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Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?

Filed by Jack Yan/February 6, 2021/21.45


Above: The very first site (alphabetically) linked from our Newsstand pages, Annabelle of Switzerland, complete with large lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

I took a look at Lucire’s Newsstand reviews tonight. This section is a relic of the early dot-com days that Lucire came from (in the 1990s), when people exchanged links with each other to help with their search engine positioning, and, to make the sections look legitimate, you put your favourite websites in there as well. When it came to Lucire, naturally, we included our competitors as a resource for readers. I have to say that we were pretty choosy.
   Each time I re-examine the list, which is probably every couple of years, I’m removing sites. Many have fallen by the wayside over the last 23 years, and some that we link have content frozen in the mid-2010s. They are still good resources, so they’re staying. They might even be a good read for those countries who are still dealing with COVID-19 cases in a very real, confronting way.
   What I did remove throughout the three pages of reviews, however, were the ratings. We used to rate quite a few of the sites on content and design, because when we first started, there was a huge variety. It was a relatively new medium, so people were still experimenting. They were a guide, nothing too serious—though I still remember one New Yorker getting so upset that, if I recall correctly, he felt he had to retaliate by linking Lucire with a negative review. (The low score came in part from home page art that was only tested on certain monitors, and on higher-res ones, its elements didn’t line up, with ghastly results. Cutting up images and have them reassemble on screen was something we all did back then, to cope with slow download speeds.) I suspect all that did was send his readers intrigued about our supposed terribleness our way, who then would have found his review somewhat childish and unreliable, since we were winning awards for the online edition of Lucire. Other than that humorous blip of small-mindedness—which I suppose underlines how elements of New Yorkish Trumpism was there long before the real estate magnate ran for president—the ratings were an accepted feature of the pages for many years.
   The reason for their removal is, sadly, the lack of creativity in web design these days. I’m not saying we’re breaking new ground ourselves, though what you see here was still designed by someone on our team and not part of a template that comes with a web-page service. And don’t get me wrong on that, either: some of those templates are really, really good.
   But we’ve settled into a certain look being acceptable on the web, including mobile devices (which have limited creativity in publishing). As browsers and computers have become more powerful, publishing packages have made use of more of their capabilities. Also a good thing, because this enables more people to make websites. However, this means there is less need for someone to tinker and create something from scratch, because there are great programs that have more than half the legwork done. Then there are those developing templates for these software packages, bound somewhat by the features that form their foundation. That has led to standardization, because, like it or not, there are certain things you must do to make a site work for the range of devices that will be pointed at it nowadays.
   The ratings, then, become meaningless, if so many of the sites reviewed have a similar design concept: big lead image, smaller ones on the home page pointing to the significant articles, similarly sized text (and, in many cases, pretty big text), etc. With fonts now transmitting with web pages, it’s no longer special for a website to have bespoke typography. And with so many fonts available, many have opted to get creative on their typographic choices—which could give us some basis for separating the great from good, but outside of the design world, this seems to be an unfair criterion on which to judge.
   We could still rate for content, but to get in to the directory, the content had to be reasonably decent to begin with.
   While there’s big type on the web, the trend in print appears to be very small body type, so small that it’s uncomfortable to read. I don’t know what’s driven this, since the physiology of the human eye and what point sizes we find legible and readable hasn’t changed, but needless to say it’s not one that Lucire in print has, or will, follow. Trend-wise, I hope that we might get to a more sensible balance again.


Above: A spread from Rolling Stone, November 2020, showing the small type now seen in print.

   Right now the mobile space is getting all the love, hence this standardization, even though I’ve tired of those devices for some years now. We anticipated that the tide would turn with Facebook and removed all the gadgets sourced from that site before The Observer broke the Cambridge Analytica story. I’ve tired of the privacy intrusions by some of the Big Tech websites, even though I have a Google-free Android phone; and I’ve tired of the tiny keyboards and the utterly inefficient ways of entering words on phones, and that includes voice recognition. Technology is here to serve us, not the other way round.
   Therefore, I’m not sure that pandering to the limitations of the smaller screen is the right thing to do, which I know, given the time people spend on their devices in 2021 could be an unwise decision. But maybe some of us have to take those first steps and say: there are better things to do with your day, and better ways of reading that won’t strain your eyes. Look up from your devices. Enjoy life. Find the medium where your posture’s not compromised. Even if the trend is to fixate you to your phones and strain your eyes there, and then to make life difficult for you in print with tiny type that strains your eyes even more. We want to be humane, take part in making your lives better, and not hooking you for every moment possible.
   Another reason this site doesn’t get as much mobile support as others—a reason to knock our own design score down—is that each time we create a version for handheld devices (at the turn of the century, you could download Lucire news on to PDAs like Newtons), the technology is quickly rendered obsolete: either programs are invented that distil the large images and web page layouts into something that the devices can tackle, or resolutions improve, or browsers come with a text-only mode. Worryingly, the means of having smaller devices being able to deal with traditional web pages haven’t appeared as quickly this time, which may point to a dearth of innovation in the occidental online space in the 21st century.
   That is what you get when the technology space is dominated by giants, as it leads to the suppression of innovation, something that isn’t serving humankind one bit. Standardization hasn’t just happened because we all settle: the clever inventions aren’t getting out there because the barriers to entry are high. Big Tech isn’t just about suppressing speech and getting political: it’s affecting our everyday enjoyment and appreciation of online media. YouTube and others have “exit pages” that hinder us from leaving their sites, in an attempt to keep us from departing and score themselves an extra page view that they can record (if we the people do this, the search engines penalize us). They want to keep us where they can watch us, not the other way round.
   I’d love to see that “old-fashioned” innovation return, with great websites that knock our socks off, getting 10 for content and 10 for design again. I’m sure there are clever people out there bucking the trend, and we’d love to hear from them. With all the sites out there, discovering them is as hard as ever, with search engines like Google potentially getting less reliable as their algorithms feed us content that might hook us more than help us, such as giving us political news that appeals to our own biases rather than help make us better rounded people.
   It’s really down to us to get the word out about great sites, businesses and organizations. I realize that most of us can only do this through the services Big Tech provides. You’re probably on this page because you followed a search engine result or a social media referral. But if we want to break free of them, if we want to see great sites and innovation return, then we each need to do our bit, by freeing ourselves from the dominant players that are holding things back. Get those searches from Duck Duck Go, where they’re less biased. Ask yourself whether it’s that vital to share that Tweet, Facebook post, Instagram photo, or social media comment. And, I say this without irony, let us know in the comments of some of those great online destinations that you think deserve to be linked.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher

 


Wishing all a happy 2021!

Filed by Jack Yan/December 31, 2020/23.05

Happy 2021 to our readers and supporters!
   Twenty twenty was tough, and along with the rest of you, we felt it. But believe it or not, commercially it wasn’t our toughest year—you can look back at 2005–6 for that, and long-time readers will recall that by January 2006 there were preciously few articles being posted on the site while resources were used to prop up the print magazines as we removed certain negative elements from our business. A few good people, with whom I remain in touch, were caught in the crossfire, but we lived on.
   Fifteen years on we struck a far better balance, and it’s thanks to our team and all those who are Lucire’s creators—editors, writers, photographers, make-up artists, stylists, hairstylists, and many more—that that has been possible.
   And it wouldn’t have been worth doing without those who have blessed us with increasing readership, as we know our work is being appreciated around the globe. It’s always heartening to see Lucire being enjoyed, and recently we were given permission by Fatimah Ahmed, a wedding photographer in Al Jubail, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to show this image from her Instagram. The caption: ‘Surround yourself with the things you love.’


Fatimah Ahmed

   We thank our partners, advertisers, all those who work to print and distribute Lucire, and our supporters for coming together during a tough year and keeping everything ticking along.
   We began 2020 trying to stay positive in the wake of two deaths in the Lucire family in December 2019, and we thought our ‘2020’ graphic that adorned the January 2020 cover of Lucire KSA was a signal that things were going to be positive. It was our “keeping our chin up”. Twenty twenty, I thought, had a nice ring to it. But the superstitious would have pointed to the darkened skies from the Australian bushfires and the cancellation of lunar New Year celebrations in China as ominous, and we certainly had an unexpected year.
   Nevertheless, we count our blessings, as there still were many during 2020, and we wish everyone a happier and more prosperous 2021.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher


The cover from Lucire KSA January 2020, featuring Camille Hyde wearing House of Fluff, where we tried to keep our chin up—and the ‘2020’ motif was meant to signal a positive year!

 


Charlotte Casiraghi named Chanel’s latest ambassador

Filed by Lucire staff/December 21, 2020/23.13

JY&A Consulting: branding backed by real research


Charlotte Casiraghi, the granddaughter of the late HSH Princess Grace of Monaco, and the daughter of Caroline, Princess of Hanover, has been named Chanel’s newest ambassador.
   Casiraghi is no stranger to modelling, having worn Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent professionally. Additionally, she is no stranger to the press, having worked in journalism and publishing. In 2012, Karl Lagerfeld photographed her for the book The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited, by Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld. She holds a degree in philosophy and is the president of the Rencontres philosophies de Monaco, which she founded, with the aim of celebrating and promoting philosophy. She is also an accomplished equestrienne.
   With the announcement by Chanel, she will appear in the house’s spring–summer 2021 ready-to-wear collection by Virginie Viard, and photographed in Monaco by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. The campaign will be shown on January 1.
   Chanel says that the house, along with Viard and Casiraghi, will unveil a project called Les Rendevous littéraires rue Cambon, which will bring together female writers and actresses, to share their perspectives on their own work or those of other literary figures, during 2021.
   The first event will be held on January 26 at 31, rue Cambon.

 


Elle commemorates 75th anniversary at Chinese edition’s Style Awards

Filed by Lucire staff/October 29, 2020/21.16


Elle might not have been in China for 75 years, but as one of the few countries that has put COVID-19 largely behind it, the French magazine’s landmark anniversary was commemorated in Chengdu, along with Elle China’s Style Awards.
   The Elle China Style Awards took place at Chengdu’s New Century Global Centre, the world’s largest building as measured by floor area (1,700,000 m²), rather than in Shanghai, where it had hitherto been held. The Awards had the theme ‘Traversing the boundaries of influences’.
   The awards went to Liu Song for Photographer of the Year; Wang Ziqian for New Photographer of the Year; Zhao Jiali for Supermodel of the Year; Mao Geping for Beauty Master of the Year; and Yang Guidong and Chen Xuzhi for Designers of the Year.
   Elle China editorial director Nicole Xue also launched the magazine’s ‘Wonder Women’ project with actresses Ma Yili and Tao Hong, Olympic champion Ding Ning, lawyer Guo Jianmei, artist Xiang Jing, and ‘Beidou Goddess’ Xu Ying.
   The magazine also unveiled its 75th anniversary cover at the event.

 


Cover design notes on our 23rd birthday

Filed by Jack Yan/October 20, 2020/10.25

We’ve happily been able to add a few more covers to the montage we published last year on the occasion of our 22nd anniversary. Now 23, we thought an update was in order, and we’ve included our latest issue, which you can order now.
   The story of Lucire’s founding has been covered elsewhere, during more appropriate anniversary numbers.
   Here we’ll just remark at how much has changed design-wise since we went into print seven years after our founding. Some of the early issues have dated; and even if we look at the turn of the decade, heading into the mid-2010s, our layout ideas have aged. This is despite a very earnest effort to make a magazine look “timeless”, an impossible task because one is always affected unconsciously by the trends and moods around us. The photography from this period, interestingly, has stood the test of time far better, which makes us wonder if there has really been that much progress out there.
   Right now, with bandwidth so readily available, we are getting more images than ever to accompany fairly innocent stories, making it tempting to use as much of them as possible. More cramped, less airy layouts are the result, and even though we observe a grid, we’ve definitely been trying to give more bang for the buck on every page. Technology so often drives changes in approach and in design.
   Maybe the new decade will force us to rethink this as people want calmer, more relaxed existences to counter the added stresses of work; whatever the case, we’ll continue to strive to present the best and most informative fashion magazine that we can. We thank our amazing team for creating so much beauty on every level, and we thank our readers for over two decades’ worth of support.—Jack Yan, Founder and Publisher


Jon Moe

Claudia Goetzelmann

Sixteen years separate these two. The commitment to quality and providing an intelligent read has not changed. Coincidentally, both were shot in California, and the older issue has that state’s current First Lady on the cover

 


German actress Tiana Pongs releases insider’s guide to modelling

Filed by Lucire staff/July 2, 2020/12.23

German model and actress Tiana Pongs, who had authored Der kleine Model Guide in her native country some years ago, has released an updated English-language equivalent, Keep Smiling: a Career Guide for Models, from the same publisher, Ebozon Verlag.
   According to the publisher, the guide ‘explains, step by step, how to start, what the everyday life looks like and how emerging models can successfully establish themselves on the international market.’
   Pongs runs through advice on securing an agency, photographers and clients, photo shoots, and general conditions. She also discusses fees, tax advisers, travel, and beauty and nutrition. The book also has a verified list of international agencies.
   She also covers the seedier side of the business, including ‘dirty offers’, as well as personal difficulties such as homesickness.


Tiana Pongs’ original German edition, from the same publisher

 


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