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Media Focus: Newspapers Raise the Stakes With Fall Fashion Coverage

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Where has the summer gone so quickly?

September has arrived and so have the thick, glossy fashion monthlies, with their largest issues of the year. Chock full of fall trends and, more important to their bottom lines, fall advertisements, the Vogues, Elles, Marie Claires and the like, are competing for newsstand space, media attention and focus from readers who will presumably flip through these expensively produced pages to see what's new for the fall season.

With so much fashion magazine fabulosity hitting stands, I find it interesting that my focus has shifted to the fall style offerings from two of the country's leading newspapers -- The Wall Street Journal's WSJ. Magazine and The New York Times Magazine's T Style supplement.

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Editor Deborah Needleman (late of Conde Nast shelter title Domino), who replaced WSJ. launch editor Tina Gaudoin last year, has added a smart edge to the fall fashion sweepstakes. On the magazine's elegantly designed editorial pages, an appropriate amount of white space provides a seemingly perfect balance with text and images.

The WSJ. cover makes a stunning impact: actress Rachel Weisz (Mrs. Daniel Craig), styled by Natasha Royt, wears an amazing Alexander McQueen tweed trench coat. Beautifully shot in Brooklyn by photographer Collier Schorr, the thick, sensual texture of the coat literally jumps off the page; you feel as though you could reach out and touch it. Most importantly, the cover has an absolute minimum amount of text, allowing Schorr's grand image the maximum effect.

Needleman snagged a rare interview with the notoriously press-shy, visionary Japanese designer Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, who speaks frankly about where she feels fashion is today, and where she's going. Dana Thomas takes a rare, behind-the-scenes look at heritage brand Hermès as they try to fend off the advances of luxury conglomerate LVMH. (I thoroughly enjoyed Thomas' 2007 book Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, about how branding and marketing concerns trump quality production at some of the world's major luxury houses.) Jil Sander designer Raf Simons, another who rarely gives interviews, opens his ultra-modern, art-filled Antwerp home to WSJ.'s cameras.

T also sprinkles a good bit of intelligence onto their fall fashion statement. The cover makes somewhat of a daring move, featuring not a Hollywood actress, but jazz musician and recent Grammy Award winner Esperanza Spalding (shot by Alice O'Malley and styled by Susan Winget). Instead of going the predictable route of glorifying the current hot blonde actress/celeb/reality star, T editor Sally Singer -- who came over from Vogue -- makes this talented young black woman a fresh, interesting cover choice. The 26-year-old recording artist peers casually from the black-and-white cover, rocking a fabulously wild Afro and hoop earrings -- and lounging in a $14,000 Oscar de la Renta beaded gown.

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T's advertising packages make quite an impact in the issue -- it begins with a long series of double-truck, mostly full-color ads that really set the tone for what this fall will look and feel like, fashion-wise. Highlights include a visually stunning Hermès ad that mixes elements of a painting with a gorgeous photograph, to ethereal effect; model Liya Kebede looking regal and futuristic for Balenciaga; the edgy, sculptural vibe of fall Calvin Klein; and actress Julianne Moore looking chic and modern in tailored suiting from Talbots.

The magazine, celebrating its 100th issue, shows its no slouch editorially, either. Author and Tulane professor Melissa V. Harris-Perry shares her thoughts on how stereotypes affect black women on both sides of the economic divide. Designer Haider Ackermann -- a favorite of fashion-plate Lady Gaga and of many fashion editors for his distinctively feminine draping -- is profiled. Puerto Rican model Joan Smalls is featured in "Chaos Theory," a sexy fashion story shot by Boo George and styled by David Vandewal, focusing on fierce print and color mixing. In another layout, ornate, elegant gowns provide a fashionable contrast, shot on pretty young things in a raw, industrial space (also produced by the photo-styling duo of O'Malley and Winget).

I may end up flipping through the fall glossies as well. Essence has a gorgeous cover of actress Tracee Ellis Ross, who I am always interested in following. Elle's split cover, featuring actress Gwyneth Paltrow, also looks interesting. But for now, these two newspapers have elevated their style games, and have my rapt attention.