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Magazines Get Closer to Retail With Capsule Collections, E-Commerce

Classically print-only titles are expanding their offerings at a rapid rate.

Flipping through the pages of a fashion magazine is a great way to get ideas about what to buy each season, especially since you know the goods inside are hand-picked by a team of editors with highly developed tastes. It seems only natural then that these publications are beginning to not only feature products they love within their pages, they're also branching out into developing -- and in some cases, selling -- the items themselves.

Earlier this week, Real Simple, a women's lifestyle magazine owned by Time Inc., announced that it is teaming up with e-commerce site Cuyana for its first-ever co-branded fashion collection. The line, which is a tightly edited range of clothing and accessories for summer, will be available beginning May 15. 

The partnership -- based on Cuyana's "lean closet" movement -- was a natural one between the two brands, as they share a similar aesthetic, as well as a philosophy based around simplicity and intentional buying. Cuyana approached Real Simple about six months ago, and after a number of conversations about what key elements would be included in the collection, the design process began. 

According to Real Simple's publisher Charlie Kammerer, the partnership benefits the magazine in a number of ways: First, it's a service for the audience -- readers have access to high-quality, high-value products that were designed in part by the publication's trusted team of editors. And second, it gives the Real Simple team perspective on how its audience shops for online fashion, which is information that can greatly benefit the book in the future.

 "Historically some publishers have looked at their brands in too limited of a way," Kammerer said. "A lot of us need to realize that brands are much broader than [just a magazine and a website] in consumers' minds. We need to create brand equity where it makes sense in our readers lives." 

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Real Simple isn't the first print brand to get involved in both e-commerce and design. Harper's Bazaar not only has its stand-alone shopping site, -- one the very first content-to-commerce stores from a print brand -- it also recently partnered with Stuart Weitzman on a capsule collection designed by the magazine's accessories and market editors. 

InStyle took part in a similar collaboration as well, designing shoes and accessories for retail partner Nine West for a line that's now in its third season.

"The partnership started over a dinner in Paris with the CEO of Jones Group and Ariel Foxman," Leah Karp,  InStyle's accessories director, said. "It was a very natural conversation. We thought it would be the perfect partnership between two mega-brands and we started designing right away."

InStyle brings in additional revenue from Nine West as a brand extension, and so far the collaboration has been a success: Karp notes that a number of the items she designed have sold out worldwide. "We are bringing the reader a line of on-trend, fashion-forward and affordable pieces, available internationally," Karp explained. "Our woman is in the know, and this helps so that she can dress the way she sees in the magazine, in items created by InStyle editors."

As for why now is the time for the magazine to extend its offerings into design and e-commerce, Karp believes that its part of the constantly evolving state of what a print brand is and must become. "Everyone sees the world is changing and how connected people are -- everyone is looking for the next step in looking to engage the reader and, for Nine West, the customer," she said.  "This collaboration lets the reader have a piece of the InStyle brand beyond what's in the pages of our magazine."