Unlike anything the public had ever seen, Flair was as extravagant as it was inventive in its design and production: featuring diecut covers, multiple paper stocks, half pages trimmed vertically, horizontally, and even into quarters. Unfortunately all this over-the-top expense attributed to its demise 13 issues later in January 1951.
I own six of the 13 issues and they are among my most prized "designy" possessions. I acquired mine from a neighbor who died of AIDS in the mid '90s. After finding out I was a graphic designer, he told his friend in charge of his estate to make sure I got them. This was my first introduction to the infamous magazine that is still known today for pushing boundries.
Behind this short-lived publication was editor Fleur Cowles. Cowles successfully pulled together the new, the controversial, and the innovative. She gathered an impressive group of designers, artist, critics and writers to produce the gorgeous oversized covers, luscious illustrations, and genius content that made Flair legendary. Half the fun of opening up the magazine was discovering people like Saul Steinberg, Salvador Dalí, W.H. Auden, Jean Cocteau, Tennessee Williams, Gloria Swanson, John O'Hara, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lucien Freud – each issue always featured an ecletic mix of creative thinkers.
Fleur Cowles was also a prolific writer, producing 16 books including her collections of autobiographical anecdotes Friends and Memories and All Too True. And her paintings, filled with jungle beasts and enormous flowers, received national recogniton and she exhibited her artwork in more than 40 galleries and museums around the world. She even made some of her own clothes and jewelry. Cowles died in 2009 at the age of 101, and she managed to accomplish more in her one lifetime than some might complete in ten.