Born to shop? Buy this magazine

Brand-new PaperDoll sells Baltimore chic


Susan Dunn is a shopaholic who isn't looking to reform her ways.

Instead, when she launches her new magazine, PaperDoll, she's looking to indulge others just like her. She also wants to disprove naysayers who say there's no shopping in Baltimore.

"It's a good time for [a shopping magazine] in Baltimore," said Dunn recently, over iced coffee at Starbucks in Mount Washington Mill. "There's lots of exciting stores coming here." The Ruxton resident starts to name them, ticking them off the way a mother lists the names of her children. "Just in Mount Vernon alone, there's Beloved, Blu Vintage, Katwalk, the Dollhouse, Stef 'n Ty. ... That's a lot of places to shop."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Sept. 17 edition of the Sun incorrectly identified Margie Weeks as creative director of PaperDoll magazine. Weeks is creative director of Outloud, a local advertising agency. PaperDoll is the agency's client. The Sun regrets the error.

The high-gloss, highly chic seasonal magazine will be aimed, mainly, at women 25 to 55 who are, like 42-year-old Dunn, unabashed shopaholics. The first issue is due out Wednesday, according to the magazine's press kit. Dunn is holding a private launch party today.

PaperDoll will be truly locally based. The faces in it will be local; the experts quoted will be local. The writers and photographers will be local, and so will the products and services in the 80-some pages: clothes, shoes, handbags, books, accessories, home-design items, restaurants and spas and salons.

A newfound fan of the biannual runway shows in New York's Bryant Park, and herself a Los Angeles native, Dunn scoffs at the idea that great shopping can only be found in those two fashion centers.

"Baltimore is unlike New York and Los Angeles. Here it's a little more hunt-and-peck. But the trends are here," Dunn says. "If you want Gucci, if you want Chanel, no, you're not going to find that here. But there's shopping beyond that."

She also believes style-hunters don't have to travel too far when it comes to finding good deals.

Dunn shops at local venues such as Hampden's Oh! Said Rose, Ruth Shaw in Cross Keys, Mount Vernon's the Dollhouse and L'apparenza. "We're not going to go to Annapolis. We're not going to go to D.C." looking for trendy spots to shop, says Dunn. "I don't have time for that. I've got four kids."

In fact, it was while dropping her eldest daughter off at Boston College a year ago that the idea came to Dunn to publish a shopping magazine. She was reading a New York Times article about the then-brand-new Shop Etc. magazine, which was hot on the heels of the successful, trendsetting magazine Lucky.

Shopping magazines, it seemed, had found a lucrative new niche in the world of publications. With generally much less copy than other article-based magazines and no high-priced models to pay, overhead is manageable. And with the magazines chock full of the very items they want to sell, advertisers fall all over themselves to get on board.

Those that watch the industry have the numbers to show that these magazines are popular.

"When Folio [the magazine about magazines] looks at circulation of national magazines, shopping magazines are right in there. They have found an audience," says John Burks, chairman of the department of journalism at San Francisco State University and coordinator of the department's magazine program. "It's the new category that seems to be working."

It only took a little prodding, a little research - and a quick inventory of her fashionable friends - for Dunn to realize such an undertaking could work for her - and for Baltimore.

"One morning, over eggs Benedict, my husband said, `You should start your own magazine.' So I bought a book on Amazon about starting my own magazine and I thought, `I could do this,' " says Dunn. "I love to shop. I have so many friends who love to shop. There are so many stylish women who care about that in Baltimore."

There was only one problem: Her shopping jones aside, Dunn could boast no background in fashion or retail. She was an English major at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. She fell in love with a Baltimorean and moved here to be with him. That was 19 years ago.

In that time, Dunn worked in the redactory at Waverly Press and did stints at the Towson Times and Patuxent Publishing. Most recently, Dunn has spent much of her time volunteering, chairing fundraisers, serving on several local boards, and chauffeuring around her four children, the youngest of whom is 6.

Fortunately, all that time in the carpool line and on the social scene made Dunn a lot of friends - reliable and dependable people who could help her with everything she needed to get the publication off the ground.

Longtime Baltimorean Marjorie Weeks signed on to be creative director. Weeks designed the magazine, chose the paper quality, created the illustrations. "She's the keeper of the brand," Dunn says.

PaperDoll's two fashion and beauty writers grew up here; the men's editor is local. Two writers, including one mystery writer, are townies, as well. The premiere issue's cover photograph is of a local woman, Allison Knott, a graduate student who once worked at Ruth Shaw.

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