The long-awaited arrival of the female equivalent of the slick fantastic man has finally launched. Ozon meets with the editor of the gentlewoman magazine, Penny Martin in London to discuss synonyms the blogosphere and the true nature behind the modern gentlewoman.
What is the essence of the gentlewoman?
An ambitious, substantial magazine for women with an intelligent sartorial take on fashion.
With numerous magazines and publications online and in print was there a gap in the industry that you felt needed the gentlewoman?
Well, a gap in the market speaks of market research and I can’t say that that’s the approach we took. It was not purely to do with the kind of market but the desire for the type of magazine with a visual style. So it was not only about our audience but about our subject, this kind of rather dry and stylish art direction, which is usually associated with men’s magazines.
There is an early 20th century british home magazine titled the gentlewoman; is there any connection or is it just an eponymous coincidence?
It is not purely a coincidence, because when we were thinking about the magazine’s name and whether it should be called Fantastic Woman. I came out with a whole load of titles that I could remember from when I used to work at the woman’s library and Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers (founders of Fantastic Man) were intrigued with its translation The lack of familiarity they had with the term word made them think what a Gentlewoman would be. And we got so intrigued by the subject that it started to conjure a kind of notion of a very styled personality. So no, we didn’t lift the art direction or the contents from that magazine, I think it was more of a linguistic thing.
So the definition of a ‘gentlewoman’ being a woman of noble birth with standards of proper behaviour and manners could translate into the character of the magazine?
I think it is more a question of what the modern gentlewoman would be. Because we associate the Gentlewoman with a very specific period in the 18th and 19th century, a woman of middle class from a very particular background and education. Our question was that if we can imagine what a modern gentleman is and we can’t imagine what a gentlewoman is, then we have a bit of exploring to do. It wasn’t meant to be an etiquette manual. But I think we do have a sense of what we think is a compelling kind of graceful chic and funny woman, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be represented in a lot of print magazines at the moment.
Τhe gentlewoman projects a collection of a more grown-up, mature women rather than the provocative, sexed imagery we see in other editorials.
Yes, the word ‘maturity’ is definitely one that’s applied. I love women with personalities and I adopt a story before I write a big profile. It gives you something to write about, rather than what happened in the hotel room when the interviewer went to meet them. I think it’s directed towards a woman with grown up aspirations, I don’t think they need to be of a certain age or indeed an income bracket; towards women that are living really interesting lives.
Υou recently gave an inaugural lecture at the London College of Fashion on the debate of online versus print media. do you think the hype of blogs is the new wave of instant journalism, that fashion can now be accessible to everyone?
I’ve got no problem with access. When I was at SHOWstudio, we were the first company to ever take a mobile phone into a fashion show. It’s not about keeping people out. I think that my concern is more that the standard of journalism and critique is maintained. At the moment we’re fetishizing the method of delivery. We are hung up on whether it is a blog or if it is a website, a live transmission, mobile phone broadcast, when in fact we should be worrying about what is being written, if it is a journalistic response and report and if there’s a sense of expertise.
‘Αll that she wants’ for the second issue, of the gentlewoman for fall 2010.
Well, if we finally manage to nail down the cover star we’re talking to then that’s all I want.
Interview: Alexandra Petsetakis