MEDIA: Headliner - The Hackney style guru set to bring Wallpaper back to earth

Can a new editor bring the shine back to Wallpaper's identity? Ian Darby writes.

ngmead, the new editor of Wallpaper, can't compete in the jet-set name stakes with his predecessors. But after Tyler Brule and Christina Ferrari, perhaps it's a relief to have a good old Jeremy at the helm of the style bible for international poseurs.

Langmead's travel arrangements will be slightly more down to earth than Ferrari's. She commuted in from Geneva, whereas he will journey into Wallpaper's Waterloo Bridge offices from Hackney. But despite his more parochial surroundings, Langmead shares the same love for travel and design that led Brule to launch Wallpaper in 1996.

The title, now part of IPC Media's stable following its acquisition by AOL Time Warner last year, badly needs to get a permanent editor in place (Ferrari's role as the acting editorial director was always intended to be a stop-gap). Brule's departure in May followed months of wrangling and was accompanied by the loss of other key personnel. Wallpaper's circulation has dipped by close to 2 per cent in the past year to 131,994 (83,000 outside the UK).

Mike Soutar, the managing director of Wallpaper Group, says: "With Wallpaper we have an incredibly strong brand, a magazine that is still delivering, but has stopped evolving. There is a real need to take the kind of creative risks that made it in the first place."

There is little doubt that Wallpaper has lost some of its freshness and inventiveness. Inevitable given that it's hard to sustain success for six years, but over-ambition and neglect also contributed.

Under Brule, Wallpaper Group launched spin-off titles, Line and Spruce, and the contract division Wink Media. Line, a bi-annual sports title, flopped at the newsstand, and IPC has announced that the spring/summer 2003 edition of the fashion title Spruce has been dropped to make way for increased fashion coverage in Wallpaper.

"Wallpaper suffered from a lack of care and attention. It is not a magazine that edits itself, it needs to be vigorously edited," Soutar asserts.

Enter Langmead. The 36-year-old will arrive from the Evening Standard in November and is promising to make changes. What are his plans for the title? "Successful things always erode and for me it has lost some of its magic. It has become slightly too trade and some of the humour has gone. It needs to be easier to navigate, it can be hard to find your way through the magazine. The design needs to be looked at and there needs to be more of a consumer element, there's not enough for people to look at and go out and buy."

The current edition of Wallpaper seems more than a little hollow. Features on Chinese architecture, Armani's influence in Moscow and a Japanese swimming pool contain little warmth or humour. The division between news and features is confusing, but on the positive side Wallpaper is a meaty 275 pages on the back of advertisers including D&G, Gap, Land Rover and Sony Ericsson.

But is Langmead daunted at the prospect of following in Brule's footsteps?

"It doesn't bother me. He left a few months ago and all magazines change. Tyler was associated with it at the beginning but the magazine can move on," Langmead says.

As the editor of The Sunday Times Style magazine, Langmead presided over a key period in its history, commissioning celebrity survivor Tara Palmer-Tomkinson to write her column. He then edited IPC's fashion title Nova, which was forced to close under his editorship, a blow for him personally as well as the other journalists who lost jobs. The role of editor of the Evening Standard's Life & Style section followed, so will Wallpaper come to reflect this more mainstream style and fashion background? Langmead says he will look at introducing larger lifestyle features and indicates that the magazine will introduce beauty or grooming coverage.

IPC and Time Inc in the US searched long and hard for an editor before settling on Langmead. Soutar clearly believes he has the right man for the job and says that his track record in building editorial teams is vital.

"He has a very light, playful touch and understands that magazines are not there to take life too seriously. There's a real confidence about his editing style," Soutar says.

Langmead's love of fashion, design and beauty products looms large, he studied design at St Martin's before embarking on a journalism career, but he has a down-to-earth side. This probably comes from having done things early in life: he married young and has two sons he now sees at weekends after an amicable separation from his wife. He likes to travel, but is also at home playing football with his sons in the park. Cinema, theatre and cycling are his other interests.

But restoring Wallpaper's standing will soon become his biggest challenge because his assertion that Wallpaper is "such a great magazine with great potential and covers great alluring subjects" is only partially true.

THE LANGMEAD FILE

1995: Sunday Times Style, editor

2000: Nova, editor

2001: Evening Standard, Life & Style section, editor

2002: Wallpaper, editor-in-chief

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