Wed, Sep 05, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Slimming down

German women’s magazine “Brigitte” finds using ‘real women’ takes longer and sales have plummeted

By Siobhan Dowling  /  The Guardian, BERLIN

Ultra-thin is Brigitte’s new “real woman.”

Photo: Reuters

Germany’s top-selling women’s magazine is considering abandoning its use of amateur models barely two years after deciding to banish professional ones.

The fortnightly Brigitte hit the headlines in 2009 when it said it would feature only “real women” in its pages, part of a backlash against the use of ultra-thin professional models in fashion.

However, the magazine is reported to have found working with amateur models a challenge and the move has done nothing to increase sales.

Now, with Stephan Schafer taking over at the helm as co-editor-in-chief alongside Brigitte Huber, the magazine is reconsidering the policy.

Schafer has been brought in to give Brigitte, which has been providing German women with a mix of fashion, recipes and lifestyle tips since 1954, a facelift.

“Naturally there is now a new direction at the magazine, which means everything is under review and that includes the no-models policy,” confirmed Sabine Grungreiff, spokeswoman for the magazine’s publishers Gruner + Jahr.

Back in 2009, the former editor-in-chief Andreas Lebert had claimed he was fed up having to retouch photographs of ultra-thin models.

“For years we’ve had to use Photoshop to fatten the girls up,” he said. “Especially their thighs and decolletage.”

He said Brigitte’s readers had complained that they couldn’t identify with the women featured in the magazine. That prompted the magazine to make use of ordinary women, with the first model-free issue appearing in January 2010.

However, the new direction has proved more difficult than anticipated. For one thing, the magazine says, its stylists and photographers have found that it is harder and takes longer to work with inexperienced non-professional models.

At the same time the models are being paid at a level “comparable” to professionals, the Suddeutsche Zeitung reports.

The magazine has to find the women without the help of model agencies. Arranging to shoot the women has also proved a challenge, as many work in other jobs and are only available at the weekends.

At the same time, the radical move has not had the desired impact on readers. They have complained that the women that now appear in Brigitte’s pages are just as skinny and pretty as the models previously used. They also point to the fact that the magazine has continued to feature diet tips.

Furthermore, the publicity gained by abandoning models appears to have done little for the bottom line. Sales have continued to slide, continuing the trend of the past decade, down from 801,574 in 2002 to 601,696 today.

“It is true that the numbers have fallen back,” Grungreiff said, but she disputed that this could be blamed on Brigitte’s no-models policy. “It is similar to all women’s fortnightly magazines.”

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