Gucci Flippers and Speakers That Purr
By Dore Carroll  


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Wallpaper*, the sleek European magazine of interior design, fashion and travel, instantly boosts the style index of any urban hipster who carries it aboard an international flight or leaves it strewn just so on her coffee table.

The oversized glossy’s crisp, ultra-modern design, photography and advertising are aimed at upscale city dwellers from Brazil to Switzerland, with huge disposable incomes and exquisite tastes. It is also appealing to those who are less financially endowed, but who wish they could afford the luxury items featured in Wallpaper*’s sumptuous pages.

The bimonthly magazine showcases lavishly styled interior design photos, bizarre architecture, the hottest and most curious places around the world to visit without a budget, and sleek models, dripping with the trendiest garb, posing for off-beat feature stories.

Each issue is organized loosely around a theme. December was "100," Wallpaper*’s annual survey of the sublime (or the world’s ultimate Christmas shopping list). The 306-page, ad-packed issue featured "Pulpy Love," a textiles piece about the woods of Finland; "Most Flavoured Nation," a toast to Italian food; "Clever Clogs," about the clunky footwear; "Global Pillage," on where to go and why, and 96 other subjects. January/February was the "Alpine Issue," which tracked down the high life at high altitudes. Its richly colored pages were devoted to Swiss chalets, mountaintop architecture and high peaks grub. My favorites were the après-ski recipes for wiener schnitzel and alpine macaroni and cheese, served in decadent silver bowls on a deep red tablecloth.

Wallpaper*’s affluent audience of 25- to 40-year-old men and women in 50 different countries makes the magazine an advertiser’s dream. Hannah Corbett, communications director for the London-based Wallpaper* Group, described the magazine’s readers as "brand-savvy, well-traveled residents of prosperous enclaves who are obsessed with interior design, exquisitely tailored trousers and speakers that purr." Wallpaper* is also an "aspirational luxury magazine," Corbett said, an upmarket rag aiming above the wallets of many of its 135,000 readers around the world.

"Wallpaper* is a fantasy magazine for rich kids and for people who want to be rich," said Walter Isaacson, Time Inc.’s editorial director. Still, Corbett said, some of its readers certainly are living the life. And advertisers are clamoring to reach those well-heeled young professionals and highly qualified executives — without children — who are identified as Wallpaper*’s audience.

The magazine was founded in 1996 by 31-year-old Tyler Brûlé, a Canadian-born freelance journalist. Recovering in London from gunshot wounds suffered while on assignment in Afghanistan, Brûlé hatched the idea for Wallpaper* as he leafed through magazines that he thought were "rubbish." After just four issues, Time Inc. purchased the magazine for $1.63 million in June 1997; Brûlé retained a 15 percent interest and his role as editorial director.

And Brûlé’s vision still drives the magazine, said Corbett, the Wallpaper* spokeswoman. In fact, the Wallpaper Group is its own division within the AOL Time Warner empire, run from a ravishingly stylish suite of offices in London. Calls about Wallpaper* to Time Inc.’s headquarters in New York were quickly referred to London.

The magazine does fill a niche in Time Inc.’s stable of publications — Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, Money and InStyle, among others — with its focus on the young and trendy. The latest issue featured spreads by Versace, Diesel, Fendi, Escada, Chanel, Armani, Cartier and Mercedes-Benz. It seems Brûle and his affluent band of urban professionals are in for a long, prosperous relationship with Time Inc. Under the company’s Wallpaper Group, Brûle has launched Wink Media, an advertising design agency, and Line, a biannual sports and lifestyle magazine that has featured such things as Gucci flippers. Plans are also in the works for a summer fashion magazine code-name Project Palmer.