last few pages of the magazine. It even unabashedly includes a page of “Yes!” and “Maybe” sticky-tabs to mark your potential acquisitions as you browse. It is fiendishly, brilliantly, preposterously materialistic.
So who is the devilish mastermind behind this bold concept? Who, in other words, do we all have to thank for this? Kim France, a Houstonian turned New Yorker, is the shopping guru and media revolutionary behind the magazine that Adweek recently named the “Launch of the Year.” As editor-in-chief, France finds herself at the helm of a national magazine with a circulation of 800,000. And the best part is that she didn’t even really plan it.
What France had planned to do was to become a writer. And she did. And even though the idea of moving to New York City at first “terrified” the young Texan, she took the Big Apple by storm. She soon was writing for the Village Voice, interviewing rock stars for Spin and Rolling Stone and reviewing books for The New York Times. In 1990, she started her climb through the ranks of some of the hottest national and regional magazines. As a staff writer for Sassy, she became an expert on a new music phenomenon we know today as rap. At Elle, she solidified her expertise as an entertainment writer by heading up the entertainment section of the magazine. As a senior editor and then deputy editor of New York magazine, she reinvented Cue, the weekly magazine’s popular guide to New York nightlife, dining and fashion. She wrote about fashion and nightlife and got paid for it. Life was good.
But life would get even better. After a two-year stint as editor-at-large for Spin, France was hankering for an inspiration. She was in her 30s, and covering concerts “where everybody there was 18” had grown old. France had matured as a person and felt that her writing should keep up. It was time for a change. As she sums it up, “I basically didn’t know what I wanted to do.” She also didn’t know that New York’s fashion director, Jade Hobson Charnin, an “impossibly glamorous creature,” according to France, was talking about her to Conde Naste Publishing. Conde Naste, it turned out, was looking for someone to launch a new fashion magazine. Out of the blue, Conde Naste called. Would she be interested in conceiving of, launching and running a brand-new fashion magazine?
“No” was her first response. France thought the proposal was near ridiculous. She was a writer, after all, not an entrepreneur. She skeptically agreed to think about it. The result is Lucky.
She launched it, she runs it and she enjoys the hullabaloo it stirs up. Lucky has been both heralded as the most honest fashion magazine in the industry and criticized for being a shallow, glorified catalog. France’s philosophy is straightforward, “Lucky isn’t about trying to, say, find the cure for cancer. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about that. It just means that we are about something else.” And that something else is shopping.
That’s one big “Yes!” sticky-tab for Lucky.