Glamour, the little magazine making all the big ones cry

Five years after launch, the handbag-sized read is riding high. Danielle Demetriou meets its editor

It understands how to turn a man from lust to love. It is an expert on working the "country girl" look for spring. It also knows what Eva Longoria "really" thinks of her Desperate Housewives co-stars. And now it has reached the grand age of five.

Glamour, the UK's first handbag-sized glossy, is this week celebrating its fifth birthday after turning the magazine market upside-down. Since its 2001 launch, it has knockedCosmopolitan from its long-held No 1 spot to become the biggest-selling women's monthly style magazine in Europe. More than 32 million copies have been sold over the past five years with an average of 586,000 bought by women every month, effortlessly exceeding its initial circulation projections of 250,000.

The woman behind the success of the magazine is Jo Elvin, the 35-year-old editor and straight-talking Sydneysider. "Five years is a very long time in magazines," she says. "It's the longest I've ever worked anywhere. It's very easy to stay here and be happy."

Within minutes of meeting in Condé Nast's Old Bond Street offices it is clear that Elvin does not subscribe to the haughty stiletto-stamping school of editing. Instead, in the words of Nicholas Coleridge, the managing editor of Condé Nast, Elvin possesses a "sunny toughness" that has no doubt helped her through the more challenging moments of the past five years.

And success was not always assured - particularly in the context of its small-sized format. It was Balenciaga handbags at dawn when Condé Nast announced plans to launch a new mini-sized monthly women's glossy in the form of the UK version of Glamour.

"Just a pygmy," chortled Duncan Edwards, managing director of the National Magazine Company, home of Cosmopolitan. Cathleen Black, president of the parent company, Hearst Magazines, warned that Glamour would be squashed "like a little armadillo on the road".

But Glamour is having the last laugh - at least for now. Testament to its success is the shrinking trend it appeared to have sparked among rival publications: Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and Elle have all subsequently downsized.

"It's a magazine for women on the go, for women waiting for friends in a bar or stuffed yet again on our fabulous train service. Women love this size," she says. Key to the magazine's success, according to Elvin, is the ability to get back to basics in relation to what women want.

"Magazines before Glamour apologised for being for women," she says. "But women love women's magazines. When they want a feature about the death of architecture in London, they'll turn on a BBC3 documentary.

"Glamour is shamelessly feel-good. Women's magazines had forgotten that it was OK to enjoy being feminine without feeling less secure about your intelligence or success at work."

She is diplomatically dismissive of rival magazines: Grazia's circulation figures are "nothing to crow about" and Glamour is "classier" than Cosmopolitan.

"I've forgotten all the horrible bits, just like when you have a baby," she says. "I remember Nicholas saying we could sell 300,000 and me thinking 'That's a really big figure'. But it was an instant success, it was amazing. We sold more copies than I'd dared hope."

With sales soaring, critics defied and executives sated, Elvin could be forgiven for sitting back and relaxing. But this, it transpires, is simply not her style.

"It takes effort to remain competitive," she says. "Glamour is No 1 and that brings its own pressures. The magazine is entering a maturity phase, so now it's about keeping it relevant, keeping it fresh and keeping it number one in the market."

She adds: "The world has definitely changed since Glamour launched and we probably include more political comment now than we did intend to at the beginning. More women have realized that they are interested in politics as events have touched more women's lives. We've done lots of stories on women from every angle, in Afghanistan, Iraqi women and British women in the Iraq war."

Amid the flux, there remains an indisputable certainty: Elvin is determined to keep Glamour in the number one spot.

"I am a perfectionist and I can be a complete pain. But that's because deadlines don't frighten me in the face of getting something right."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Social Media Account Writers

£12000 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This social media management pr...

Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor (Magazine Publishing) - Wimbledon - £23-26K

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Deputy Editor - Wimbledon...

Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publishing) - Wimbledon - £26-30K

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Editor (Magazines/Publish...

Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent