Are you a Gentlewoman?

12 March 2010

New biannual magazine for women - The Gentlewoman launches this month . . . We've chatted to Penny Martin, editor in chief, to find out the story behind the mag, sister title to hugely popular menswear title, FANTASTIC MAN.

Why are you launching a luxury fashion magazine now? What was the gap you could see in the market and how is The Gentlewoman different from others?
We wanted to make something that really demands to be read, that women can sit down and enjoy reading. Fashion magazines have become extremely visual recently and that’s great – for that. But our mission was to restore quality to editorial – long, substantial articles about really fantastic women with something to say. We’ve worked very hard to capture the way women talk to each other, which – as you know, is different to the way women talk to men or men talk to men. We want that intimate, familiar, let-your-guard-down style. We also wanted to try and break down the dreadful cliché that women aren’t funny.  

It feels like we’re at a moment in fashion where a certain kind of brash flash sparkly era seems to be on its way out and the designers everyone's raving about are more minimal, and very, very grown up. Tell us the story of Celine, Phoebe Philo and Issue 1 of The Gentlewoman . . .
(Background: Penny went to interview Phoebe in 2005, while she was the head of Chloe, whose profits were soaring under her leadership. Penny’s angle was supposed to be ‘fantastic career woman, mother to a young baby, lovely husband, having it all, the sweet smell of success . . . and so on’ but she found Philo exhausted, and unsure of her ability to carry on at the pace of high fashion with a little baby too. Soon afterwards she left Chloe and took several years out of the biz spending time with her children and freelancing a tiny bit). Penny picks up the story in 2010 . . .
“Right from when we were putting ideas together for the launch issue we knew we wanted to talk to Phoebe, but she wasn’t doing many interviews about her new role at Celine. Then when she heard about The Gentlewoman, and about our concept she said she wanted to be involved. And, since I did her last interview at Chloe, she requested that I go and meet her to talk about Celine”.

So it started to come together . . .
“Yes, but it wasn’t till Jop [Creative Director Jop Van Bennekom] and I went to her show (SS10 - Phoebe’s inaugural one as head designer of Celine) that we realised how great it was going to be. That collection! We were on such a high we pretty much cartwheeled out of there! Then we started getting so excited about layout and magazine design based on the modernist feel of Phoebe’s designs. It started to influence our choices for the other people we wanted to feature – it was the collection that changed everything.

And now! Now she’s absolutely the woman of the moment. Everyone’s talking about her, everyone wants to read her profile and bam, along comes The Gentlewoman with the only interview!
I know, I know. Her second collection is amazing too – and we popped into the Celine shop before we left Paris, and they were nearly sold out of everything!

And have you got any gossip, anything sneaky for Grazia that didn’t make it into the final piece?
Well, not much. But the day we did the interview we were in her studio, at her headquarters in London. Her assistants had laid on this lovely platter of fruit for us, and coffee . . . you know. So there we were, like two real fashion types, nibbling at fruit, when she kind of sighed and confessed that she’s trying so hard to be healthy, but left to her own devices, she’d happily live on crisps!

A woman after our own heart!
Oh yes. Crisps, KFC and chocolate!

We keep hearing great things about The Gentlewoman from Paris
We’ve been thrilled. Thrilled and overwhelmed with the great feedback we’ve had on the preview copies we’ve given out. We had a little preview party in Paris, and we’ve had copies in [ultra cool Paris boutique] Colette –which have sold out twice! It’s going into [specialist magazine stockists] RD Franks in London on Monday and will be available everywhere else on March 22nd.

You must be so excited!
Yes, well we’ve worked so hard on this. It’s been a really considered piece of work. I’ve had so much time to think about how I wanted it to be – and consequently the end result is quite personal. We’ve also really worked and worked and worked at it! We’ve had 16 hour days, arguments about the placement of a single comma, captions re-written six or seven times! But, now I look at it, I’m glad we did. I just think; - Ah. It could have been a lot worse than this!

We read a blogger getting excited about getting their first copy and saying; “I’m going to curl up in an Eames chair with a cup of Earl Grey tea and devour it” How do you propose we read The Gentlewoman? Can you set the scene?
Actually – there is an ideal scenario for reading it. On a long train journey, on an aeroplane or even on the tube. You see – although we’ve not shied away from more heavyweight journalism, we’ve made sure the size – 144 pages, and especially the weight of it means you can comfortably roll it up and slip it into your handbag. So it’s ideal for the kind of dynamic, busy lives the women we want to read us actually lead!

- Naomi Attwood


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