Limited edition `boutique' magazines are fast becoming collectibles. Grab them while you can still can, says Bridget Virden
Offering a welcome splash of glamour in a sea of matted grey wool garments, small piles of immaculately stacked magazines have started to appear in some of London's more avant-garde fashion boutiques this winter. With catchy one-word titles such as Tank, It, Purple, Alice and Spoon, these magazines are the print equivalent of a cashmere cardie - "must have" items for those in the know.

Information overload has ceased to be an issue in a season when iD magazine announced that "Intelligence is the new black" and bite-sized reading matter with a cerebral content is making a comeback. Lorraine, joint owner of Pavement, a new boutique on Lower John Street W1, will be stocking selected titles.

"Magazines have always been very important to me but right now there are so many good ones around," she says. "Many of today's titles like Purple have interesting content but are digestible in small bursts. I have two jobs so book reading is out of the question."

"Boutique publishing" as Tyler Brulle, editor of Wallpaper* magazine, has christened it, has common characteristics which makes up a wish-list of attributes increasingly found in fashion and interior design, as well as publishing. All these magazines are urban, portable, unisex and international. Most cost five times the price of the average monthly title and all have a stunning visual content. Magazine designer Jeremy Leslie, who is currently working on a book about this type of publishing, sees no threat from the internet for small, independent but glamourous magazines.

"The Net has not killed magazines as was predicted - its technology has made magazines simple to produce and encouraged a growth in the market," he says. "New titles can be designed stylishly on a low budget, and by one person. Without the constraints from advertisers of the A4 format, new titles can be any shape or size."

Tank magazine is typical of this new breed - small but chunky, and giving more than its cover price of pounds 8-worth of visuals and editorial. Art director Andreas Laeufer has a specific group of readers in mind. "The idea of the small, square format is so that Tank can be collectible and portable. Most importantly, we are not a consumer guide and are not dependent on advertising, so features are not product-led. Clothes in a fashion shoot can be from any season. We are not a consumer title."

Revenue comes from what is known as the "bespoke issue". The back section of the magazine can be produced by Tank contributors for a specific client. Tank has sold out in the UK and proved very popular in Japan, Paris and New York. December's issue, "Tank Arabica", comes in a gold box, and uses some of the most famous names in photography - as the strapline says, "Small Tank, Big Fish".

The biggest fish of all in terms of boutique publishing is Visionaire. Changing format every issue, Visionaire comes out of New York and is the style bible of the international fashion elite. Issues have changed hands for up to $5,000. Meanwhile, a new British publication, It, is also creating quite a stir after only one issue. The 13-square-inch pounds 50 "bookazine" is highly stylised and comes in a box with 20 mostly visual stories in separate pull-out sections. "The format will stay the same each time," says editor Tamsin Blanchard, "but there will be different themes every issue. The design idea is that it's almost like a record collection. You can replace the pull-outs in any order and it creates a new dynamic." Alexander McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld and Miuccia Prada have already snapped it up and New York sellers have quickly caught onto its popularity amongst the fashion cognoscenti.

Despite the current popularity of boutique publishing, Tyler Brulle believes there may well be a culling of titles in the near future. "With the buoyancy of the economy here over the last few years, advertising spend by luxury goods manufactures like Louis Vuitton and Gucci has increased. But with the economy slowing down, those luxury brands are going to stop placing so many ads and stick with publication they know will sell."

If this is true (and Brulle should know) now is the time to grab your global shopping trolley and head over the Channel. Colette at 231 Rue St, Honore, Paris has the best selection of boutique publishing in Europe and is the place to be seen buying. John Menzies this is not. To save on air fare, Zwemmer on Charing Cross Road, Dillons Arts Bookshop in Covent Garden and the ICA bookshop on the Mall all have a wide selection of magazines. It, Tank, Purple, Visionaire, Self Service, Alice and Petit Glam can be browsed at your leisure - for as long as they last.