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The second coming of LâOfficiel
It’s official: An exclusive teaser of L’Officiel Philippines’ first three covers fronted by a top international model, a global idol group, and a top local celebrity, representing its unique lens of global fashion, local scene, and global pop culture. The quarterly print edition hits newsstands on Monday.
STAR/ File

The second coming of L’Officiel

Oliver Emocling (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2021 - 12:00am

It was in 2015 when the Philippine edition of L’Officiel first hit the newsstands. Coming from its Parisian roots, the magazine had a promise of a global perspective. But despite its brave and earnest intentions, L’Officiel Manila only published 23 issues and folded after two years.

But what seemed like the demise of L’Officiel turned out to be a short break. Four years since it disappeared, the Philippine edition of L’Officiel returns with fashion editor and stylist Danyl Geneciran at its helm.

“At first, we kept using the term returning. As time goes on, we don’t feel like saying that anymore because it’s totally different from how it was before,” Geneciran says.

The opportunity to bring back L’Officiel to the Philippines presented itself when Geneciran, who worked with international L’Officiel titles from 2014 to 2018, met up with the principals of Jalou Media Group last year. At first, Geneciran was hesitant to take the lead in the magazine’s return. After leaving publishing, he focused on running his company Gentrend Group, which consists of clothing brand Privé Alliance, LA-based multi-brand retailer Acrostics, and creative agency Lined. Then, recently, he became the visual director of Pinoy pop group BGYO.

Danyl Geneciran, L’Officiel Philippines editor in chief, and Chica Villarta, publisher

“Do I really want to go back to publishing and, you know, go through all that stress of editing and closing an issue and finding mistakes even when it’s printed already?” he says. But what led him to pursue it is his passion (“I know it sounds cliché,” he says) for publishing.

Given his involvement with international L’Officiel titles, Geneciran has an undeniable understanding of the brand. But he admits that he is not the most familiar with the audience and the business of publishing here in the Philippines. So, to support his vision, he put together a team of seasoned publishing professionals: Chica Villarta as publisher, Tin Dabbay as deputy editor, Loris Peña as fashion editor, Yanna Lopez as junior fashion editor, Belle Rodolfo as beauty editor and Patrick Diokno as consulting art director. On top of that, they will also get the support of L’Officiel’s global chief creative director Stefano Tonchi, who was previously the editor-in-chief of W magazine and T: The New York Times Style Magazine.

Print in the digital age

It’s still a precarious time to make magazines. Pandemic or not, it’s a privilege as much as it is a brave move to do so. Writing about the highly discussed Best Performances issue of W Magazine shot by Juergen Teller, American editor Phillip Picardi shared in his newsletter: “Being an editor-in-chief in 2021 means you’re showing up to work every day to justify your magazine’s existence to the public and to the men who oversee your budgets.” Picardi himself left his position at Out magazine in 2018 due to financial challenges.

The publishing industry in the Philippines also saw drastic changes in the same year. Rogue magazine, which, like L’Officiel Manila, was published by Rogue Media, folded both its print and digital assets. Summit Media ended the circulation of its print magazines like Preview and Esquire to embrace digital. Of course, others stayed on newsstands, but digital expanded. What would have been a sidebar in print became a slew of Instagram stories.

Digital, too, further democratized the horizons of publishing. The space that was once occupied only by bloggers and forum lurkers welcomed a variety of content creators.

Despite all that, print still appears to be L’Officiel Philippines’ main asset.

“(Most of us on the team) already experienced what it feels like to have a magazine fold,” Villarta says in a separate phone interview. “We’re really taking the lessons of the past to make sure that we’re on guard.”

“I think there’s no doubt that some print publications are hardly thriving not only in the Philippines but in some countries as well,” Geneciran says. “They now fold into a world that is tightly squeezed by all these digital platforms. But I still believe that print stands as a much-stronger platform for storytelling. There’s a sense of craving for something that’s more tangible and timeless and exclusive. Print gives the readers this exclusivity in the sense of artistry and craft that they could keep forever.”

This yearning for the materiality of a magazine might be stronger now that we are forced to further soak in the confines of the digital realm. Print presents itself as an escape from our current reality. Published every quarter, L’Officiel Philippines is also a response to how we consume magazines now.

The K-Pop effect

Before the magazine released its teaser for the first issue, searching L’Officiel Philippines on Twitter would yield tweets about pre-orders for issues coming from other Asian editions. Most of these tweets, which come from fan accounts, refer to issues with Korean idols on the cover. Putting international stars on the cover is innate to L’Officiel titles. Even L’Officiel Manila had its roster of international cover stars including Margaret Zhang, Karlie Kloss and Coco Rocha. But tapping into more dedicated fandoms has proven print’s relevance today.

Villarta cites the success of BTS magazine covers as a case study that they always look at. After the Korean group’s rise in the international music scene, magazines that featured them on their covers had to reprint thousands of copies to meet the global demand.

“This is kind of like the type of approach that we also want to do for the magazine,” Villarta says. “In that sense, L’Officiel Philippines also serves as a collector’s item for these fans.”

It seems like it borders on fan service, but Villarta is quick to add that this doesn’t make L’Officiel Philippines a fan magazine. Geneciran, too, ensures that this approach won’t compromise L’Officiel’s branding.

“We’re still talking about the same readers: fashion enthusiasts, creatives, art lovers and collectors. But at the same time, we’re trying to tap into different types of niches while still integrating and incorporating the strong L’Officiel brand,” he says. “You can expect not just local personalities on our covers but anyone from K-pop, Korean drama, to global fashion.”

A global platform

For Geneciran, this is what sets them apart from other local publications. “I think our advantage here is our access beyond what’s convenient. We’re giving our readers new and cutting-edge stories considering our direct access to global subjects.”

But more than that, L’Officiel Philippines’ ultimate goal is to provide up-and-coming creatives an avenue that’s similar to what today’s industry veterans had back in the heyday of print.

“I could just imagine that when the magazines folded, the art of the editorial was lost. People still create fashion editorials for digital, but I guess it’s not really the same in terms of rigor as creating it for print,” she says.

“There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of talent here,” Geneciran says. “What I think is lacking? It’s the platform, really. It’s the platform that really elevates them on a global level,” before adding: “I don’t want to claim that we will be that platform, but if possible, we want to be that platform.”

What to expect

Launching on March 15, it looks like L’Officiel Philippines is off to a good start. Geneciran doesn’t want to preempt the issue reveal, but he confirms that it will have multiple covers that embody the magazine’s main interests: fashion, global pop culture, and the local scene.

If he couldn’t reveal their covers yet, then we’re forced to guess whom his dream cover stars might be. Perhaps imagine a list of possibilities based on his body of work. He styled EXO’s Kai and Oh Sehun, NCT’s Jaehyun, Finn Wolfhard, Daniel Caesar, Joe Keery, among others. Plus, Baekhyun is his co-creative director at Privé Alliance.

But Geneciran wants to keep it a secret for now.

“I don’t want to jinx it,” he says. “We have the connections, but it’s really a matter of selling it to them and pitching them the concepts. But I think we’re going in the right direction.”

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