|Photo by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin|
First, a confession: I have never liked fashion magazines. You can name nearly every fashion magazine from Vogue, to Bazaar, to Lucky. I don’t care for them. Fashion magazine enthusiasts have been dreading the much-discussed death knell of the magazine publishing industry for years, but I’ve always been unable to understand enthusiasm for what seems like an antiquated, thoroughly beaten out dinosaur of an approach to style. My stance is only mildly one of ideological difference. The repeated articles about how to master the art of seductive dressing, the best make up looks, and any number of tips on “looking great” or getting that “beach bod” do tend to ruffle my cultural feathers a bit, but more than that, they’re so BOOOOORING and redundant.
Here, an impression of the last Vogue I purchased several months ago during a particularly long layover at JFK: 20 pages of thematically disconnected product ads, anemic article about a Hollywood celebrity I don’t care about, 30 pages of thematically disconnected product ads, a dull spread, something I’m supposed to do with my make up, more ads, something else forgettable, ads, end.
I was done ten minutes into my layover and so I purchased 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was fine. I didn’t get why Captain Nemo has been so vilified.
At any rate, the problem, as everyone knows, with the old guard of fashion magazines is that they don’t give you anything more than you could get on the internet. So, what if publishers treated fashion magazines as sources of unique experiences to be had, rather than as sources of information? I don’t pay for information anymore. I pay for experiences. I’m no Dionysian devotee, no Maryann from True Blood or anything, but I shop in a store so that I can have the experience of fabric in my hands and maybe I can stop between shops for a pastry, I grind coffee instead of purchasing instant because I like the experience of smelling freshly ground beans– I like the small rituals of life. I like collecting objects–art, odd items with strange personalities, books with leather-bound spines–because the act of collecting is one of life’s most engaging experiences. That’s why my two (and possibly ONLY) favorite fashion magazines treat their content like art, like something to be cherished, rather than as overly-cooked information to be consumed.
The Gentlewoman, only in its second issue (pretty ballsy move, starting a new fashion magazine at the end of the publishing era), is a work of perfection. This is a magazine version of an exquisitely-curated exhibition– every detail considered, every page a stand alone work of beauty and class. This is a magazine for grown-ups (not in a creepy way), requiring thought, observation, and time. This is a collector’s magazine.
It helps that it comes out in biannual installments (every issue flies out the door, so if you’re in the Bay Area act quickly– you can get one from my favorite magazine store in Oakland–Issues), but more than that, the content of each issue can’t be found ANYWHERE else. Even The Gentlewoman‘s own website is a fairly spare landing page with a brief mission statement and a slim description of the current issue’s content.
Everything about this publication sets it apart from its older fashion magazine genre members. First, the design is clean and intriguing. You won’t find messy covers screaming the contents at you in a desperate seeming way. The Autumn/Winter 2010 cover is characteristically minimalist and features a bearded Inez van Lamsweerde, dubbed “the world’s best fashion photographer.” Which she is. The cover even takes into consideration the major difference between the virtual and the physical: the tactile. Rather than the slick, glossy paper you’re accustomed to with magazines, The Gentlewoman‘s cover is semi-matte and textured, setting it apart from first touch. Inside, you’ll find all the ads are confined to the first ten pages or so and are stylistically in keeping with the overall look of the magazine, even down to the photographic “mood.” From there, The Gentlewoman is divided into 3 distinct sections (a bit like exhibition galleries), which they call “parts:”
How many of those people in “Modernisms” or “Features” do you recognize by name? Only a few, right? That’s the other brilliant thing about The Gentlewoman— they feature people who are actually doing real work in the world, which means you’ve probably never heard of most of them. The features range from news anchor, Lukwesa Burak, to a British comedian, to a psychotherapist who specializes in helping artists achieve financial wellness, to apples (yes, the fruit) and explore fashion and culture from every possible angle.
|Lukwesa Burak (of Sky News studio in London) discusses the politics of fashion for female news anchors|
|“Hands making matters extremely clear in leather”
Gesticulations is a combination of hand communication and product features
Who gives a shit about Anne Hathaway, how to drive him crazy in the sack, and this Winter’s must have eyes??? I would so much rather read an interview with the thoroughly bizarre and incomparably ingenious Inez! She worked with Alexander McQueen and wears the strangest array of facial expressions you’ve ever seen. What has Katy Perry done lately that’s not inane? Nothing.
|Issue 48: Magic, features a gold Alhambra charm by Van Cleef & Arpels
and 25 lenticular cards
|Lady Gaga’s contribution|
|Nick Knight’s contribution|
|Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin’s contribution|