The title published its final issue last month. We read it
The Esquire SG swansong: December 2022, with Bollywood star Panveer Singh on the cover
Nineteen days before Christmas, Esquire SG announced on Facebook: “Welcome to the last issue…”, but that we-shall-be-no-more announcement was barely discernible in the page, A Letter from the Editor of the physical magazine that we finally picked up. The EIC, Rahat Kapur, barely mentioned that the title will wrap for good with the said issue. She wrote that she has “never been great at goodbyes”. That, it appears, is the farewell message. Curiously, she did not say outright that Esquire SG will cease publishing or that licensee Media Publishares will not have the brand under its stable of international names, such as Vogue SG. She expressed heartache at having to “bid adieu to something that has truly mattered to [her], well after its time has concluded”. She did not call that something by name. And when she had to say that the magazine will come to a close, she wrote of the “final issue for 2022”, not the final. Even when she informed the cover subject, Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh, that he would be the magazine’s “first Bollywood celebrity on the cover”, she did not say (she would have known by then) that it would be the last.
It could be discerned that she was not willing to let go. Understandable when ten months was all you had on the job. Ms Kapur came onboard in February last year. She said she “gasped in disbelief when [she] found out [she’d] be taking over the helm of this esteemed publication”. Two paragraphs down, she still won’t call the title she regarded so highly by what everyone else called it. Perhaps she thought that readers were already aware of Esquire SG’s impending closure. Since former EIC Norman Tan decamped to Vogue SG in 2020, speculation was rife about the fate of Esquire SG. Would the Hearst Magazine Media magazine be left languishing in the shadow of the more glamorous Condé Nast title? When Ms Kapur was appointed the EIC, cynics wondered how long she would get to edit the magazine. They got their answer.
One can’t be faulted for wondering if local editions of international titles just don’t stand a chance to last on this island. To be sure, the media business has been tough and rough, made less tenable by unceasingly dwindling readership. With Esquire SG’s closure, only two men’s magazines here—Men’s Folio and August Men, both local titles—are left. The heat of competition is turned down for the pair of survivors. But competition is not the only challenge magazines, whether online or print, faces. There are two other Cs: consumption, which has largely changed, and, for print in particular, cost, which, like almost everything else, has skyrocketed. And there is the third C—content. With so many snazzy “content creators”, magazines have it tough speaking a voice that could pull in readers.
Ms Kapur’s Esquire SG is a predictable blend of lifestyle/culture snippets, catalogue-style pages, fashion spreads, trend reports (strangely, often all credited to the fashion editor Gordon Ng), luxury watch features, and celebrity interviews. Add to those, fan-girl vim. For her swansong, Ms Kapur “jets to Mumbai”, she informed her readers, to interview “Bollywood’s ‘It’ leading man today”, Ranveer Singh. Yet, she wrote “I hate Bollywood”. And explained, repeating her aversion, “I hate Bollywood for enveloping me in the likes of icons such as Shah Ruk Khan, who to this day, remains the one person I’d donate a kidney to”, even when she confessed that she detests the India film industry “for making [her] feel like dream men could exist in the realms of reality, and with one dance number, they could end up becoming the greatest and most passionate loves of our lives”. And then just a paragraph later, “I wanted to go where we’ve never been before: to Bollywood—and just like that, it happened.”
It is not certain who among the Esquire readers would love the gushing and fawning, and heating up—she wrote, with relish, “much repositioning of my legs and 20 sips of my water later, in enters Ranveer” (seriously! It was even used in a pull-quote). What would past contributors of Esquire (US), such as Norman Mailer, had he been alive, say? Or, perhaps, therein lies the charm? Or, the fast track to the magazine’s exit? Interestingly, there is practically no editorial that could “encourage hetero readers to ogle”, one former editor of a men’s magazine noted (the feature of K-pop girl group (G)I-dle is, at best, placid). Or, stories on health and wellness, even grooming. There is much crammed into the pages, but the content is far from compelling, or better than others found on the dizzy, content-laden web.
Esquire SG debuted in our city on September 2012. At that time, it came under the stewardship of Kuala Lumpur-based Mongoose Publishing (once behind Time Out SG). Five years ago, the license was granted to Media Publishares, then operating as Indochine Media Ventures, and synonymous with Buro SG and Robb Report SG. Vogue SG was added to the trio of titles in 2020. With Rahat Kapur saying that the current edition is the “final issue for 2022”, some media professionals were wondering if Esquire SG, like Vogue SG might return. Industry watchers speculated that Media Publishares are now consolidating their resources to keep Vogue SG afloat after it was issued a six-months permit to publish by the Ministry of Communication and Information (after initially revoking it) because the magazine “had breached the content guidelines for local lifestyle magazines”. There are reports, too, that Ms Kapur has been reassigned to another role within the media firm. Would she, we wonder, be the second former-Esquire SG EIC to take up the much coveted editorial position to keep our born-again Vogue going? Like in the old days, sometimes, you have to kill a child to keep another alive.
Photo: Jim Sim