ELLE South Africa celebrates two decades @ELLEmagazineSA

ELLE South Africa is thrilled to celebrate two decades since the birth of the iconic and internationally renowned fashion magazine. To commemorate the 20th golden anniversary in the sexy, savvy and always stylish format the magazine is proudly known for, the special edition cover was graced not only by magnificent model Monique Sterling, but another ELLE first, international DJ Black Coffee, aka Nathi Maphumulo, igniting a bold and beautiful birthday spirit around the month’s festivities.

elle magazine 20 birthday cover
Two decades ago, ELLE South Africa set the pace by launching with a local model on the cover, unheard of for an international magazine. By the third edition, it had published two extraordinary covers representing a new rainbow nation, disrupting the industry, which traditionally only published covers with white international models and celebrities. The team also brought to South Africa for the first time an international fashion collection hot off
the Paris ramps and launched the magazine in Nelson Mandela Square to an audience of over 3000 guests.


This innovation earned ELLE South Africa the International Press Distributors Award for the best magazine launch in the world in 1996. An accolade only awarded once in the past two decades to a South African publisher. Where times called for a lot of convincing and educating to successfully launch the new South African edition, in a catalyst lay off by international publishing director François Vincens who felt it was time to reconsider the South African market and become the first international upscale title to enter a post-apartheid South Africa, turn back the kaleidoscope clock to a small team led by an ambitious and passionate young publisher working for Times Media Limited, and now today the owner of the ELLE license, Gisèle Wertheim Aymés.


We needed to innovate, to stand out from the rest and be clear on communicating our positioning as a fashion brand that is accessible to the young modern, independent thinking South African woman,” says Gisèle. Mirroring 20 years ago, “This is how we built ELLE, and this birthday issue is no different. Over the years successive teams have used our international platform to share the experience of South Africa with our sister titles, and broken norms around race and racial dialogue using fashion as the language – the lingua franca for thousands of young South African women to find a common interest.

Current editor Emilie Gambade follows a proud tradition of leading with the unexpected, setting the trend.

elle magazine 20 birthday cover inspired

  1. ELLE hosted The Paris Collection (a live show featuring top designers from the Paris Collections) for several years, following the launch show in 1996 in Nelson Mandela Square.
  2. The launch of ELLE Rising Star Award.
  3. The ELLE Style Reporter Award, with the 2016 Winner to be chosen at the ELLE Pop Up in Newtown on 5th May.
  4. The launch of ELLE Boss.
  5. The launch of the country’s first ever virtual fashion and beauty closet.
  6. The launch of ELLE International Impact Awards, which take local entrepreneurs to a global stage.


Emilie Gambade’s Perspective
Just a year after the initial blossom of ELLE, Emilie Gambade flew in on her wings from Paris to start as a novice intern.

“We were young and wild and everything was possible. There were so many things happening and yet, so many things to be done,” says Emilie.


Just two years after the birth of South Africa’s democracy, the magazine that carried the words ‘sexy, stylish and spirited’ on its cover was a daring combination of fashion (trends and reports straight from the international catwalks, fashion spreads that breathed sensuality and emancipation), beauty and empowering and intelligent features bursting with feminism and confidence. It was nearing the end of the ‘90s, and the country was opening to a brand new world of hopes, unrestrained ideas and, of course, feeling of true liberation.


“The task at hand was massive”, she continues, “because beyond the exhilaration of launching a new magazine and the thrill of embracing the change, our role was (still is and will always be) to shape new and better movements. Our role was (still is and will always be) to make every page count, to use the space we have to not only be relevant but also create motions and changes. We have stumbled, we have transformed, and we have moved forward, yet today, the values of ELLE remain sacrosanct: sexy, stylish and spirited in everything we do. Hélène Lazareff, the founder of ELLE magazine in France in 1945, once said: ‘I claim with ELLE seriousness in frivolity and irony in graveness’.”


It was definitely more ‘frivolity’ than ‘graveness’ that would capture the small team 20 years ago, who in only six months would mastermind and design their ideas as well as development of a comprehensive business plan, fuelled by extensive research for an understanding of the local potential and positioning for the brand. But then it was the humble and ever aspiring year of 1996. Forever building and engraving what would become a South African house bold brand name.


Twenty years ago, we were young and wild and everything was possible. Twenty years later, we are young and wild and everything is possible!
Emilie Gambade

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