The story behind Vogue's iPad app

Going from page to screen has been less than seamless. Vogue's editor, Alexandra Shulman, tells Ian Burrell why it takes time for things to click

After 94 years as one of the most beautiful products on the newsstand, Vogue, the magazine that never misses a chance to remind us of its status as the holy book of the fashion industry, has been reconfigured as an application for Steve Jobs and his iPad.

There will be music, there will be models on the move and, of course, there will be Mario. The biggest name in fashion photography, Mario Testino, has contributed to the app his own video footage of Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other goddesses, to complement the still portraits in the December issue of Vogue, out this week. The Vogue app will also feature a Testino shoot with Emma Watson and a behind-the-scenes video shot by the photographer's team, showing him chatting with the Harry Potter actress in Paris.

And yet, as Alexandra Shulman, the editor of Vogue, rolls her index finger across the screen of an iPad to demonstrate the new app, it's clear this has been a project fraught with difficulties. "It has been much more work and much more complex to build and create it and work out what we were doing than I expected," she admits. The magazine's publisher Conde Nast hatched the plan for a Vogue app last spring at a time when the iPad was expected to become a major source of British media content. "I had thought more people would by this time be buying media products on iPads. The reality is that not that many iPads have been sold in this country," says the editor of a magazine that sells 210,000 copies a month.

The core of the debut £3.99 Vogue app is the star-themed December issue of the magazine, but in a page-swiping digital format and with a raft of delicious video extras. Those that buy it might expect a similar digital purchase of the January issue. Not so. There won't be another Vogue app for four months.

A brand as precious as Vogue's cannot associate itself with a second-rate product and before she embarks on a second venture into what is largely uncharted waters for the publishing sector, Shulman will analyse the response to her first attempt. "It will be interesting to see what people use and enjoy and what they think is a waste of time," she says. "I'd like to get feedback before we start on the next one and work out what's worth putting the energy into."

Surmounting rights issues has been a significant problem. As Shulman flicks across a fashion video shot by Vogue creative director Robin Derrick and featuring a leggy model in stars-and-stripes sportswear she regrets that the chosen soundtrack (St Etienne's version of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart") has not been cleared and she will need to find something else.

And then there are the photographers. The stellar operators commissioned by Vogue "are well aware of the worth of their name", says the editor. Negotiations take place on "whether or not you can use what they create for us and what we are paying for in terms of use of the content in digital formats". Even enthusiastic collaborators face the enemy of the tight deadline when producing video. "They don't have the time to edit but don't want another photographer or crew on their shoot," says Shulman.

Given such hurdles, the Vogue app is quite an achievement. In addition to the experience of reading the 300-plus pages of Vogue on a screen, there are a succession of video features, which serve as both luxurious treats and insights into the workings of the fashion business. Set designer Shona Heath talks about how she created the "star signs" shoot, in which a faux-fur headdress turns a model into a Serengeti lioness for Leo. Elsewhere, the make-up artist Lisa Eldridge discloses some secrets. Both videos are based on features from the magazine.

"We've played with the content made for the magazine and given it a different texture," says Shulman. "What we haven't done is create different content for the iPad, which is not the way to go if you want to keep your sanity."

The app is an opportunity for manufacturers of upscale fashion accessories. A £152,750 star-shaped pendant is shown twirling seductively. But it has been far from straightforward persuading high-end advertisers to submit video content. One exception is Fendi, which has contributed a slick "making of" video of its latest advertising campaign, with shots of Karl Lagerfeld and hair stylist Sam McKnight. In the midst of an economic downturn, such films are a drain on marketing budgets. "Lots of designer brands are talking about how they are marketing in digital but very few have the kind of content they wanted to put on the app," says Shulman. "They wanted something extraordinary but hadn't made it. You don't want to have a luxury brand looking like they have got a wobbly hand-held camera."

The app will need to make money. Shulman says: "There are no vanity exercises on Vogue, we make all the money here." But she is not expecting the new feature to change the business model at a stroke. "The future where that becomes a cash cow is a very long way away," she says. "The big question is does that become the only way you get Vogue 20 years down the line, does it replace the magazine?"

Shulman, who describes herself as a digital "neophyte", clearly hopes the print product will endure. "Call me old-fashioned or simply old but I still find reading my Vogue this way – so I can lie in bed or take it into the bath or put it down on the kitchen table – a much more relaxing experience," she says, toying with the magazine and then pointing to the iPad. "I find this rather exhausting and stressful because that's not the way I want to read it – I don't want to read a newspaper on that either."

A little more than a year from now Alexandra Shulman, 52, will be starting work on her 20th anniversary issue as editor. "I'm more interested in Vogue's 100th anniversary than my 20th," she says, indicating that she intends to remain in situ until at least 2016. She will give the fashion bible another redesign in March to make the format a little less rigid. She will focus on that ahead of producing the second Vogue app.

The iPad product has been produced by the magazine team without additional staff. Vogue's website operates independently and Shulman, while praising the online team for its rapid response to fashion news stories, warns that the brand will need to delineate its various offerings. "There's no point in putting behind-the-scenes videos on the website for free if you are trying to get people to look at them for £3.99 on the app," she says.

Given the trials of producing the Vogue app it is not surprising that the American and Italian editions have elected not to follow suit and to spend their money on their websites. But British media should be glad that Shulman and Derrick have been braver. Their efforts will be anticipated with interest by advertisers and creatives alike. It is, as the editor points out, a "landmark moment", and the December 2010 edition in both print and digital format will be a collector's item. "This iPad is a fantastically exciting radical learning curve," she says. "I'm not even sure that with the next one we will do the same kind of thing."

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

    C# Software Engineer (ASP.NET, C#, CSS, Java Script, JQuery)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits, Training & Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# S...

    Systems Administrator (SharePoint) - Central London - £36,500

    £35000 - £36500 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator (SharePoint) -...

    Derivatives Risk Commodities Business Analyst /Market Risk

    £600 - £800 per day: Harrington Starr: Derivatives Risk Commodities Business A...

    Day In a Page

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York