The September issues of fashion magazines hit newsstands this week, thick with ads and advice on what to wear — and buy. Fashion advertising is vigorous in magazines this year. Leading the pack is Vogue with Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette on the cover. Vogue, the perennial heavyweight champion, boasts a hefty 625 advertisement pages, which is not the magazine's best, but good enough to keep it the industry leader. Two other magazines that have boosted ad sales are Hachette Filipacchi's Elle and Condé Nast's Lucky.
Elle, the American sister of the French fashion weekly, has often been an also-ran compared to Vogue and In Style, Time Inc.'s celebrity-based powerhouse. But with 367 advertisement pages, Elle's September issue — with gossip-magnet Lindsay Lohan on the cover announcing that she wants to entertain the troops abroad — is its largest issue since 1985.
Lucky, a shop-till-you-drop magalog also grows thicker this month. A favorite among younger readers, the September issue has actress Eva Mendes on the cover and 302 advertisement pages. In September 2001, its first year of publication, it had only 113.
To get sales results like this, publishers are relying on aggressive marketing strategies. Lucky has a new "Text2Buy" program, allowing readers to shop for advertisers' products via text messaging on their cell phones. Lucky readers can send a text message and purchase products from Ellen Tracy, Dooney & Bourke, and AG Jeans, as well as beauty advertisers such as Estee Lauder.
Both Lucky and Vogue benefit from Condé Nast's Fashion Rocks fashion supplement, another major promotional program. Fashion Rocks, which features Beyonce and Jamie Foxx on the cover, is a stand-alone issue that explores the mingling of music and style. Sold on newsstands, the 180-page magazine — of which 95 pages are advertisements — will be sent along as a free insert to subscribers of all Conde Nast fashion and beauty magazines including Allure, Glamour, Self, and W. Its editor is Jonathan Van Meter, and the magazine's editorial director is Vogue's Anna Wintour.
It doesn't stop there: The Fashion Rocks project also includes a sold-out concert at Radio City Music Hall on September 9 that kicks off New York's Olympus Fashion Week. Beyonce, David Bowie, and Gwen Stefani are slated to perform.
Why do fashion advertisers, especially those who sell the highest-priced styles, pump so much money into these September magazines? The readers aren't necessarily shopping at the highest-end of the retail spectrum: The median income of these magazines' readers is often only slightly above the national average, which is about $45,000.
Advertising — especially in the big September issues — helps create the image of a designer and can be a benefit for all the products that carry the designer's name, such as cosmetics and perfume or their lower priced lines. "It is the time when designers launch their campaigns for the season for both their high priced lines and more accessible items," Elissa Lumley, a Vogue spokeswoman, said. A Dior suit or handbag may be out of reach for most readers, but millions of them can buy Dior perfume or mascara. Fashion-conscious readers, even on a budget, may also indulge by buying a pricey accessory, rather than clothing, from a top designer.
Also, women tend to mix and match fashion, buying both high and low, which expands the market. "We tell readers you can wear a Gap T-Shirt under a Chanel jacket," the fashion director of Lucky, Hope Greenberg, said.
In Style, which has Drew Barrymore on its cover, has a 20-page story featuring 152 pairs of shoes, ranging from affordable styles to high-ticket items such as open-toed pumps decorated with Swarovski crystals for $895 and Ralph Lauren boots for $1200.
"Fashion has become more interesting to women because it is so much more accessible," Ms. Greenberg said. "They know so much about fashion. They see fashion on television and on the Web. They read about what celebrities wear in the weeklies. And no matter where you live in the country, you can buy what you see by calling or ordering online."
What will in-the-know women be encouraged to buy this fall? Lucky advises readers to add at least one dress to their wardrobes. In Style says minis are back, as are leggings, while Elle's hot look is "skinny jeans and platforms."
"The whole '70s thing is very hot,"Ms. Greenberg said. "Very Bianca Jagger."
Another factor that might have spurred advertising interest in the big September fashion issues is the success of "The Devil Wears Prada." First the best seller, written by Lauren Weisberger, a former assistant to Vogue's Anna Wintour, and now the movie that has grossed more than $100 million at the box office, have given readers a look at fashion magazines and their editors.
In the movie, the demanding editor in chief played by Meryl Streep assures her young assistant as they attend the Paris fashion shows, "Everyone wants to be us." Not exactly, but millions of women do want to spend a few hours looking at both the advertisements and the editorial in the thick September issues of their favorite fashion magazines. "One out of 10 American women read the September Vogue," Ms. Lumley said. It is the way they decide what they will buy and imagine what they would buy if only they could.