Street Savvy in an Editor's Chair

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4 of 20 > GO TO Next 2002 Woman to Watch

Brandon Holley understands teen readers. In part because she sneaked underaged into rock shows in Washington, thanks to convincing the likes of Peter Zaremba, frontman of the Fleshtones, to put her on the guest list under the nom du rock of Lisa Farfisa.

"Sometimes we'd write notes to teachers excusing [Ms. Holley] from classes," Mr. Zaremba recalls, claiming the budding editor "had important research to do."

Other observers also sensed the savvy and ambition of Ms. Holley, editor in chief of Hachette Filipacchi Media US's fledgling Elle Girl.

Street research
In researching her launch, she honored the new-breed thinking for teen titles and took to the streets. "We started having dinners" every other week "with a bunch of girls," says Ms. Holley, 35, to better know her target audience. She assembled these informal focus groups by "going up to them on the street, at [Manhattan's] Astor Place, outside schools." She pauses. "Hopefully, no one thought I was a pervert."

Doubtful, suggests the memories of one former boss, who praises Ms. Holley's "incredible radar" and shape-shifting abilities.

"She had amazing insight into skate culture and street fashion," says Cyndi Stivers, editor in chief of Time Out New York, where Ms. Holley worked last decade. And, Ms. Stivers says, in a crucial test for an emissary to a younger world, "she moved completely comfortably between the grown-up world" and "East village grunginess."

Whatever the reason, it works for her current boss.

'She got it'
"She got it," Jack Kliger, Hachette president-CEO, says of Elle Girl's positioning as a fashion-centric title aimed at older teens. "She had the voice and the skill set and the understanding."

Elle Girl, currently a quarterly, will go up to six or eight issues next year -- smart money's on eight -- and the rate base, 300,000, is expected to rise as well. Hachette's globalized focus extends to content sharing. Ms. Holley will play a role in South Korean and Quebec editions of Elle Girl, as the brand's founding editor.

"The model is ours," says Ms. Holley. "What's working here is working there."

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