Looking for fashion mags that are fun, intelligent, cool and BS-free? So was I. And I found them.
I read a lot of fashion magazines, both for my job and for fun. And at the end of the day, it gets tedious and I, at least, didn't feel much of it was written for me or readers like me — those who are interested in style, but wonder if a little substance is too much to ask. And then, as if my prayers were answered, the mail arrived.
I had been excited about the launch of The Gentlewoman since I heard about it a few months ago: Just from the available previews and the standard set by the publisher's other magazine, Fantastic Man, I knew it would be stylish, witty, and a good read. But until my first issue arrived last week, I had no idea just how good.
Yes, it's stylish. The aesthetic is high-concept retro-modern, styled for interest but not shock value. Spreads have a sense of humor: a retro gym weight-lifting session is especially good. The art direction is lovely, the pictures frame-worthy. And in addition to those spreads featuring models, Gentlewoman uses the women profiled to model clothes - designer Pheobe Philo, yes, but also winemaker Sara Perez and Belgian artist Catharina van Eetvelde. The women featured ran the gamut from models to Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima, ice-cream maker Kitty Travers, and ocean-swimmer Lynne Cox. There's a wider range of ages and body-types than one normally sees in a fashion magazine, but all presented matter-of-factly and on equal footing: they are all, simply, women of style.
The editor's letter encapsulates a lot of what I found so appealing. Listing off some of the women who've "amazed and empowered generations with their intelligence and glamour," she names Germaine Greer and Poison Ivy.
Elegantly side-stepping the passive and cycnical cool of recent decades, The Gentlewoman champions the optimism, sincerity and ingenuity that actually get things done. These are the upbeat and pragmatic qualities defining gentlewomen of today.
How many fashion mags make you feel good while still managing to aesthetically inspire? I, for one, was heartened - and lost to the world for a good two hours as I read it cover to matte-paper cover.
At the end of the day, of course, the Gentlewoman is still high-fashion. It's also a splurge. Which is why I am so delighted to tell you about another, new-to-me magazine at the other end of the spectrum, which by delightful chance I also received in the mail this past week. Worn is in many ways The Gentlewoman's polar opposite: scrappy, indie, more Ready-Made than W in aesthetic, and decidedly affordable. However, the Canadian journal takes the same pleasure in making us see fashion in a novel way - and in celebrating a retro aesthetic. As their website explains, the magazine serves to present a range of different kinds of beauty and contribute "opinion and intelligent commentary that's untainted by advertisers' demands."
But this isn't to say it's a dry read! Pieces on the legendary eccentric Marchesa Casati share space with makeup reviews; an exploration of color and gender gives way to an all-vintage spread inspired by Nancy Drew. (Indeed, the magazine doesn't promote products or even trends; most of what is pictured is vintage or street-style, and as such is particularly inspiring to the average reader.) I couldn't say for sure, but I'd guess that it doesn't contain a single professional model. In essence, it's the non-fashion fashion mag, and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Between these two magazines, I found myself tremendously heartened - entertained, inspired, delighted and newly-reminded of the point of good fashion - or just style - writing. Both these magazines understand that fashion is one thing, and clothing quite another, and inspiring woman the point behind both. I feel like I've made new friends - one European and chic and well-traveled, the other wickedly funny and with a vintage wardrobe I want to steal.