FOR NEARLY 75 years, ELLE has been making content for women, by women. An innovator in media, ELLE magazine was founded in 1945 by Hélène Lazareff, a Russian-born, Paris-raised journalist. At the time, Paris was ravaged by war, and perhaps that's why Lazareff's mission struck a chord–ELLE sought to give its female readership a seat at the table, a place in society and ultimately convey "seriousness in frivolity and irony in graveness."
Now, in 2019, the ELLE brand is just as much synonymous with the latest fashions and premium quality as the high-end brands it evangelizes within its pages and across its various websites. ELLE is one of the leading fashion magazine brands in the world with 45 editions (including media, e-commerce and product partner accounts), more than 100 websites, 150 social media accounts and more than 158 supplements globally, all accessed by 200 million-plus people around the world and counting.
Owned by France's Lagardère Active Group, the ELLE brand also accounts for more than $600 million in retail sales of licensed consumer products under its flagship namesake and various sub-brands such as ELLE Homme, ELLE Sport, ELLE Golf, ELLE Décor, ELLE Café, ELLE Kids, ELLE Spa, ELLE Salon and more.
Lagardère licenses the brand in two ways: as a media property to other media companies (such as Hearst in the U.S.) and as products and services.
Given its pedigree, it's also no wonder ELLE led the way in the licensing space, as well.
"Internationalization of the magazine began in 1985 in the U.K. and the U.S., whereas in Japan, we created the first licensing program in 1981," says Anne Billaz, chief executive officer, Lagardère Active Enterprises (non-media ELLE brand business).
Kicking off a licensing program in Japan was innovative and strategic for numerous reasons, not only because they brought a French brand into an Asian market, but more so because the magazine was not yet published in the country. Ready-to-wear apparel paved the way in a region that now additionally enjoys a robust product program, armed with retail support and stand-alone doors.
"Today–not only media but a lot of companies–need to find a new source of revenue," says Billaz. "Since we are a media company, we started with our magazine because we understood that we could build something very big and very complementary there, ELLE is a big asset for the group because the audience is international and has heritage–everybody knows ELLE. It could be through the magazine or it could be through products, but the awareness is amazing."