Wallpaper Is Launching a 'Bespoke' U.S. Edition

Time Inc. Seeks to Expand Its Luxury-Market Footprint

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For years I kept a copy of every single issue of Wallpaper, the insanely stylish design-and- architecture-focused lifestyle magazine. From the very start, it's always been just the most magazine-y magazine imaginable -- a beautifully executed media product, with elegant layouts and gorgeous photographs printed on premium stock. It just felt so wrong, so heartless, to discard it.

Editor-in-Chief Tony Chambers understands. In fact, given that Wallpaper (or Wallpaper*, with an asterisk, as its logo is officially styled) is coming up on its 20th anniversary -- it was launched in 1996 as an independent title by glamorous, globetrotting journalist Tyler Brûlé (then acquired by Time Inc. in 1997) -- the magazine is planning on honoring some of the completist collectors out there.

Wallpaper's 200th issue, with three variations on its cover
Wallpaper's 200th issue, with three variations on its cover

"We had a nice idea, because we come across so many people who have all the editions, of just having a lovely shot of their interior, quite discreet, and then on a shelf you see the distinctive spines [of Wallpaper]," Mr. Chambers told me by phone last week from London. For this photo essay of Wallpaper-enhanced interiors, he said he plans on approaching cultural icons including Raf Simons, creative director at Christian Dior, and Jean Nouvel, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect, both of whom have told him that they've saved every issue of Wallpaper.

I was speaking with Mr. Chambers in part because he's just hit a set of landmarks -- the 200th issue of Wallpaper, which happens to be his 100th as editor-in-chief -- but also because he's about to introduce a U.S. edition of the magazine. The Wallpaper familiar to American readers has always been an import. Launching with a November issue, and then going quarterly in 2016, complimentary copies of the "bespoke U.S. edition" of Wallpaper, as Mr. Chambers calls it, will be mailed to 250,000 U.S. residents. That will dramatically expand Wallpaper's distribution, given that international circulation of the existing "global edition" is just over 100,000 (with roughly 20,000 in sales on the U.S. newsstand).

Mr. Chambers describes the U.S. edition as "a sampler, in a sense -- a collation of a number of issues into one. It's an edit from the global edition that gets delivered to door to this extraordinary database."

Why now? Because Time Inc. has been figuring out just how deep its database is, as bolstered by the 2013 purchase of American Express Co.'s publishing arm, including Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine.

Essentially, Time Inc. realized it could zero in on a critical mass of affluent, design-obsessed U.S. consumers and create a special edition of Wallpaper curated just for them. (That controlled-circ model of mailing free copies of a magazine to qualified consumers was part of the strategy at the old American Express Publishing, which created Departures for American Express Platinum cardholders; Departures, still published for them, is now also in the Time Inc. stable.)

In a separate conversation, New York-based Time Inc. Executive VP Evelyn Webster -- who previously oversaw Wallpaper when she worked out of London -- told me that some 30 luxury marketers are backing the U.S. launch, which includes a beefed-up web presence. Among the brands on board: Hermès, Prada, Max Mara, Cadillac and the Marriott Autograph Collection.

At Time Inc., Ms. Webster said, the plan is to grow high-end editorial: "We're really definitely building our luxury-market footprint... It made perfect sense for us to expand it [Wallpaper], as opposed to launching a brand new thing. And our clients love the fact that it's an international brand, and that Wallpaper readers travel globally frequently. There is always a demand for more of those affluent consumers."

Mr. Chambers remains editorial chief of the brand worldwide. Michael Reynolds, who's been on the Wallpaper masthead for 18 years, is taking on the new role of U.S. editor. Pei-Ru Keh, New York editor, and Daisy Alioto, social/digital editor, are new hires.

As for my Wallpaper collection, I confessed to Mr. Chambers that, due to space constraints (I live in New York City) and various moves over the years, I had to drastically pare back, though I did keep Vol. 1, No. 1. In my most recent move, six years ago, I lugged most of my Wallpaper collection to the sidewalk in front of my Manhattan apartment building, and put a big sign on the boxes reading, "THESE BEAUTIFUL WALLPAPER MAGAZINES NEED A NEW HOME." Minutes later, back in my apartment, I looked out the window and watched as delighted strangers descended on them like kids in a candy store.

Mr. Chambers, who has an infectiously cheery manner, can relate to that enthusiasm. "You know, it's almost like I'm a kid in a sweet shop, to be editor of this thing. Design and architecture have always been my passion. Really, I'm a very, very lucky man."

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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