Jonathan and Danielle Leder are reinterpreting the adult magazine with "Jacques", which features retro-styling and artistic flair. At a time when mainstream publications have been forced to close shop, circulation and sales numbers of "Jacques" are up, indicating that the Leders' may be on to something.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES REUTERS - In a hotel room in Manhattan's East Village neighborhood beautiful girls waited for their turn to pose for Jonathan and Danielle Leder.
The Leders held their second casting call this month in search of models to feature in the next issue of "Jacques" magazine.
Using an old polaroid camera Jonathan, who is the creative director, snapped photos of each girl wearing a sheer striped peach top and barely-there white shorts.
The outfit was featured in a previous edition of Jacques, which is a throwback to the adult magazines of the 1960s and 70s. The pictorials are shot on film using natural lighting and have a distinctly retro-inspired aesthetic.
"Going back from Gent and Sir in the 50s and 60s to Escapade and the early Playboys and Penthouses and I think looking at magazines whenever we go back to that time period, it's so beautiful. You really feel like somebody really cared about what they were doing. Somebody really put effort into this," Jonathan said.
That vintage aesthetic is what the Leders are trying to bring out in Jacques and what separates it from other skin magazines on the market.
"We want to get back to what Playboy originally set out to do and that was feature the girl next door," Danielle explained. She is the Editor in Chief of the publication and at six months pregnant, is hands on and vocal about her vision for the magazine. The former fashion model wants to feature American models and doesn't want women that are too skinny or "plastic" looking.
"We show women also who they really are, we don't do any retouching. If they have a freckle, a scar, if they have a stretch mark, it's there. I think people really enjoy that," she said.
It seems that the Leders have found a successful formula. A look at circulation numbers indicates that Jacques is doing something right.
When the first edition of the magazine came out in May 2009 only 1,000 copies were printed and of those just 175 were sold at local shops. The upcoming issue of Jacques will have a print run of 14,000. The magazine is now on sale at national bookstores including Barnes and Noble and Borders and the Leders have recently signed an agreement for international distribution.
"I think it's a question of quality," Jonathan said about the reason Jacques has succeeded at a time when so many other magazines are failing.
"I think that the real issue is that unfortunately, publishers like many other people in this day and age seem to think, why not, if we can do it cheaper, lets just do it cheaper and sell it for less."
According to Marketingcharts.com, in the first nine months of 2009, 383 magazines folded.
While sticking to your creative guns isn't cheap -- an issue of Jacques sells on news stands for nine dollars -- the Leders said they have made a profit this year.
The magazine's target audience are young men that are sometimes referred to as "hipsters" in the Leder's Williamsburg neighborhood. But the couple say the reach is far greater. They have received letters from older men and women who are fans of the publication and even heard from a mother who subscribed on her son's behalf because he is legally too young to subscribe to the magazine.
The Leders say they would ideally like to feature women in their spreads that are between the ages of 22 and 26, but say it's difficult to find models in that range because they are considered old in the industry.
Most of the models that showed up at the casting call were 18 or 19 years old.
Former Playboy France model Courtney Erickson said she seemed to be the only model at the casting call who knew that nudity was required for Jacques.
"A lot of the girls knew nothing, they were being asked if they would do topless and they were kind of like 'I had no idea.' I guess that's the good thing about my agency is that they tell a lot of details."
That is not unusual the Leders said.
Bookers often send models on casting calls without offering a lot of information about the publication. The Leders believe it actually works to their advantage, allowing them to introduce their magazine's concept to models who may have initially blushed at the thought of posing in the nude. .
Model Alyse McDaniel said she was unaware that nudity would be required for the shoot, but would be comfortable posing for Jacques.
"I really like what they stand for. They are trying to broaden the stereotypical model of being super super skinny and they are showing what true women look like."
Model Lisa Delphia agreed.
"If it's artistically done and tastefully done then it's different than being in a porno. I think this magazine is different in that it is acceptable," Delphia told Reuters.
But the distinction between art and pornography is a blurry one, the Leders admitted.
"There's a real fine line between what is tasteful and what is not tasteful," Jonathan said.
"A photo can still turn somebody on and still arouse somebody without having to show every bit of detail," Danielle added.
But the Leders are clear on one thing: people are buying Jacques for the pictures. When it comes to the articles, Jonathan says: "That's not our strong point."