Cover photo from “Brûlé – creme de la creme”

Brûlé – creme de la creme


The newest breed of celebrities lead fast-paced lives with designer wear, photo shoots and glamorous parties. As with their Hollywood counterparts, we follow their edicts on style and fashion, though not through paparazzi shots and awards ceremonies, but on the pages of their glossy monthly magazines.

And who are these people? Magazine editors.

When these celebs fall from grace, the story can be as riveting as a misdemeanour on Hollywood Boulevard.

Take Suzy Wetlaufer, shoulder-padded editor of the respected Harvard Business Review. Wetlaufer scored a prize interview with corporate guru and former chief of General Electric, Jack Welch. The pair hit it off and began an affair. He flew her around in his private jet and she gushed about her exploits around the office. The problem is, Wetlaufer had a few enemies who were keen to leak the story to the press and the saga has been tabloid fodder ever since.

What was so wrong about Suzy Wetlaufer’s misdeed? It wasn’t the affair or the publication of a favourable story on Welch but rather the fact she was the editor of a respected publication read by stalwart businessmen. In the Gentlemen’s Club, it is most unbecoming for a lady to behave in that way.

Someone else recently embroiled in controversy is Tyler Brule, who has shocked style pundits the world over by announcing his resignation from the magazine he created, Wallpaper*. His departure was followed swiftly by his entire senior team.

Brule hints he is now preparing for a big project with one of Australia’s largest fashion brands.

In the meantime, Wallpaper*  is in the hands of Christina Ferrari, of America’s Teen People fame. Depending on who you believe, Brule either left of his own accord, or was dumped following bitter clashes with his new bosses at IPC Media, the group which acquired Wallpaper* after a merger last year.

Admittedly, Brule’s story pales in comparison to that of Wetlaufer, but followers of his magazine regard his departure as akin to the passing of a Pope – Pope of Yuppie Chic. In Australia, there are legions of fans (Brule ordained the city of Melbourne in one issue) and minimalist coffee tables around the country regularly boast the latest mint-quality, “air-freighted” issue.

Wallpaper* is known for doing “lifestyle” in a big way and central to that way was Brule himself. “Wallpaper* loves clarity and crispness,” he says . “We never went down that road of grungy heroin chic meets East London’s Hockney Square.” Culturally,Wallpaper* is in a class of its own. The magazine and its editorial team boasted their own in-house chef and tailor-made office furnishings.

Described as “porn for stylists and decorators,” the magazine ascended in 1996 as one of the most captivating publications to enter the saturated magazine market. After only four issues, Time Incorporated bought it for a record $2.5 million. Brule famously bought an island in Sweden with the spoils, became a darling of the fashion set in the process, and his magazine went on to achieve a feat few of its competitors – and imitators – can claim: the spawning of a generation.’s James Poniewozik, says that Generation Wallpaper*, as it has been dubbed, is defined “not by when its members were born, but when its money was”.

Porn for stylists and decorators: Brule's Wallpaper sold to Time Inc for a record $2.5M.
Porn for stylists and decorators: Brule’s Wallpaper sold to Time Inc for a record $2.5M.

A profile of Generation Wallpaper* would include such terms as exclusivity-minded, Prada-happy and global citizen. “Leisure time” would also feature in this profile – the imagined Wallpaper* reader spends his or her life travelling from one impeccably-styled rail hub or departure lounge to another.

Certainly, the matter of Brule’s own travel habits causes some consternation among his bosses at IPC. When it was rumoured that Brule was asked to account for his time spent away from the office, a spokeswoman said: “He spends four-fifths of his time away from the office, so if IPC did ask for a schedule I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”

“I travel as much as possible,” Brule retorts. “There is nothing more important than having a global point of view.” As we speak, Brule is lunching on arugula salad in Milan.

To its critics, Wallpaper* is the triumph of style over substance, but Brule says that misses the point.

“There was always the content to back that up,” he says, noting the many stories on organisations like the Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) that the magazine covered.

It’s a criticism that his detractors have also levelled against his most recent work, Winkreative, Brule’s media and creative agency. Wink’s biggest client is Swiss Airlines, which has been relaunched and rebranded with the aid of Brule and his style sensibilities.

Among his 10-point plan for the airline, which unashamedly pitches, of course, to only the most well-to-do passengers, is the release of a “sexy timetable,” and “cabin lighting that makes passengers look sexier”.

Responding to his critics, Brule reasons that “you don’t just win one of the world’s biggest re-branding jobs by slapping some paint on the side of a plane.”

He also intends returning to publishing. “I can see room for several other publications, something news-focussed. Plus we’re doing a lot of custom publishing at the moment as well.”

As for that big project with one of Australia’s largest fashion brands: “We’re in active negotiations right now, but I can’t tell you who,” he teases.

Naturally, he is tight-lipped about the exact circumstances behind his departure from the Wallpaper* offices.

“I don’t have to think about it anymore,” he says. “But I’m a lot happier – it’s an exciting time for me.” Despite the jokes about “burnt Brule” doing the rounds, the circumstances behind his departure will probably become the stuff of magazine legend.

This article originally appeared in The Age.