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
At this year's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas

Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring and Julian Rhind Tutt star in Banished
tvReview: The latest episode was a smidgen less depressing... but it’s hardly a bonza beach party
Arts and Entertainment
Crime watch: Cara Delevingne and Daniel Brühl in ‘The Face of an Angel’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss