Stylist chief Lisa Smosarski on the suffrage issue she's been waiting eight years to run

Stylist cover and call to action

Free weekly magazine Stylist has unveiled its suffragette issue to mark a century since female landowners over 30 were first being granted voting rights in the UK.

It marks the start of the publication’s year-long VisibleWomen initiative which will shine a light on talented female creators and many of the issues facing women. The issue goes live 6 February, but it has been in the works for eight years ever since editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski founded the title, a sister of male-centric Shortlist.

Smosarski said: “I looked at our schedules and looked at key dates and always had my eye on the vote anniversary ever since we launched.” In effect, the weekly mag has been positioning to address the historic landmark since its inception.

Lending some credibility to the move is the inclusion of Helen Pankhurst, women’s rights activist and great-granddaughter of the leader of the British Suffragette movement Emmeline Pankhurst. Her involvement follows a bizarre robot takeover issue, fronted by another prominent female Sophia the Robot.

Underlining the news brand's core philosophy Smosarski said: “We really believe in talking about brilliant and empowered women, this has become more important than ever.”

Stylist has a print circulation of 400,000, distributed for free in UK towns and cities. This is amplified online with social, a website and video content all of which largely tie into the magazine's theme. As a platform for starting debate, Smosarski stands by Stylist, as a brand largely read by intelligent women, setting it apart from the more celeb focused glossy mags that occupy newsagents up and down the country.

“It is all about sharing the right conversations, and not being patronising, we’ve seen our audience react really strongly to the #MeToo campaign. We know that there is a conversation to have with this audience. And we want it to go broader, this is our true brand DNA, this is something we are truly passionate about.”

The issue has being aged to look 100 years old, a bold redesign that looks to leap of newsstands and required additional consideration from production than a standard issue. This will make the mag look every bit as old as enfranchisement of women, it will be filled with inkwell illustrations sitting alongside contemporary stories and leading female figures.

Furthermore, the advertising templates have also been adopted to fit the era – an issue that could have tripped up media buyers. Smosarski said: “I took the idea to the senior team, they were on board from the start, the conversation to advertisers went, 'if you want to be part of this celebration, here is the special template'.”

The brand response was reportedly “incredibly positive” and crossed numerous sectors. Smosarski said it was “the biggest undertaking Stylist has ever done. We have never done anything this ambitious in the advertising side.” In a particular show of faith, L’Oreal bought up nine ads in the issue.

Below is a composite of three ads accompanied with a strong mission.

Smosarski adopted a 'build it and they will come' approach with the issue. It seems to have worked with discussion around women’s rights and visibility feeling particularly relevant in light of the #MeToo revelations in particular. “Our partners have been really keen to be part of the conversation,” said Smosarski.

The issue comes as part of the wider VisbileWomen initiative which has seen every member of the staff commit to increasingly the visibility of prominent women and looking at the issues across of female representation in politics and in STEM courses in particular. They will also look to shine a light on female heroes from the past and present. Every piece of content will be tailored to these criteria on some level, across in social, video and in text online and in print. Accompanying this was a hardback book called 'Life lessons from remarkable women'.

On of the main drivers of conversation and debate will of course be on Facebook, a strong traffic driver for Stylist.

In January the site announced that it was going to deprioritise publisher content in an attempt to reclaim the newsfeed for user generated content. This looks to threaten numerous brands present on the site, however, Smosarski is not worried.

“There will be a focus on community and live video and debate, we are a brand that sits quite well in that aspect. There has been no impact on figures yet.”

Prime minister Theresa May also marked the issue with a statement, she said: “The centenary of the first British women getting the vote is an opportunity to remember the women who risked everything for the rights we have today and to look at what more we must do to create a fairer society that works for everyone.

"Through campaigns such Stylist’s Visible Women we can celebrate exceptional women throughout history as well as those who continue to work tirelessly and strive for a truly equal Britain today.”

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.