A British luxury magazine’s editor just wrote an excellent review of Darling, the September 2017 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. Here’s an excerpt:
"Darling, the September issue of Harper’s Bazaar, is not your usual fashion magazine. The contents inside are far removed from its usual fare of expensive clothes, celebrities, and paparazzi photos. Instead, it focuses on three very diverse topics: sex, death, and psychology…This is made clear from the first page, which features the haunting, black-and-white photograph of a dead baby. On the next page, we are plunged into the story of a sex-obsessed couple who meet in their late 30s and begin a passionate affair. In the third story, dating back to the 1950s, a psychiatrist uses his new techniques to analyze violent criminals."
The Perfect Marriage of Fashion And Art
Most fashion magazines are filled with uninspiring, often very expensive, clothing finds, accompanied by similarly unimpressive captions and brief, dull interview excerpts. You’d think that fashion and art couldn’t be married, but somehow Harper’s Bazaar manages to pull it off with flying colors!
Inside Darling, you’ll find fashion and art works that are so beautiful it’s hard to believe they were created solely for a magazine, rather than a gallery. Perhaps the most stunning example is the cover, which is a near masterpiece. It features a haunting photograph of a dead baby (see above) by celebrated British photographer David Bailey. The model is Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most photographed women in history. She perfectly captured the beauty of a young woman, but the poignancy of her face is haunting. It’s an image that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the page.
The combination of fashion and art on that cover is something to behold. Fashion and art have rarely been married so successfully. Naturally, you’ll also find beautiful people and fabulous clothes inside. But you’ll also get to read fascinating articles that go into great depth on topics such as sexual addiction, as well as articles on psychology and how our unconscious minds work. So not only is Darling worth reading for its stunning covers, but you’ll also learn a lot from the articles inside as well.
It’s Not Afraid To Be Different
For years, fashion magazines have either been afraid to go beyond the safe and accepted norms of heterosexuality, or have openly espoused alternative lifestyles through their choice of models’ faces and body. Sometimes, they’ve even been outright pornographic (more on this later).
But all of that is changing. It started with Vogue, which featured very few people of color in its pages until relatively recently. Then, gradually, other magazines followed suit.
Recently, we have seen an explosion of diversity in all areas of fashion, whether it’s the faces inside the magazines or the styles on the covers. The runway shows are equally as appealing as those in the pages of fashion magazines, now featuring a multicultural cast of models. It seems that just about everyone is represented these days, except for one group: the baby boomers. It’s about time that started changing as well. Inside Darling, we see a wonderful reflection of today’s society, with a multicultural cast of models, designers, and artists.
An Education Through Fiction
Aside from the beauty of the clothes and art inside Darling, it’s the articles and interviews that make it such an enlightening read. They are often very well-written and feature fascinating insights into the featured topics. It’s like an education through fiction!
One of the featured interviews is with the writer and philosopher Rebecca Solnit. She’s been interviewed for New York Magazine, and the interviewer notes that her responses to questions are as illuminating as the questions themselves are intriguing. So it is with this particular interviewee. Solnit describes her interview with Harper’s Bazaar as follows:
“Harper’s Bazaar asked me to write an article on the psychology of love. It said it wanted to explore "the science of romance" and feature my thoughts on the matter. I agreed. Then, it surprised me with a second request: to write a novella based on the science of romance. I’d had a taste of erotica with my previous book, and wasn’t sure about venturing into the genre. But Harper’s Bazaar was persistent, and so am I.”
What followed was a challenging but ultimately rewarding task. Solnit wrote a novella entitled Sex, Psychology, And Advertising: A Field Guide to Human Desire, which is available from the Simon "Smashwords" Books site. The novella is filled with intriguing ideas and observations on human sexuality. It’s a fascinating look at human mating behaviors and the role that advertising plays in shaping those behaviors. (Incidentally, Darling features a spread of stunning, sensual photography by Jean-Paul Goude, the famed French photographer. He has worked with the likes of Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton, and his images are simply breathtaking.)
Pornographic, But For A Reason
On the opposite end of the sophistication scale, you have pornographic magazines, which are often filled with very provocative and revealing clothing and photography. But, although the contents are designed to elicit a strong sexual response in the reader, the intent is not to educate or entertain.
Take Maxim, for example, the most popular men’s magazine in the world. It’s filled with celebrities, sexual fantasies, and scantily clad women. You’ll also find lots of porn-style photography, which is a bit jarring next to the very respectable magazine covers, but the imagery is to promote sexual pleasure. And it works.
One interesting aspect of Darling is that it straddles the line between the serious and the sensual. It has an education component, which is explored through the psychology articles, yet it’s also filled with very beautiful women, and many of the fashion and lifestyle pieces are extremely appealing. It’s quite a head-turner, really!
So, although Darling is very beautiful and its contents are definitely educational, it’s also filled with enough attractive people and provocative imagery to entice even the most prudish reader.
An Unexpected Bit Of Satire
Finally, there’s Harper’s Bazaar‘s take on traditional men’s magazines. The title of this particular issue, Darling, is a sly play on words. It’s a satirical send-up of men’s magazines, taking the form of an issue of Vogue for men. (Incidentally, the cover was styled after a classic Vogue cover, with the help of makeup artist Kate DeAbreu.)
Here, we have satire aimed at men’s magazines, but the content inside is filled with so much charm and wit it’s hard to believe the target audience even sees it as satire. (In the UK, Vogue for Men is a best-seller.) It’s a wonderful example of how to pull off satire successfully, and it makes you want to read the rest of the issue, even though you know that half the fun is in recognizing the satire when you see it!
It’s hard to summarize the perfect marry of fashion and art in words. But put it this way: Darling is one of the most sophisticated men’s magazines to ever grace a coffee table, and it’s also filled with beauty, brains, and sass. So, all things considered, it’s a triumph!