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On a recent July afternoon, Emily Dougherty sat at a polished white table in the 17th floor corner office of nail polish magnate Essie Weingarten. As the sun streamed in through the windows, Dougherty and Weingarten talked color. “I love the idea of neon red,” Dougherty said, pulling out a poster board sprayed with various shades of bright red, “but it tends to skew pink and I’m not as happy with it as I thought.”
“I don’t know if a spa customer will like neon,” mused Weingarten. “What about a new spin on blue? I’m so in love with blues. Blues and greens have been so good for us.”
Weingarten started mixing colors in an empty bottle, carefully adding two shiny silver balls before giving it a shake to mix it.
Dougherty took a box of pastels in varying shades of azure out of her canvas tote. “I personally like less chalky shades,” she said, assessing Weingarten’s first offer, before pausing: “Will blue make your hands look even redder? Because so many people get red and puffy hands at the beach.”
Dougherty’s concerns were valid. Although she’s the beauty director of Elle magazine, she wasn’t here today to choose products for the pages of her publi- cation. Rather, Dougherty was working with Weingarten on creating exclusive shades to be sold at the Elle Spa at the Eden Roc Hotel in Miami.
The spa, which opened in June, is just one example of how magazines in general and many beauty editors specifically are expanding their sphere of influence, offline and online, and significantly altering the relationship they have with readers. Today, the most forward-thinking editors are tweeting, blogging and posting pictures both personal and professional. They’re on TV, commentating on the latest celebrity look or skin care trend. They’re online, hosting how-to videos demonstrating the latest hair or makeup look. They’re in the halls of major beauty brands, giving feedback on launches. Of course, they’re producing magazine pages, too, but for editors today, the point isn’t a month-to-month communication with readers. It’s minute by minute.
“The role of the beauty magazine has changed,” says Linda Wells, the editor in chief of Allure, who started the magazine 20 years ago. “With all of the new devices and iterations of the magazine, with the brand on the Web and on the iPad and mobile devices, [our] role becomes a lot more direct.”
For Allure, that means playing a much more explicit role in recommending specific products, a position the magazine is capitalizing on with the launch of its Beauty Product Finder on allure.com. The magazine is partnering with Beautybar.com and Soap.com, to enable users to click-to-buy on recommended products, provided the item is available on the partner sites. Wells says currently about 30 percent of the products that are reviewed on the tool are available on the e-commerce sites.
“This is a really different world and a natural progression,” says Wells. “One day not too far from now, [readers] will be able to tap on a story in the magazine on the iPad [and buy a product.]” For now, they’ll have to content themselves with the Allure Sephora palette, a $34 limited edition interchangeable makeup palette that the editor and her team designed for the retailer.
Whether it’s a magazine-branded makeup palette or a luxe spa or even sheets and duvet covers (Teen Vogue recently launched an eponymous bedding line), more and more magazines are expanding beyond the printed word. “We didn’t used to think of magazines as brands,” says Aileen Gallagher, assistant professor in the magazine department at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. “We thought of them as publications. They’ve always had a strong identity, but now they can put their thumbprint on all sorts of things that aren’t the magazine.”
Take the Elle Spa, an experience Dougherty says was designed to bring the magazine alive for all five senses. “From the moment you enter till the moment you leave, we want it to be a deep dive into our pages,” she says. To that end, Elle’s music editor created the spa’s sound track, its fashion editor curated the clothing selection in the boutique. And Dougherty herself oversaw the treatments. “We have a column called Doctor’s Orders,” she says as an example, “a single page on what really works to fix skin problems. So with acne for example, we interviewed top dermatologists about the ingredients that work, then created a facial protocol based on those ingredients. Then, when the client is leaving the spa, she gets a copy of the story. The goal is for the spa to be another touch point.”