In Style, In Town

Last week, the FD gang was invited to what must be one of the most lavish parties held in Jakarta this year. The event was to celebrate the launch of 4 new magazines from Kompas Gramedia: In Style, Martha Stewart Living, More and Fortune. That’s right 4 new magazines to curl up on the couch with this weekend!

Anyway, we meant to write a post about the Indonesian version of InStyle, but Lynda Ibrahim, who has been a long time fan of the magazine, beat us to it :D But really, we couldn’t have written it any better. So ladies, here it is!

Our family didn’t have much money during my formative years, but we always had reading materials. Books, newspapers, magazines, you name it. Mom never failed to shell out for children magazine Bobo, and when I started junior high, switched subscription to teen mag HAI. Undoubtedly I owe my writing life to my parents’ early introduction to reading (look around—nearly all writers are avid, long-life readers).

Once the habit was instilled, I lugged it around with me. During business school in the US I was lucky to have roommates who, in the midst of insane schedules and gazillion academic reading requirements, managed to bring along their leisure reading preference to our living room. The onetime Paris-resident girl got Vogue, the Japanese chick leaned towards Marie Claire, while I dutifully supplied InStyle. Often when the week had been too rough and left me zero energy for dancing or movies, I’d just lounge in bed and read mags cover to cover.

To me, InStyle stands out for its identity, practicality and adaptability. While other women’s magazines try to cram fashion, décor, health, romance, sex, and everything in between, InStyle firmly focuses on fashion. Specific interests are offered in the separate Makeover, Weddings and Home periodicals. It works the best for me because I read women’s mag mostly for the fashion content—my other interests are already indulged by the staple of Newsweek, Time, Vanity Fair, occasional Rolling Stones and National Geographic, or whatever mag with the month’s catchiest headlines. And that doesn’t count the Indonesian publications yet.

As for the other factors, while Vogue is the bible of haute couture and high living, and I’m a girl that never missed its all-important September and March issues as one man who searched in 3 countries for the September 2007 US edition could tell you, the high fashion isn’t exactly fitting to emulate 24/7, especially when I was a cash-strapped student with unending class works for which five hours of sleep was considered a luxury.

InStyle serves up more of the prêt-a-porter selections, completes with brand name, price quote, and contact details. My favorite is The Look Book section, normally occupies the issue’s biggest chunk, where instead of displaying individual pieces, an entire head-to-toe ensemble is put together for a specific purpose. Poring over that section alone for years helped honing my sense of visual balance; the duskier the pink the darker the grey goes, bootcut pants flatter pear-shaped girls the most just as platform shoes flatter Capri pants the least, or that exact matchy-matchy of shoes and bag can tragically look outdated unless worn with edgy, monochromatic clothes. And how clean-cut lines trump over fancy-schmancy elements, any day. There’s no wonder that InStyle’s pages make the bulk of the numerous fashion clipping files I accumulate over the years.

Other fashion mags have started to copy this section in recent years yet InStyle still delivers the best of the lot, which partly explains why their Secrets of Style Book, first published in 2003, is on subsequent reprints. As I said, InStyle spells ready to wear, quite literally.

After a scant rumor swirling in close circle five years ago, the Indonesian edition of InStyle finally hit newsstands on July the 27th this year. Sultry Cameron Diaz, in sleek ponytail and Ralph Lauren champagne-colored sheath, graces the cover. Brought by media giant Kompas-Gramedia that also launched the local edition of Forbes, More, and Martha Stewart Living that day.

Generally I’m not a big fan of ‘localized’ foreign publications. For some reasons they always felt like a messy mishmash, where bilingualism liberally, and often erroneously, makes up a single paragraph, or how local contents are often embedded rather thoughtlessly like some unrelated appendage. But I understand how they can be appealing for Indonesians who actually like the material mix, or probably just aren’t too comfortable reading in a foreign language.

But I’ve been quite pleased with the premier edition of Indonesian InStyle. Granted, the imported content still dominated the pages, but the local fashion content showed style and sensibility relatively on par with the original US-edition I’ve religiously read for more than a decade. The local interviews were fairly tasteful and managed to avoid the banal cheesiness that often characterizes interviews on our lifestyle magazines.

Will this InStyle cut through the cutthroat competition that’s packed already with the plethora of ‘localized’ Elle, Cosmo, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and the iconic domestic juggernauts like Dewi and Femina? Only time will tell. But if InStyle stays true to the time-tested platform its US sister has formulated while delivers a balanced local content, I believe it may soon gain followers among Indonesian fashionistas.

In the meantime, I’d be happily carrying my teal-colored laptop in a new mini tote bag, giveaway of the premier edition. I got the chic stripey one—which one did you get?