Media: Franks for the memory

And it was such a good idea at the time. Lisa Markwell, former deputy editor of Frank, looks back at the decline and fall of Wagadon's recently deceased magazine for women

The closure of the monthly fashion title Frank late last Thursday may have been met with smug "I told you so's" among glossy publishers, and general apathy from the magazine-buying public (the circulation had dwindled alarmingly from a high of 90,000 to 35,000), but for those involved in Frank from the start, it was a sad day.

At a time when women's magazines were in a rut, the idea to launch a high-fashion, high-intellect title was risky but appealing. In March 1997, Tina Gaudoin, formerly deputy editor of Tatler, was hired by Nick Logan, magazine guru and proprietor of Wagadon, as editor of project "Arena Woman". Logan famously created The Face and Arena from nothing and rightly earned kudos and cash from their success. When, after a 10-year gap, he proclaimed the market was ready for a new magazine, people sat up and listened.

The dusty warehouse space set aside for the staff of Wagadon's new magazine was, for some weeks, just that - a dusty warehouse. Tina and I set about hiring staff, seated at either end of a wallpapering table with a mobile phone between us. Everyone was excited to be part of something new; equally, everyone was dismayed at the salaries. The miles-from-Bond Street location daunted some, too.

Working for Nick Logan was an education - for both sides. Over sandwiches in the office, names were tossed into the ring (Skirt, Curve, Toast...). Our requests for computers, phone lines, business cards, loo rolls, anything, were met with a blink and "I'll think about that overnight" from Mr Logan. An early discussion was held over whether sub-editors were really necessary. There was also a major culture shock going on between the folk of The Face and Frank. Frank was behind a steel door with a combination lock; those used to wandering between titles for a chat felt affronted.

After battles with the advertising agency, the launch campaign had to be created by the magazine's art director and editor (which must have saved the company a few quid).

The media build-up was intense, rightly so for a magazine that proclaimed itself "provocative, challenging, intelligent, witty" (Tina's words). The mix in the first issue, of "frocks, politics, lipstick, handbags, human rights, babies, gardening, stilettos, fridge magnets", said what Frank was all about, under the banner headline, "you asked for it". The industry reaction was generally favourable but expectations were suddenly out of kilter with what we always thought the magazine was about. The Face and Arena had just been put out there and grown; Frank was expected to compete with Vogue and Elle from issue one. And frankly, on a minuscule budget and approximately two thirds the staff, with no promotion or marketing department, that was always going to be tough.

Nick Logan had given away something of his ambitions in this newspaper, pre-launch. "Women's magazines are the biggest, most profitable, the real, grown-up league of magazines," he said. This was a man who dragged his heels over buying computers and putting a decent mirror in the loo. I brought in my Apple Mac from home. Working weekends may be normal on a launch but, after nearly a year, the Friday night goodbye was still never "have a good weekend", but "see you tomorrow". Jossy Smalley, the managing editor, was pulling 14- and 16- hour shifts, going from the office to the repro house until she collapsed.

Even before the launch, the original art director, Boris Bencic, who openly admitted to having had a love/hate relationship with Wagadon for years, decided to return to America for health reasons. For a visually led magazine, this was disaster. Fortunately, Jason Shulman stepped into the breach and brought Frank to life. The cover photograph of a William Tell model with an apple on her head and features including Yvonne Roberts on nepotism in New Labour made the magazine unique. What a pity that we were all too exhausted to enjoy the ride.

Tina Gaudoin would be the first to say that she knew the magazine would never sell 100,000 - it had never been her intention to create a mass- market magazine. That meant no readers' letters, no horoscopes, no features about sex. As she said at the time: "If you think Frank is `nice' then we're not doing our job properly." But nice sells, as we discovered when Red was launched four months later.

The trade press generally thought Frank was a good, if left- field, thing. But all was not well inside Wagadon towers. Jason Schulman left that winter and the entire staff felt demoralised. Bizarrely, Boris Bencic came back as a consultant. Nick Logan, the force behind Britain's youth magazines, seemed paralysed by what he had taken on, then decided to launch Deluxe, a younger, more product-driven Face. At least the heat was off Frank, briefly. But the long, long hours and drastically hand-to-mouth production took its toll.

Last spring, Tina Gaudoin, exhausted and pregnant, bowed out and returned to freelance writing. "We were delivering what we promised," she says now, "a highly focused upscale specialised magazine for intelligent women. But I began to disagree with Logan both on the lack of investment and his desire to seek a more-mass market approach. The pregnancy was a catalyst. I felt like I hadn't been home for over a year."

Logan decided to bring Frank closer in line with his other titles, promoting features editor Harriet Quick. Her tenure was marked, insiders said, by long meetings behind closed doors with Logan and new group editor Richard Benson, examining each issue line by line, picture by picture. Editing by committee has never felt natural and Frank, while still bold, had lost its identity. Benson had been quoted, just months before, as saying he wouldn't have anything to do with Frank: "I don't have experience in the mainstream women's market." Boris Bencic's contribution to the magazine's design was made via e-mail from New York. Circulation plummeted to 35,000 and the sly launch tag-line, "the last thing you need", began to ring hollow.

This coincided with a dramatic reversal of fortunes for Nick Logan's company. The Face and Arena shed around 30 per cent of their readers in the last year and Deluxe quietly folded soon after its birth. The Face has recently ejected editor Adam Higginbotham and promoted assistant editor Johnny Davis. Is it a case of Logan returning to his roots, with a wounded paw (and a depleted bank account)? Frank publisher Lou McLeod says: "He looked at how much it was costing and had to say `I can't do it any more.'"

One ex-staffer pointed out that Logan (by accident or design) closed the magazine just shy of the two-year mark for the majority of the team, thereby saving on redundancy packages. He was "too tired" to see any of the distraught staff on Friday, although he has said they can use the office for the time being - to type up their CVs, presumably. But he's kept on Harriet Quick and a few others to rework Frank as a quarterly. He's put a spin on the closure, saying: "We're withdrawing from the women's monthly market - in which, as an independent, it's been hard to make an impact - in order to concentrate on what the company does best." The new direction will, Logan says, be similar in concept to Arena Homme Plus, the only successful title in the Wagadon stable right now. Logical, yes. But the atmosphere at the downwardly spiralling publishing house is not conducive to creating another women's magazine. Wags at Wagadon are already calling it Arena Femme Plus, a la sanitary protection, behind Logan's back.

The author left Frank in July 1998 and is now deputy editor of The Independent's Saturday magazine

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam