Trading Places: From Fashion Magazines to Fashion Brands

Some years ago, something interesting started to happen on the fashion brand and fashion editorial front. They began to switch places. So, the likes of Net-A-Porter,, Topshop et al. started to behave like fashion editorials would and even went so far as to produce their own magazine-style content; publications such as Porter, which was “powered by,” launched and big-name brands began to preach to their consumers as though they were the Vogues, Harpers’, Elles and the like of this world. Which at first felt a little contrived and strange as a customer, it has to be said. Obviously, they would be telling me to buy their trends and their latest looks. No doubt some of said “trends” might even be related to the fact that they had bought more heavily in them than anything else that season. Though, perhaps, at least that was a potentially more transparent approach than some of the influencer-sponsored posts we see of late.

032c's COSMIC WORKSHOP runway show in London. Photo: Courtesy of PR.

But now something else interesting has begun to happen. Fashion magazines want to be brands. But they don’t just want to be any brand, they want to be a fashion brand. Which given that clothes and magazines are both tangible, physical products, likely makes sense. And given that the importance of “the experience” has become a central driving force of fashion recently, from big-extravaganza immersive catwalk shows to local and national branded publication festivals, talks and events open to the public, the jump to apparel doesn’t seem so very far away. In fact, it seems necessary in a media landscape in which the dialogue between print and digital is still evolving, and readers, or rather consumers, are still up for grabs.

“For us, it’s really only different content streams,” pointed out fashion designer Maria Koch at last night’s womenswear collection launch from the cult Berlin-based publication 032c, which was founded by her husband Joerg Koch in 2000. “It’s important to organise the right stream so maybe an article is really good in the written word but another article you find later is a nice topic for a T-shirt or a collection,” she pointed out. And she had a good point. Where now we decide to put our content online, in-print or on social media, surely putting it on clothes is just another 360-extension of that? It’s all part of the experience. It’s all about fashion, anyway.

032c's COSMIC WORKSHOP runway show in London. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

“It’s [the idea to do the collection] super organic. We see it [the brand] as a platform, not only a magazine,” said Koch, quenching her thirst backstage after the show. “We do parties and exhibitions, we do magazines, we do fashion.” Entitled Cosmic Workshop, the out-til-late clothes – cut-out club dresses, logo shrugs and bandeaus, hoodies, cargo pants and oversized jeans suits – palpitated out among the concrete surrounds of 180 The Strand, the home usually reserved for fashion shows during London Fashion Week come the February and September months of the year. A billowing tarp lit from behind pulsated and music pumped. Berlin had come to the capital and pre-Christmas wind-down, London’s fashion folk had come out ready to see it.

In a palette of grey, white, black and metallic, the collection had been something of a long-held desire for the creative duo to launch ever since the release of fan-style T-shirts three years ago. What was once simply merch is now a means for legitimate revenue growth – it’s reported that 032c will generate €1.9 million in sales from its apparel this year, which is more than twice as much revenue as the magazine itself; revenue from apparel outgrew that of the magazine last year – enabling readers, or customers, to wear their zine on their sleeves and cast their editorial vote even more so than before.

Like the trophy tote bags that came before them to show how well read you were, how you shopped and where you consumed your culture, it is the perfect extension of social signalling. And it’s gaining momentum.

032c's COSMIC WORKSHOP runway show in London. Photos: Courtesy of PR.

Because 032c isn’t the only brand to think so laterally on the subject, especially in an influx media climate. Antidote, the Paris-based publication, launched a unisex vegan clothing collection earlier this year in February. And under the forward-thinking stewardship of Edward Enninful, Vogue has teamed up with high street brand Reserved for a curated collaboration this season.

While the fashion industry constantly loves to talk about its many musical chairs, perhaps a more prevalent term to get used to reading and saying now is the one more along the lines of trading places.