Media Headliner: How Yeomans took the fight to the fashion press

The mischievous Lucy Yeomans, editor of Harper's Bazaar, has made the title more relevant to real women.

Lucy Yeomans is aghast at the thought that we might be about to portray her as some sort of groupie. Or worse - a collector of ageing rockers. We've just asked a (admittedly somewhat clumsily worded) question about one of the stories we've picked out of the clippings file. Something about Ronnie Wood tinkling the ivories during a quiet moment at the end of a party she'd thrown for David Bailey.

She giggles. "Oh no," she exclaims. She mixes, she assures us, in much younger musical circles, too. What's more, she adds, she is a classically trained pianist. And while we try to work out the nature of the logical link between these two statements, she vows to be careful when filling in the lowdown questionnaire we've given her, particularly the favourite musician bit.

We find ourselves torn - secretly enjoying the (totally fake) discomfort we seem to have caused her, yet wanting to apologise. And all the while realising she probably has this effect on lots of people.

Yeomans is irrepressibly upbeat and cheerful, with an infectious giggle (actually it's more of a silver little peal of laughter) and you find yourself wanting to please. And it is also true that she has this amazing knack of persuading the unlikeliest of people to do the unlikeliest of things, mainly on behalf of the magazine she edits for The National Magazine Company - Harper's and Queen. Hang on, sorry ... Harper's Bazaar. No, wait ... actually, as of last week, mainly Bazaar, with a tiny little aftertaste of Harper's.

It is, she says, the last piece in the jigsaw in a rebranding process that began not long after she became the editor in 2001, and which has accelerated in the past few years.

Harper's and Queen was previously always bracketed with Tatler, and seen as a house journal for an insular, nice-but-dim set that grazed happily in a small enclave that was focused around Belgravia. Yeomans has succeeded in making the magazine more relevant to a wider range of affluent women by allowing it to embrace the wider world, while also enhancing its fashion credentials. Dropping the "Queen" from the title (only there because Harper's Bazaar merged with Queen in the UK in the late 60s) in February 2006 was a big step towards distancing itself from the stuffiness of its previous establishment associations - a turn-off for a number of potential readers.

It also realigned it with the international brand - and in the US, the emphasis has always been on the Bazaar rather than the Harper's.

It has been a happy process. When Yeomans took over as the editor, circulation was 85,000. It's now more than 105,000 and rising. And what's more, Tess Macleod-Smith, the magazine's publisher, reveals, advertising pagination was up by 140 pages in 2006, and this year is on track to rise by a further 100 pages. Harper's Bazaar is continuing to offer competition in fashion advertising to Elle and Vogue and, if agency reaction to the title's new look (unreservedly glowing) is any indication, that trend is all set to continue.

Conde Nast sources tend to be rather withering about Harper's Bazaar's push into fashion territory. It was particularly snooty about last week's rebrand stunt, when the London print run of 50,000 copies had the new masthead (big Bazaar, miniscule Harper's) enhanced with a crystal overlay courtesy of Swarovski. This took a month of preparation in Austria, and a week to hand-finish in London - and was not exactly a cheap exercise.

Oh yes it was, Vogue insiders say. Cheap and tacky. And, of course, it argues that, long term, fashion is a battle that Harper's Bazaar can never win. Vogue will always be the iconic fashion brand.

That's as maybe. But the trick Yeomans is trying to pull off is to accommodate high fashion while still providing an intelligent read for real women. It seems to be working. "The truly great thing about Lucy," Macleod-Smith says, "is that she's principally a journalist, rather than a fashion person. She's a normal girl who's always thinking about what the readers will be interested in."

What comes across instantly is an immense sense of fun and a mischievous curiosity. She goes to loads of parties and tends to put outrageous propositions to the people she meets there. One of the weirdest last year involved a group of celebrities - including Saffron Burrows, Natascha McElhone and, bizarrely, Vivienne Westwood - to decamp to the Maldives so they could take part in a glossy magazine feature version of Celebrity Love Island.

She's game for a laugh and she may be a party girl in a fashionable world, but Yeomans pushes things into surreal territories that would never even occur to your average London fashionista - for instance, last year's circus-themed Harper's party at the Hippodrome.

In short, she's posh tottie with top-of-the-range New Age inclinations. For example, her dream weekend would be at Glastonbury with Kate Moss and Damien Hirst. And there's a tale about her spending one New Year's Eve in the Ecuadorian rainforest. You know the sort of thing - stuff about a shaman, hallucinogenic infusions, copious vomiting and bathing in the Amazon.

It seems she's plugged into a writing tradition that feeds right back into the New Journalism invented by Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer back in the 60s. "The great thing about being a magazine editor is the amazing people you get to work with," she admits.

Life can actually be a rock 'n' roll circus, but just don't accuse her of venerating ageing Rolling Stones.

Age: 36
Lives: Notting Hill
Family: The best brothers a girl could ever wish for
Most treasured possession: My baby grand piano
Interests outside work: Music, theatre, cars, adventure. I'm also
learning to play the drums
Favourite musician: Keith Richards. I could listen to his voice forever
Favourite ad: The one with the Smash Martians in
Last book you read: When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
Motto: Always leave room for pudding