When magazine editors gather together for any length of time, there
are three historic titles from the late 1960s that are almost guaranteed
to come up in conversation - US Esquire, classic British women’s
magazine Nova and Playboy.
Now, two of them are set to return to the shelves in more or less that
spirit. IPC is re-launching Nova at some point next year and Esquire
editor Peter Howarth is planning a re-vamp of his title to take it away
from new laddishness, and move it back to the roots of men’s
While Esquire defined a school of journalism, with writers such as
Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe creating a personalised style that was the
basis of most modern magazine writing, Nova was famous for its design
Its covers, in particular, have been copiously copied by fashion
magazines such as The Face, Dazed and Confused and underground fashion
In the 1960s, Esquire used a Madison Avenue ad man to design its stark,
powerful covers, eschewing the traditional in-house art director. While
not copying this technique, the 21st century Esquire is using cover art
as its clarion call.
For a start, aside from going against the grain by putting a man on the
front cover - Johnny Depp - in order to maintain the purity of the
image, the traditional men’s mag cover lines will be attached to the mag
on a removable plastic strip. Thus, the readers will be able to keep the
artistic Depp shot without the clutter of contemporary magazine
Over at Nova, IPC is keeping tight-lipped about the appearance and
launch date of the new magazine. There are clearly some months to go,
however, because the editor, former Scene editor Deborah Bee, is still
The publisher is also unwilling to give too many details of its target
readership. When presented with Nova’s original target market - the ’new
woman’, an intelligent housewife, well-bred, with time to kill and money
to spend - Nova’s publishing director Rita Lewis explains that such a
category no longer exists.
’I think it was inevitable as far as Esquire was concerned,’ says
Michael Oliviera-Salac, former Blow editor, who now works for the
’There’s a huge gap in the market now that the ’new lad’ is dying out.
When it comes to Nova, I think IPC is going to have to be very careful
to ensure it has an independent spirit, rather than a big corporation
attitude, because with something as cool as Nova you’re going to
struggle to do it justice.’
Publisher: The National Magazine Company
Readership: men between 25 and 33
’I had a conversation about Esquire recently that really made me think.
I was telling a friend about the stories we had in the magazine and the
fact that we’d done a huge feature on the IRA and the first interview
with Osama Bin Laden and he held up the magazine - which had a blonde in
a bikini on the cover - and said ’this doesn’t look like the magazine
’I had a sulk, but I thought about it and he was right. I’m a
35-year-old father of two and I wouldn’t leave my own magazine out on
the table when guests came round. I went to the board of NatMags to get
an agreement to change the cover policy and they were incredibly
supportive. I told them it would take a year to work through and, to
their credit, they were fine with that.
’What we’re going to do is treat men and women equally on the cover.
That means taking a powerful head and shoulders shot of whoever our
cover star is and refusing to re-enter the ’tottie in a bikini’ battle
that we’ve been engaged in.
’Our circulation has been up year-on-year every month for the past eight
months, so I think our readers should be able to handle the switch. It’s
in keeping with the Esquire of the 1960s, which used Norman Mailer, Tom
Wolfe, Alan Ginsberg and Aldous Huxley. We use writers like Martin Amis,
the novelist David Flusfeder, Giles Foden and Eammon O’Neil to give us
investigative stories or to spend three months with the All Blacks.
’We’ll insist on spending three days with a star over a period of
months, not just half-an-hour in a hotel room on a press junket. But
that’s not to say the magazine will be too worthy. What people forget
about 1960s Esquire is that, next to Norman Mailer, it had pictures of
Racquel Welch in a bikini. I’m not averse to pictures of beautiful
women. They just don’t belong on the cover.’
Position: publishing director
Publisher: IPC Magazines
’When I came to IPC 18 months ago, I knew we needed a directional
fashion title and I was really excited by Scene. I told IPC that we
should buy Scene and we had a meeting with the publisher but he only
wanted to sell 49 per cent, so we took his four key staff instead. We
started work on a project which eventually became the new Nova.
’It’s going to be an intelligent, passionate and committed magazine but
it has to have fun. Young women like having fun. We have got strong
reportage but we have also got a great feature on set with the Friends
girls. It is hard hitting and fun at the same time. I am aware there’s a
risk that we will cannibalise Marie Claire’s readership, but I don’t
think it is a big risk. Nova can be bolder than Marie Claire and there
are two or three other women’s magazines out there that I think are
’Obviously the fashion is really important. Deborah Bee is recruiting
people, and she started with fashion people. We have taken David Roberts
from GQ as fashion deputy, but I think we are avoiding recruiting people
on the strength of job titles we need to fill. We will happily recruit
someone from television with strong ideas, even if they have no print
experience, and create a job for them.
’The visual side of the mag is crucial, but I am not going to be tied
down by the old Nova. The market has moved on. We will have strong and
arresting covers and we won’t be afraid to use powerful images if we are
campaigning around an issue, but I don’t think we want to shock people
for the sake of it. The readers will see through that anyway.
’I see Nova in the same market as Vogue, Elle and Marie Claire, but
younger than Vogue and harder-hitting than Elle. The problem that a
magazine like Vogue has is that, of course, it is the fashion bible, but
it is read by women from 18 to 55. There aren’t too many 55-year-olds
who are going to be reading Nova, so the younger readers are going to
find we have a tone that matches what they want.’