Magazines. We find them all around us, whether in doctors’ waiting rooms, drugstore shelves and bookstores; we can’t help but browse through our favorite semi-glossy pages and feel a tinge of happiness. Though we may flip through a magazine and enjoy looking at the photos adorned with gorgeous models in equally gorgeous clothing, we can’t fully appreciate a publication without an understanding of how much work and effort goes into every detail of every page.
Magazines act as outlets to showcase specific ideas to niche markets. And while there are many different kinds of magazines out there, fashion publications often seem to be on the forefront of people’s minds. This might be due to their strong emphasis on visuals, driving and presenting trends that we see every day through editorial spreads and storylines.
“We are constantly surrounded by fashion. We are constantly exposed to inspiration,” said LSA junior Grace Grande-Cassell, fashion editor of the University-published fashion magazine Shei.
Though some believe fashion is highly superficial, it’s often taken for granted that it’s an art.
“It’s actually very cultural,” said LSA sophomore Jess Linton, Shei’s assistant fashion editor.
According to Linton, magazines themselves are an accessible and relatable art form to display and distribute the creativity of clothing.
“You can just pick one up. You don’t have to go to an art gallery or a showing,” she said.
Though most of us don’t have the availability to jet-set to major fashion capitals like New York and Milan, magazines can, in a way, allow us to sit front row at international Fashion Weeks alongside the rich and famous.
What distinguishes fashion magazines from other publications is their quality of pictorial content. More than anything, the pictures in a fashion magazine tell the story. Though written work is an important component in any magazine, the images are what make people want to read it.
“Even if (an) article is really interesting — it may be the best-written article in the world, but if the graphic quality doesn’t look up to par with that, then nobody’s going to want to read it,” said Architecture senior and Shei design editor Jackie Kow.
Fashion magazines have the ability to pull together a number of diverse designers and looks to create a cohesive spread that can influence what we wear everyday. As a visual culture, we are naturally attracted to beautiful things, and magazines, with all their perfectly posed shots and fantasy settings, become the aesthetically pleasing entity we strive to emulate.
“Unlike photojournalism, you can’t shoot how it is,” said Art & Design junior Mai Truong, design director at Shei. “With fashion, you create it yourself. It takes time and effort.”
Photography is what drives the fashion business. A person flipping through the pages of a beautiful magazine spread who sees a dress, shirt or piece of jewelry that he or she likes might be more inclined to buy that article of clothing, or something from the same designer.
Fashion photography usually takes into account two things: background and design. Shei stages its photo shoots in an assortment of places, ranging from a white-walled studio to graffiti-filled buildings in Detroit. But the most important part of a fashion photo is still the designs that it shows. Though Shei doesn’t have a huge fashion closet available, as some of the major publications like Vogue and Elle do, it’s OK — its staffers make do with the local designers and stores, like Bivouac, The Getup and Poshh.
“We don’t do a whole lot of avant-garde pieces — you know, high-fashion things. They’re sort of more wearable with sort of a couture flare,” Grande-Cassell said.
According to Grande-Cassell, Shei staff members even use clothing from their personal closets for photo shoots. This diversifies the magazine even further.
The literary editor of Shei, LSA senior Bridget Bodnar, describes the magazine’s look as “do-it-yourself” and youthful. Ann Arbor has a good mix of high and low fashion with stores like Poshh, which carries designer jeans and dresses, to vintage and consignment shops like Star Vintage. The magazine takes these two types of fashion and combines them into a cohesive style that looks like a million bucks — this is what we call the art of fashion and styling.
Grande-Cassell understands that Ann Arbor is not the conventional center for fashion, but still feels the University is worthy of a fashion publication.
“Obviously, we have people from all over the world, and so they contribute to a lot of different looks you see on campus,” she said. “I think that Ann Arbor is more artistically inclined than a lot of places, so I think people are more accepting as well.”
But just a few striking photographs of interesting looks and styling does not a magazine make. Magazines need a backbone — and that’s where layout comes into play.
According to most of the Shei staff, the layout of the magazine is just as important as the photos it holds.
“Layout is like putting together a book and telling a story,” Kow said.
Like every shoot they contain, fashion magazines have many different components that have to come together to make sense. Once all these pieces fit together, a final product makes its way onto our newsstands.
Though some people may believe it is fickle and shallow, the fashion magazine culture has large effects on our everyday lives. The publication with pages of photos of gorgeous models clad in stunning pieces of clothing is not just a tactile entity — it is a presentation of a lot of work, effort and creativity.
—Daily Arts Writer Will Defebaugh is the creative director of Shei, but did not take part in this story.