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The Six-Figure Schmooze

NEW YORK -- Let's party.That's become the rallying cry of the fashion publishing industry, even as some magazines watch ad pages plummet, circulation fall and heads roll.One day Anna Wintour's jetting off with a legion of Vogue editors...

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NEW YORK -- Let's party.

That's become the rallying cry of the fashion publishing industry, even as some magazines watch ad pages plummet, circulation fall and heads roll.

One day Anna Wintour's jetting off with a legion of Vogue editors to fete both Johnny Depp and the Anne Klein collection, while Graydon Carter of Vanity Fair is hosting intimate dinners for Princess Margaret and planning a mega bash at Morton's in Hollywood on Oscar night. Back East, Paige Rense of Architectural Digest, who's actually based in California, is hosting her own Oscar party at Mortimer's here, for 80 of her nearest and dearest (and biggest advertisers). And those with any energy left can head down to Harvey Electronics inside ABC Carpet to party with Kurt Andersen and the New York magazine crowd.

This week, Tina Brown of The New Yorker threw her own mogul and movie star extravaganza at The Bel-Air. In May, the boys from Elle are sponsoring the big AIDS Project Los Angeles gala at Mann's Chinese Theater. And S.I. Newhouse himself, who hasn't led too many conga lines in his day, is outdoing Elsa Maxwell with parties for James Truman, Ron Galotti and Tom Florio, plus all kinds of departing Conde Nast executives.

To some, all this nightlife is a waste of time and money, and smacks of Eighties excess. But to others -- usually the ones giving the parties -- it's the Nineties way of doing business and is a comparatively inexpensive way of promoting their magazines.

The parties have become a selling tool, where publishers can hit on potential clients or reward those who have already bought big packages. Indeed, some advertisers are now insisting on promotional parties before they'll sign a contract.

For some editors, it seems that simply editing a magazine isn't enough anymore: "Party host" is now part of the job description. Often, a public relations person is part of the package to make sure the word gets out.

It is not an inexpensive proposition. Parties can cost anywhere from $10,000 for a smallish affair to steep six-figure sums, with many falling in the $40,000-to-$60,000 range.

Some credit publishing's party phenomenon to Tina Brown, who, during her tenure at Vanity Fair, threw countless affairs to not only bring in business, but get close to potential interview subjects and raise the magazine's profile. Others, however, point out that Vogue's 100th anniversary party, hosted by Anna Wintour at the New York Public Library, was the biggest magazine extravaganza in years, costing at least $500,000.
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