MEDIA PROFILE: Grace offers an oft-ignored market a real editorialforum

Though they represent 70% of the female population in the US, larger women have been underserved editorially. Enter Grace, a new title with a strong sense of style, honesty, and ... grace.

Though they represent 70% of the female population in the US, larger women have been underserved editorially. Enter Grace, a new title with a strong sense of style, honesty, and ... grace.

Seven out of ten women in the US are size 12 or above, which may be why the debut issue of Grace magazine is flying off the shelves. The successor to now-defunct Mode, the first fashion rag to cater to larger females, Grace is expanding from that title's clothes-centric focus to create a lifestyle bible for the those at the Rubenesque end of the populace.

"Until now, it's been a very underserved demographic, says editor-in-chief Ceslie Armstrong, who also helmed Mode as executive editor until its demise last fall. But while larger women may not be the highest priority of the fashion industry, they are not uninterested - in 2000, women spent more than $28 billion on larger-sized clothing purchases, and averaged one to two new outfits each month, racking up a bill that reaches $400.

Further proof of the magazine's potential can be found in its initial sales: Grace's premiere run of 300,000 copies was quickly snapped up by full-figured fashionistas, and the company already has more than 200,000 newsstand guarantees to carry upcoming issues. "It's selling out everywhere, says a pleased Armstrong.

Despite the focus for bigger bodies, Armstrong warns against pigeon-holing the magazine. "Our level is very quality, but we're also making it accessible, she explains. "We don't use the word 'plus size.' That's a retail term and it does not define who this woman is."

Pre-launch research identified the reader as a 29- to 54-year-old professional woman with a median household income of $58,000.

While fashion features are definitely geared to size 12 and up, the rest of the book is far more general interest. Areas of coverage include travel, food, wine, health, beauty, and, of course sex and relationships. The magazine will also include what Armstrong describes as "light investigative pieces, which take a closer look at trends and lifestyle issues. For example, an upcoming issue carries a feature on pregnancy, and how "there is some discrimination happening in the medical community for (heavier) women who are having trouble getting pregnant, says Armstrong.

The debut issue features plus-sized model and open-heart surgery nurse Krissy Woodard on the cover, and stories on vacationing in Palm Springs, a behind-the-scenes look at Lane Bryant's lingerie show, input from celebrities including columnists Carrie Otis and Mia Tyler, and a swimsuit spread.

"Mode would very much only put a celebrity on the magazine if she was full-figured. We're saying that it's not really size as much as it is real women - a real gal with a real attitude, says Armstrong. "It's more about the spirit and the attitude and the realism, about finding balance in your life, not being super-skinny and not being super-overweight. But still being healthy, happy, and fit in the skin you're in."

For fashion PR practitioners, Grace represents a huge opportunity to gain exposure for up-and-coming clients whose lines accommodate larger sizes. Grace editors are under a mandate not only to seek out new designers, but also to promote them. "Let's just say that floral-print bias-cut skirts are the rage, explains Armstrong. "At other publications you might have a thousand vendors to choose from. In our market, you only have two or three. As Grace editors, we are really putting pressure on vendors to take chances on some up-and-coming designers."

Grace is also looking for stories that highlight its inclusive, multi-ethnic focus. "We very much embrace women for who they are in their own culture, confirms Armstrong. "We're looking for stories that are culturally driven, and about women who have been great mentors for young females."

The magazine is currently a quarterly, but switches to bimonthly beginning in January 2003. The next issue is due out in August, and another in the winter. Grace works with a 90-day lead time, but Armstrong stresses that its "entrepreneurial nature means that there is flexibility in that rule for strong pitches. A website - www. gracestyle.com - was launched concurrently with the magazine and features extras such as a "chat with the editor capability, message boards, and articles such as an interview with USA network founder Kay Koplovitz.

For now, pitches should be directed to a general e-mail box (editorial@ gracestyle.com). Celebrity pitches, however, should be sent to Armstrong directly. Lifestyle sections are handled by Lori Keiss. Kendall Morgan is in charge of entertainment. And while the magazine has some editorial staff in place, its is currently hiring more editors and writers.

CONTACT LIST
Grace
Address: 276 Fifth Avenue, Suite 503, New York, NY 10001
Tel/Fax: (212) 684-1820; 684-1821
E-mail: editorial@gracestyle.com
Web: www.gracestyle.com
Founder and editor-in-chief: Ceslie Armstrong
Managing editor: Jennifer Bunch
Senior fashion editor: Amy Berlin
Food and entertaining editor: John Larkin
West Coast editor (entertainment): Joan Tarshis

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