The next 24 hours sees the official start of the magazine launch season in the UK. Over the next few months readers and advertisers will be served up a full menu of new women's glossies to devour, digest and quite possibly spit back out again. Bauer's codenamed Project Helena, a fortnightly glossy along the lines of French Marie Claire, launches in April with Conde Nast's UK version of Glamour following hot on its heels.
However, Time Inc's US celebrity fashion import InStyle, which hits news-stands this week, can claim to be the most anticipated launch of them all. Since arriving in the US in 1994, its circulation outstripped that of the incumbent fashion bible Vogue as well as Vanity Fair and Elle.
InStyle's ad pages have increased at an astronomical rate, giving the title a signature phone-book-like appearance.
Small wonder that the publisher Katy Egan is warmly congratulating herself on this, her first such post on a magazine. 'This is publishing gold dust, it's what people dream of,' says the woman tasked with replicating InStyle's success in the UK.
In recent years Egan's own career has become closely hitched to the title's success. The daughter of former Jaguar chief Sir John Egan began working in direct marketing at 19, before jumping from WWAV Rapp Collins to a sales job at Time magazine. From there she worked her way up to a position as Time's development director, earmarking titles for a European launch.
Unsurprisingly, she pushed for InStyle, overseeing its launch in Germany and then opting to take the launch publisher role in the UK herself.
'We've learned a great deal from the international expansion,' Egan says.
'We have an InStyle formula that women love wherever you go, but each country has a different fashion sense that you pick up through a strong local editor.' In the UK's case, this is former You editor Dee Nolan.
InStyle's formula consists of dispensing with scandalous pieces on a star's love life and career, in favour of a laser-like focus on their appearance. Cover stars are interviewed in their homes with emphasis on their choice of furnishings and favoured daily routines. Shots of stars out and about are grouped around a fashion theme demonstrating the current hip-ness of halter necks, skirt slits or curly hair. This celebrity focus is then married to pieces explaining, in minute detail, how women can achieve similar looks.
So far it has all been snapped up by readers. However, there are reasons to believe the UK could be the toughest territory for InStyle to conquer.
Although no UK magazine offers the same editorial mix, UK editors have known for some time what they will come up against with InStyle, and have moved to stave off the threat by incorporating aspects of the magazine into their own titles.
This process of 'Instylization' has seen titles as far apart as British Vogue and the News of the World's Sunday magazine develop a sudden taste for deconstructing stars' wardrobes and accessories.
Egan claims this is no substitute for the real thing. She points to the in-depth research that goes into each InStyle feature. A range of shop locations and prices are given for each element of an outfit, while beauty treatments are taken directly from the stylists and designers to the stars themselves. 'It's aspirational, but it can also be incredibly practical,' Egan says.
The personal nature of InStyle's appeal has influenced its launches so far. 'The US edition launched on the news-stand and grew through word of mouth,' says Egan, who has opted to divert much of her marketing budget to PR and events such as the magazine's sponsorship of the Bafta awards are a result.
This strategy has led Egan to decline guaranteeing a circulation level for advertisers. At the same time, she has charged media agencies premium rates for its launch issue, aiming for high yields from the minimum number of pages, rather than presenting readers with the US-style doorstopper to begin with. 'It's important to keep ad pages low to begin with so we can introduce people to this beautiful edit-rich package,' she says.
InStyle has two crucial advantages that give it time for this approach. First, there are the international advertisers such as Unilever and Procter & Gamble that pushed Time Inc to launch the title in the UK and are prepared to pay a premium for a product they already believe in.
Second, there is InStyle's uniquely clear concept of what it offers.
To borrow a phrase from Egan's first career, InStyle will do exactly what it says on the tin.
THE EGAN FILE
1990: WWAV Rapp Collins, senior planner and buyer
1991: Time magazine UK, sales executive
1994: Time magazine, international sales executive
1997: Time magazine, sales and marketing manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa
1998: Time Inc, development director, Europe, Middle East and Africa
2000: InStyle UK, publisher.