How Do You Produce a Fashion Magazine in a Pandemic? Like This
In her editor's letter for our June issue, Laura Brown takes readers through the process of pulling together a magazine in these uncertain times.
I'm writing this Editor's Letter on Day — hang on, lemme check — 42 of self-isolation, or, as my Australian people call it, iso. (There is nothing Australians can't abbreviate, apart from, sadly, this global situation.) We're going through every emotion, it seems, daily. From passive acceptance to impotent frustration to rage to anxiety to... the wineglass. Hey, whatever gets you through, man. The one thing we can cling to is that this is an experience we are all having at the same time. I read a beautiful piece by Garrett M. Graff in The Atlantic a few weeks ago in which he wrote, "The most isolating thing most of us has ever done is, ironically, almost surely the most collective experience we've ever had in our lifetimes."
The InStyle magazine team has that collective experience three to four times a week in little individual boxes on a morning Zoom call. I am indescribably proud of all of them: as they pulled together this issue by remote, shooting our inspiring cast in quarantine (U.S. Rep. Katie Porter) and on Skype (José Andrés and Lin-Manuel Miranda); using friends as photographers (Questlove's buddy Grace Harry); sending accessories to photographers' homes; and reporting stories swiftly, with heart and good humor. We even made a self-care video with Grover from Sesame Street.
All of this underscores that we are, first, journalists. In fashion magazines, much of the work of journalism is tied to the industry's rituals, which are in themselves old-fashioned (spending two months a year at runway shows comes to mind). Because we're sequestered at home now, uncluttered by meetings and appointments, a real sense of hustle comes back. The mission of journalism becomes clear again, like that giant jellyfish in Venice's Grand Canal.
InStyle is one of the few women's magazines that are retaining their monthly frequency during the coronavirus crisis rather than combining issues. It's not a daunting task, though; it's motivating. Assembling a magazine now comes down to inventiveness and good, honest ideas. I'm not precious about how we shoot the designer handbag; I don't care if a picture's quality isn't the best because we snapped a subject off of a computer screen. What I care about is us reflecting the world, participating in it, and doing our bit to make it better.
Finally, I want to say a special thanks to our cover star, the high-quality Brit Carey Mulligan, for heading to Paris for our last shoot before the lockdown. "Come to Paris!" I said. "It'll be fun!" I said. Well, things changed rapidly, and I left early to return to New York. Carey, however, kept calm and carried on, shooting on location in bad weather with a tiny crew. Our subscriber cover image of Carey in front of the Eiffel Tower is one of my favorites. It seems a world away now, but it also reminds us of grandeur, of beauty, and of a life that we are yearning to go back to.
But a life essentially modified by this "collective experience."
Enjoy the issue. Thinking of you all.
For more stories like this, pick up the May issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download May 22.