Spellbinding And Intoxicating Like A Fine Glass Of Red Wine
By Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, Ph.D.
Founder and Director, Magazine Innovation Center
The University of Mississippi
To me there are three types of books that are published: the book with the cover that attracts you, but not enough to motivate you to read it; the book that you pick up because of the cover and you start reading it, but then you lose interest; and finally, the book that you pick up not just for the cover, but for the content as well, and you can’t put it down, you start reading and you absolutely have to finish it, cover to cover. Didier Guérin’s “From Front Row to Front Cover – Inside the Business of International Fashion Magazines” is most definitely the latter, once you start reading it you can’t put it down.
I first met Didier Guérin through the pages of ELLE magazine, when he brought the publication to the United States on behalf of the Hachette Filipacchi-News Corp joint venture. As I vividly remember him telling me, I was the first person to send him a letter congratulating him about ELLE coming to the U.S.
It wasn’t long after that, I invited Didier to come to the University of Mississippi in 1987 and he very graciously accepted my invitation. He came and he spoke to my students here and that began a journey for him that was parallel to my own in the magazine world, yet he was on the inside looking out, while I was always on the outside looking in.
I was so impressed by Didier’s passion for the magazine world and his business acumen when he came to speak to my students. I felt his struggles were so similar to my own struggles, trying to understand what makes a magazine work; what makes a magazine fail; what are the processes of launching a magazine. He was just coming out of the strife of spending almost two years trying to launch ELLE in the United States and facing all of the obstacles from every magazine media company back then until the magazine was launched in 1985, and then later he launched Premiere in 1987.
So, to me Didier Guérin is much more than a magazine maker, he is an experience maker. He experienced the magazines that he made and that’s why if you read his book, “From Front Row to Front Cover,” while he wasn’t on the cover of any magazine, he was the cover of the magazine. His new book is an intimate journey through the life of someone who for 40 years has not only followed the magazine industry, but was immersed in it, both as an idea-maker and a business-maker. The combination of those two gives the book an authenticity and realism that is unparalleled.
After we met in 1987, I asked him to write the introduction to my book, “Samir Husni’s Guide to New Magazines,” the 1988 edition. And one of his most memorable lines in that missive was, “Launching a magazine is such a seductive idea for so many people, that it beats even racing cars, a dream that every boy and some girls in America have had at least once.” And for Didier, and myself, that seduction is very real.
“From Front Row to Front Cover” takes us through Didier’s childhood and university days in Paris, to his time with Hachette Filipacchi and launching ELLE in the United States. It is an exciting and often gut-wrenching tale of one young man’s foray into the world of magazines and magazine making, while searching for his own personal happiness within the realms of love and finding that “right” person. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Didier relives leaving Hachette and moving to Condé Nast in 1995, and the angst that decision caused him. Then the launches of VOGUE Taiwan and GLAMOUR Korea, preparing for VOGUE China and launching VOGUE Japan, and ultimately his firing from Condé Nast with no warning or reason.
The book is one man’s intimate and powerful journey through the ups and downs, power plays, and often hard decisions made within the higher echelons of the magazine publishing business. It is a read that will keep you spellbound and intoxicated without benefit of your favorite glass of wine.