Shape 'made me feel rubbish'

It’s about taking control of your life, you see. Looking and feeling great, too. I know this, because the editor Annabel Meggeson has told me via www.shapemagazine.co.uk. (She lives in a rather nice house with white walls and a chandelier in what seems to be a pleasantly genteel part of London, and surely I’ve seen her smiling away, hair slightly windswept, in a Boden catalogue at some point?)

Unfortunately, only two pages into the newly relaunched magazine itself and I’ve lost it, frankly, and am feeling a bit rubbish to boot. It’s thanks to a ‘news’snippet that suggests I solve my laptop and gymkit-carrying problems with one of just three tote bags: Jimmy Choo’s, weighing in at £495; YSL’s at £560; or Chloe’s – price on application. Price on application? For a TOTE BAG? I’d knit my own from dog hair fished out of the dustbag first.

Teeth clenched and blood up, I turn to page 58 and discover that my hyped-up reaction is really not good news, in what turns out to be an enlightening feature on why women need to be clued up about heart disease, and how our symptoms may not be the ones we think we know to look out for – those classic gripping pains in the chest are for the boys, it seems.

Shape – back with us after a four-year absence (previous publisher Dennis threw in the gym towel back in 2004) – has a tough challenge on its fragrant hands; the fiercely competitive women’s monthlies market is not for cissies, so it’s a brave move for new owner River Publishing, known for its customer rather than newsstand titles.

Commercially, it may well be the global strength of what is a Weider Publications’ trademark that has secured some quality advertising (Estee Lauder in the first DPS is always a good omen). And Shape is, undoubtedly, a very pretty package, with some substantial, informative features, lots of pictures of crushed-up eyeshadow and swively lipsticks, and ethereally beautiful models in, actually, rather expensive and ungainly clothes, plus plenty of inspiring tips for making life just so much better and more meaningful.

Psychologies has gradually clawed its way into the market by virtue of genuinely different and visually distinctive content. Shape is trying to take some of Psychologies’ tricks and wrap them up into a more traditionally stylish package, but without offering sharp enough USPs of its own, or any of that Blitz!/Zap!/Scrunch! energy that I associate with their American counterpart.

The news pages, for example, need focus (don’t tell me research from Harvard has proved that flowers boost your mood – and then not reveal a single other thing about the research at all; so Banana Republic has arrived in Regent Street from across the Pond… but is Shape implying that its ‘high-quality’clothes make it more ethical? What is this story saying?).

Elsewhere there are numbing insights into Elle Macpherson’s life: ‘I usually eat fruit. And I love juices, especially grape juice.’And more visual clarity, please: there’s a rather dull-looking feature on LA labels, with no clue that overleaf is the real meat and potatoes – OK, steamed salmon and couscous – namely, why these clothes are great, where I can find them in the UK, and how much they cost.

Back to the editor. ‘I think women of a certain age are looking to get back into a more indulgent monthly read. By offering something different, Shape could be a success,’she told Press Gazette prelaunch.

Well I agree. Besides, 70,000 is not an unrealistic circulation target. It’s just that isn’t Shape already out there, with a load more stuff in it, and called Red?

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