Flair Magazine: The Short-Lived, Highly-Influential Magazine That Still Inspires Designers Today (1950)


All magazines are their editors, however Flair was once extra its editor than any mag were ahead of — or, for that topic, than any mag has been since. Though she got here to the tip of her lengthy existence in England, a rustic to which she had expatriated along with her fourth husband, a Briton, Fleur Cowles was once as American a cultural determine as they arrive. Born Florence Freidman in 1908, she had carried out on herself an unknowable selection of Gatsbyesque acts of reinvention via 1950, when she discovered herself ready to release Flair. Her style in husbands helped, married as she then was once to Gardner “Mike” Cowles Jr., writer of Look, a well-liked picture magazine that Fleur had helped to raise from its lowbrow origins and make first rate amongst that omnipotent shopper demographic, postwar American girls.

The luck of the reinvented Look “allowed Cowles to invite her husband for what she actually sought after: the capital to start out her personal e-newsletter, which she known as ‘a category mag,’” writes Eye on Design’s Rachel Syme. “She was once uninterested in spreads about the most productive linoleum; she sought after to do a whole factor on Paris, or rent Ernest Hemingway to put in writing a shuttle essay, or fee Colette to gossip about her amorous affairs.”

During Flair‘s run she did all that and extra, with a roster of individuals additionally together with Salvador Dalí, Simone de Beauvoir, W. H. Auden, Gloria Swanson, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Jean Cocteau. In Flair‘s debut factor, revealed in February 1950, “an editorial at the 28-year-old Lucian Freud got here liberally accompanied with reproductions of his artwork—the primary ever to seem in America.”

So writes Vanity Fair‘s Amy Fine Collins in a profile of Clowes. “Angus Wilson and Tennessee Williams contributed quick tales, Wilson’s published on paper textured to resemble slubbed silk.” What’s extra, “The Duke and Duchess of Windsor opened their house to Flair’s readers, treating them to their recondite and entertaining guidelines. A extra futuristic method to dwelling was once set forth in a two-page unfold on Richard Kelly’s lighting fixtures design for Philip Johnson’s glass space in Connecticut.” Feature even though it’s going to have the paintings of an astonishingly various team of luminaries — pulled in via Cowles’ huge and intentionally woven social internet — Flair is much more revered nowadays for each and every factor’s lavish, elaborate, and unique design.

“If a characteristic could be higher in measurement than on flat pages, why now not fold half-pages within double-page spreads?” asks Cowles in her memoirs, quoted in Print magazine. “Why now not bind it as ‘slightly e book’ … giving it a unique center of attention? If a characteristic was once higher ‘translated’ on textured paper, why use glossy paper?” And “if a portray was once excellent sufficient to border, why now not print it on correctly heavy inventory? Why now not bind little accordion folders into each and every factor to provide the sensation of one thing extra private to the content material?” One explanation why is the $2.five million (1950 greenbacks) that Mike Cowles estimated Flair to have price within the 12 months it ran ahead of he pulled its plug.

But then, via the early 1970s even the extremely winning Look needed to fold — and of the 2 magazines, just one has develop into ever extra sought-after, has books published in its tribute, and nonetheless evokes designers nowadays. To take a more in-depth have a look at the mag, see The Best of Flaira  compilation of the mag’s very best content material as selected via Fleur Cowles herself. (See a video preview of the e book above.)

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and proclaims on towns, language, and tradition. His tasks come with the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the e book The Stateless City: a Walk thru 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video collection The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


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