"She's very much the same person I knew
in college," says her husband, Michael Morse '88, a high school
English teacher and published poet. "Kim loves Lucky
and has a good time with it, but she doesn't take it too seriously.
She's got a very level attitude about the whole endeavor--that's
France spoke on campus a few years ago about maintaining
her Oberlin values while working in the publishing field. She advised
students to let "the big magazine articles pay for what you
really care about." In her case, profiles of entertainers paid
the bills (she was writing a cover story on Jennifer Lopez for Elle
at the time) and allowed her to take on less-lucrative work with
publications like The New York Book Review.
France has no doubt that her Oberlin connection has
been an asset. As she climbed the magazine world's spiny ranks,
she bumped into other alumni who helped her along the way. As an
editorial assistant at 7 Days, a defunct New York weekly
run by fellow Obie Adam Moss '79 (now editor of The New York
Times Magazine), she earned $15,000 a year. She then moved to
Sassy, the late, editorially acclaimed girl magazine edited
by Jane Pratt '84. There she attracted a near cult-like following
which still bemoans the magazine's demise.
By 1993, France had moved on to Elle, where
she orchestrated its entertainment coverage. She also profiled renowned
author Naomi Wolf and conducted an argumentative interview with
social critic Katie Roiphe, who had written a controversial book
discounting the incidence of rape on college campuses.
In 1994, France returned to a weekly magazine, New
York, where she picked up pointers for how to become a good
editor from her boss, Kurt Andersen. Then came a two-year stint
as editor-at-large for Spin, where she covered Courtney Love
and other pop stars.
It was pure luck that France met Conde Nast editorial
director James Truman at a party on the Lower East Side in 1998.
Truman was contemplating a magazine about shopping and tapped
France to create a prototype. She was elated.
"It was an amazing opportunity to be asked to
develop a magazine by such an interesting, talented, creative guy
at Conde Nast," says France's colleague Amy Gross, editor of
O magazine. "Of course, she hung around for it."
After a well-received test issue launch, the magazine
went monthly in February 2001. To familiarize readers with Lucky,
Conde Nast bankrolled a huge promotional campaign. Lucky's
target audience: women in their 20s and 30s. Its mission: to help
them shop. "It is a magazine about shopping, but it is not
label-conscious," France says. "It features an expensive
$365 Gucci slingback shoe next to a $59 Payless slingback. There's
something really democratic about what we're doing."
The picks are made by staffers, not celebrities.
In fact, the magazine is devoid of big-name models. The clothes
are laid out on the page as if on invisible mannequins or average-looking
women, so readers don't have to wonder how a dress on a supermodel
would look on them.
And while France isn't feeding the poor with Lucky,
she is helping the less fortunate. In the back of each issue, readers
are told where they can donate cell phones to battered women and
the elderly. Lucky also has an alliance with Housing
Works, a New York organization that provides housing for people
with AIDS. It's a fairly edgy charity for a mainstream women's magazine,
Since its debut, Lucky has drawn mostly praise
from its readers, including letters that begin along the lines of
"I wanted to hate this magazine, but..." However, France
does have her critics, including those who have branded Lucky
a "magalog" and her old Sassy fans venting
on Internet chat rooms. The remarks don't bother her.
"For the most part, there isn't a criticism of
Lucky that I haven't thought of," she says. "As
long as our readers and advertisers like it, I really couldn't give
a sh*t what this little circle of New York media watchers thinks."
"Lucky could have been vulgar," adds
Gross. "It could have been bossy. It could have been you-have-to-have-this-item-or-die.
But it's not. It's very straightforward and fun."
When pressed, France says the magazine reflects
her own self in that it is a magazine without pretense. "I'm
a person without much pretense. I believe women are allowed
to think difficult thoughts and really superficial thoughts
at the same time. I've lived my whole life that way."
Jacqueline Marino is a freelance
writer in Cleveland
| 2 of Talking Shop