This month, my great friend Yolanda Edwards launched the first issue of her travel magazine YOLO Journal. She basically "made it from scratch" after having been let go from Conde Nast, her longtime employer. I am sure it didn't feel great, but given the current climate, her pride was not quite as wounded as it could have been. The magazine world is upside down – it's almost the norm to be let go, even for a super-talented veteran editor. No shame in all the creatives out there, unmoored from their former jobs, figuring out how to distinguish themselves from all the other millions of people "creating content".
It's not so hard, right? I am even doing it now. We've separated our Instagram accounts, and now I am actually DOING the work and posting and scribbling and smiling at my efforts and pushing the little button that posts those efforts to all who might see. The magazine world prepares you pretty well for that. I have organized and prepped and created many, many photo shoots. I have stood side by side with a photographer and seen just what they were seeing... darting in to adjust the hair or the shoulder strap... adding a prop... asking the model to move an inch or two the other way. I was taught by some of the very best, and I could watch and learn from them before I ever had the chance to do any of that on my own. It is impossible to explain to my millennial daughters that you really, truly had to WAIT to see what you produced until "the film came in." It took days. But today, the instant stuff is so much fun... and it democratizes the process. I think it is wonderful – and good for you – to express yourself by making something. Hobby Lobby and Michael's have the balance sheets to tell you that this has always been the case. And while we should all feel free to create... the real pros are pros for a reason. I knew it even when I was being paid to do it myself. I was a decent-enough stylist. But oh my goodness – to be around those whose vision was so brilliant and clear was a treat that I still can't believe I got to witness. In minutes, the whole set could change on a photo shoot, whether the idea had just hatched, or been meticulously planned with props or animals or hair and makeup. Even something as simple as the shape of a dress blown just right with the fan could shift the mood. But the stylist and photographer seeing it in their minds – that was the brilliance. Some people could just DO it better. And that's what I'm getting at. While I adore the way we can all create in our instant visual world, I worry sometimes that, in such a huge sea of images and content, we are not able to spot – and value – the truly great among the rest.
So when Yolanda told me about YOLO, my first thought was maybe that it felt a bit like her flag on the moon. An old symbol in new ground. Maybe I'm biased – I told you she was my friend – but I think it is just fantastic. My background in magazines has primed me to appreciate it, but I am not the only one – we have sold at least one issue of YOLO every single day since we received it two weeks ago. Multiple, usually. There is something here that is resonating with people, and that is so cool. And when you open it up, it is not so surprising. There is good, and there is great, and then there is ahh, wow. Being so 80/20 myself, great is usually good enough for me. (I am married to someone who is the exact opposite – he will see a loose thread on my shirt from 3 feet away. It drives me crazy. I can't believe we ended up together.)
All of this is a lot to think about... and who really cares I suppose. But for me – the thing I think you need and, I guess, I promise – is to make sure that with all the amazing things we get to look at on our phones all day, we still hold in high esteem the things that take more time to create. The printed page of the quarterly magazine. The beautifully bound book on the shelf. While I love my Kindle (convenient with lots of work travel, and easier on my old eyes,) it doesn't allow for that wonderful tactile memory of touching the book and feeling the thickness of the spine and interacting with the colorful book jacket. My brain can't register it as easily. Half the time I cannot remember the titles I have consumed, much less the name of the author. I zip through them too easily, and too quickly. Lately, I have been trying to purchase the hardcovers and read at least part of the book that way, in an effort to fight this. I remember saving every issue of Martha Stewart Living (which changed my world with the way it elevated domesticity) during the first few years it was published. For early subscribers, they would even send you a special index edition so you could go back and find which issue had what in it without having to page through them all. Kind of like the library card catalog. Handy. I saved nearly all of my VOGUEs, too. It's a holdover from when I worked at Conde Nast – when you were researching something, you actually went to a little room and FOUND a real live print issue and checked it out and copied the relevant pages. Then it went back onto the shelf. At any rate, they take up a lot of space, and I keep wrestling with the idea of tossing them. They seem obsolete... but are they?
Maybe not, it turns out. YOLO is a seasonal magazine and not a book... but for me it is one to keep. (And made by someone who has the eye to create something worth keeping.) Francois Deconinck was a great photographer back in the 90s that I worked with a few times. My friend Kelly tells this story about him, and it is one of my very favorites – from the J.Crew heyday of the early nineties when we both worked as photo stylists. It was after a swimwear shoot, on the way back to headquarters in a van full of lots of "stuff" to unload (the unglamorous part of the job – schlep was the first Yiddish word I had to learn for good reason,) and on the loading dock, blocking the entry, were hundreds of J.Crew catalogs piled up to be picked up by the garbage truck. Francois just shrugged and smiled and made the very French pfffft sound with his lips and said... "it all ends up in the trash." You could hardly have invented a more discouraging sight after we had been working so hard to produce new versions of the exact same thing. It makes you smile, and then it disappears. I can't even remember if I was in the van during this particular drop-off... the memories all run together... but the story rings true all the same with its clarity and humor and wisdom. He was right. Maybe it does all end up in the trash, but holding onto it even for a little while – shelving it with your books or maybe even saving a picture to put on your board – is wonderful when the work is worthy.
And trust me when I say that YOLO is worthy. Another reason I am so happy to shout out this beautiful magazine is that I am included as a contributor. I have a little travel page, TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. I can go on and on (as you know if you regularly read this page,) so when I sent her 1500 words – and she asked me to edit it down to 500 – I nearly wept. I think she had been expecting a bullet-pointed packing checklist. But she took it in stride and perhaps in the spirit of making her very OWN thing, came back and said something to the effect of "you know, you are right, we should all be reading more anyway... this will be our differentiator." And it worked, I guess. Not just my piece, but cover to cover, the whole thing is amazing and plenty differentiated. One look at the Instagram feed and you can see that people from all over the world are loving it. Thank goodness we received more yesterday morning. (My crack merchandising team sent along the Fedex tracking link so I could anxiously track the delivery.)
I should mention that Yolanda's husband Matt Hranek is doing a similar thing with his equally-genius Wm. Brown men's magazine, which we are selling at a healthy clip as well. (Sid just happens to be on the cover of the latest issue!) Together they are proving that print is alive and well, and we are so happy to be a small part of it. You may have already read a good bit of my contribution here – I had to self-plagiarize and use some of my previous advice – but if not, I've gotten permission to share my bit in the post below. That is, if you're not bored by the length of this already! Either way – you need the entire magazine, I promise.