fashion e-mags

Porte-à-Vie and Mr Jones: Branded content in fashion

In Trends by Peter Gearin

Two contrasting Australian retailers have launched designer magazines to reach their defined audiences.

When former Vogue Australia editor Kirstie Clements was looking to market her new business, she turned to something she knows a lot about – branded publishing. Not that her new online venture, Porte-à-Vie, lends itself to a broad, mainstream approach: it retails sexy lingerie and premium sex toys.

Porte-à-Vie has created a creative publishing outlet – a self-titled digital magazine – that has a distinctive look and feel. Befitting the products it sells, Porte-à-Vie’s 51-page digi-mag has a range of stories that go deep and are quite revealing.

A Q&A by Clements with burlesque star Dita Von Teese covers “her passion for luscious lingerie”. “Seduction starts with oneself,” Von Teese says. “An expert seductress knows that it’s not about snaring a man, it’s about creating a seemingly effortless way of being that others want to be a part of.” A stunning David Downton watercolour illustration accompanies the story.

There are also stories about “art and eroticism”, a piece from Dr Nikki Goldstein on why women stop wanting sex and an interview with Dynasty actor Nathalie Kelley, who appears in a 70s-style fashion shoot co-starring husband Jordan Burrows. Between flat-lay product displays, there is a nude photo spread of model Erin Wasson paddling in shallow waters off Malibu. It’s all done, as edgy British comedian Kenny Everett might have said, “in the best possible taste”.

Content and marketing manager Elizabeth Roberts, who is also associate editor on the branded magazine, says Porte-à-Vie decided an editorial approach would be more appropriate for the brand than using traditional campaign imagery. It also ensured it was different from the e-commerce site … but not so far away that prospective customers couldn’t find a way to buy featured products.

“As an e-commerce business, it was important for us to keep our editorial content immediately actionable,” Roberts says. “Everything a reader sees in our magazine is only one click away from our website.

“Our website is home to regularly published articles, however, a digital magazine represents a highly considered body of work that has been conceptualised and curated as an entity that complements our brand and website, but also stands on its own.”

The current edition is the brand’s first, and Porte-à-Vie has plans to publish biannually. Roberts says the team will judge the digi-mag’s success on how many views it gets and the click-through rate to the website. Other publishing formats, including editorial-style videos, may follow.

Porte-à-Vie shows that even a risque publication that will never reach a general audience can be beautiful and confident. This seems to be what Clements and her team are trying to achieve, too. According to one of the published blurbs, “we celebrate different facets of female strength and sensuality, bringing to life the pleasures of what lies beneath”.

If the suit fits

The “sport with style” edition of David Jones’s male-focused print publication, Mr Jones, features Kenyan-born Australian athlete, Joseph Deng. The 20-year-old, now the fastest 800-metre runner in Australia’s history, looks impressive in his $1600 Paul Smith suit and his $2220 Gucci watch. The only thing that’s slightly incongruous about the cover is that the national middle-distance champion is bouncing a basketball – a black ball with “Mr Jones” in white lettering.

Like the other print magazine produced for David Jones by agency Medium Rare, which is simply called Jones, the fourth edition of the male-oriented branding exercise is classy and sophisticated. Presented in large format – in matt stock, not gloss – the 80-page magazine features readable stories and beautiful photography. Much of the high-quality shots are of men wearing clothes you can buy from DJs, but the portraiture is unusual and impactful, too.

What is notable is the quality of the storytelling. The Deng piece, by editor Ben McKelvey, tracks the turbulent life that brought a man born stateless, in a Kakuma refugee camp, to the brink of position in Australia’s track and field team for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. Says Deng’s uncle John: “In Kakuma I would watch Joe sprinting all over the place and we used to wonder if he would end up being a runner. But at the camp, there were no opportunities for running or anything.”

A profile on UFC fighter Tyson Pedro, also by McKelvey, introduces us to “a man of mirth but also one of war”. It carries black-and-white studio images of Pedro in various poses, wearing striking chest and leg tattoos and a pair of Bassike shorts ($240). A piece on pro surfer Soli Bailey is accompanied by images of the blond Aussie wearing tailored Italian business suits and leather shoes, looking more like a corporate warrior than a pipeline conqueror.

In fact, one thing strikes you about this issue of Mr Jones, which is free and can usually be found in stacks near escalators at David Jones outlets nationally. Although it’s clearly a sales vehicle for David Jones, all of the models are athletes. That includes a profile and photo shoot of Invictus athlete Nathan Whittington, who lost most of his right leg in a waterskiing accident. This does not feel like a safe and heavily stylised magazine you might expect to be produced by a department store.

When the quarterly female-oriented Jones was launched, David Jones CEO John Dixon spelt out the company’s reasons for working with Medium Rare to produce a magazine instead of a brochure: “Our magazine and [accompanying] app reward and empower our customers, promote our leading brands and bring our values to life,” he was quoted as saying. Its mission statement is “showcasing the covetable, celebrating the bold, bringing brands to life, igniting a conversation, inspiring the reader and rewarding the customer”.

There is also an associated website that allows readers to “shop the issue”, listing all of the items mentioned in the magazine and how you can buy them at David Jones. It also includes short videos and excerpts from the stories that appear in the printed product.

David Jones recently named Medium Rare as its dedicated content agency, in charge of its overall content strategy. It could be a sign that DJs has designs on producing more quality branded content.

Links & references

Porte-à-Vie digital magazine, edition 1

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