At Work With: Marissa Bourke, Harper’s Bazaar


Marissa Bourke is best-known for her award-winning reinvention of the British edition of Elle. Late last year she moved to Harper’s Bazaar as creative director, where alongside new editor-in-chief Justine Picardie she has been looking to the magazine’s heritage for inspiration.


Where are you today?

At the Harper’s Bazaar offices in Soho, London. I quite like the walk to work – past the debris of the night before… a shoe here… a pair of trousers there.

What can you see from the window?
Soho rooftops. It’s quite Chim Chiminey. Also people walking around in dressing gowns in the apartment block opposite – I try not to look. Sort of.

How many emails are waiting in your inbox?
I miss the days of post-it notes all round your screen and telephones. Now there’s no place to hide.


What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
A couple of magazines called Country Fair from 1953 and 1955 that I bought on the weekend, ‘A monthly journal of the open air,’ with features on garden pests, myxomatosis and mint sauce (above). Beautiful.


What most appealed to you about the move from Elle to Harper’s Bazaar?

When I was talking with Justine Picardie (the new editor) about possibly coming to Bazaar I got the sense she understood the importance of the heritage of the brand and we liked similar things. For me it’s very important to understand and respect what’s gone before because it should inform your future.

Bazaar has printed some of the most beautiful images and words in fashion history with contributors such as Erwin Blumenfeld, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Martin Munkacsi and Lillian Bassman. Also Fabien Barons’ Bazaars of the 1990’s are some of the finest magazines ever published – they’ve never been bettered. Interestingly Bazaar also has a less well known literary past – they commissioned and published original works by Truman Capote, Virginia Woolf, TS Eliot and EM Forster.

The British edition also has a somewhat unexplored archive. It is really very beautiful and people haven’t seen much of it.


What is your vision for the magazine, what is your ‘brief’?

We have inherited a brand that’s in a good place – the previous editor had done the hard graft reclaiming the Bazaar name (it was previously Harpers and Queen).  I’d like to create a very British Bazaar and celebrate everything that’s great about British fashion. Both Justine and I are also very keen to promote a positive view of women – we feel it’s important to portray women in a celebratory and inclusive way. So we’re avoiding commissioning shoots displaying women in compromised positions or shoots that are too voyeuristic or that have a particularly male gaze. It’s surprising how prevalent this is in fashion – it’s a default view.

I’m not interested in ‘reinventing’ anything – and I certainly wont be redesigning any mastheads – I feel it’s my job to understand what’s been great and capitalise on that to create a Bazaar that feels right for now.

What was the last thing your editor said to you?
Great. Its a word she likes.

Last thing member of your art team said to you?
That my desk was to close to the door (ie I can escape too quickly).

What are you most looking forward to this week?
Friday because I’m on holiday next week. Schools out.

What are you least looking forward to this week?
Nothing – it’s all good.


What will you be doing after this chat?

Editing some pictures, salvaging a cover picture, putting ideas together for the next cover, doing dummy covers for an upcoming themed issue, directing the creative on a few fashion stories, a beauty meeting, a visual meeting, talking to the art team about the squillion layouts in my in tray, emailing about creative for online and as a result I’ll be late for a (rare trip out of the office) lunch meeting. And I seem to have allocated about 5 minutes for all that.

The front covers shown here are from the magazine’s subscription issues. 

Comment on April 23, 2013 by andy Cowles says:

Great work, great story!

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