Forgoing both the mad-dash to digital and the usual advertisement-saturated pages that adorn most print publications, the creators behind Gravure are launching a new type of editorial platform. Part fashion magazine, part art book, Gravure Editions is a series of cloth-bound, hardcover books that feature the work of a single artist in a stunningly original and covetably tactile format. For the next installment of our Fashion Rethinkers series, we sat down with Gravure founders Alex Freund and Lisa Mosko to discuss the future of print, making an advertisement-free publication possible and the need for an independent, American voice in the fashion editorial landscape.
JC Report: What inspired Gravure Editions and what do you hope it’s changing?
Alex Freund and Lisa Mosko: Gravure Editions came from our desire to support the creative community and offer a great venue to feature and promote artists. Gravure has always offered more pages than pretty much any other magazine—we figured that since we’re already offering large blocks of pages, why not publish a story as an entire book, rather than a piece of a compilation? For instance, we commissioned, creative directed, produced and fashion directed the 30 page shoot “Nesting Instinct” from Issue 3 of the magazine with Jenny Gage and Tom Betterton. Jenny and Tom then went on to publish the shoot we did together as Upstairs, Downstairs, and Outside. We were already moving in the direction of offering more and more pages to contributors, so commissioning work as a book was really just the natural progression of things.
AF and LM: Gravure Editions is more about the natural evolution of print media in the face of digital media, rather than magazines, per se. As digital media becomes more prominent, we think print media will still certainly exist, but will become more rarified and precious. We’ve always embraced the web, and have approached Gravure‘s print manifestations as a collectible, limited edition piece.
JCR: Is this the future of magazines?
AF and LM: Magazines as we know them will be around for a while, although digital media is quickly becoming much more sophisticated and is gaining market share. That said, everyone thought the iPad would kill the magazine, but so far we haven’t really seen many magazines treating their iPad editions as anything more than either a website on a tablet or a PDF viewer. We’ve always felt each medium should do what it does best—print is permanent, physical and tactile, while digital media is immediate, dynamic and ephemeral.
JCR: How did the advertisement-free model come into play with the magazine?
AF and LM: We never categorically rejected it, but decided to start Gravure without advertising because the US lacked an independent fashion venue with an insider point of view, sophistication and creative integrity free from the pressure of advertisers who are generally at odds with the editorial mission. This is still the case in the US, with very few exceptions.
We’re interested in creating a dialogue with brands and in interpreting and creating a dialogue with them rather than simply becoming a space for a company’s communications. We’ve always maintained that we’re not opposed to sponsored content, but the brands we feature, sponsored or unsponsored, have to be in sync with our editorial point of view.
AF and LM: We support [Gravure] both through our creative agency, Gravure Projects, and we are extending it to our editorial platforms through sponsored shoots. We also use Gravure as a testbed for ideas that we then apply to our advertising projects. Since it’s our own venue, we can explore ideas that take more creative and financial risks than most advertising clients would be open to.
JCR: What was the publishing environment like at the beginning of your careers?
AF and LM: In the US in the late ’90s, there was a dearth of good independent fashion venues. London had (and still has) several great independent magazines and Paris has more—too many to count on your fingers and toes combined. The US was primarily polarized between the low end (with independent magazines covering mostly street fashion) and the high end (from the large publishers, most of which were extremely commercial).
JCR: What did you want to change in the fashion system then?
AF and LM: We wanted more sophistication in the US editorial scene. Most of the independent magazines then were either started by people who weren’t in the fashion industry (restaurateurs, club owners, etc.) or were aimed at a very young, streety, urban market. We wanted something with a sophisticated American voice.
JCR: Are there aspects of the fashion system today that needs to be reconsidered?
AF and LM: Of course…there are many. Most of all, sustainability—not just in the environmental sense, but also in the creative, economic and cultural sense. The system is caught in a bad cycle where magazines overproduce in order to create unrealistic (and false) circulation numbers for their advertisers, fashion brands destroy unbought product in order to artificially keep supply lower than demand (even when demand is flagging) and “fast fashion” brands treat clothing as expendable. Culturally, things have sped up so much that it’s difficult to maintain any sort of quality or originality. We are committed to producing original content rather than just reblogging content from other venues.
JCR: What will be the impact?
AF and LM: While we can stop the world from moving in this direction, we value originality and will keep alive the practice of creating original, high production value content.
JCR: Where does your iconoclastic approach stem from?
AF: My parents are radical academic hippies. The fact that I ran off and joined the fashion industry makes me the black sheep of the family, but I like to think of it as simply grazing in rocky pastures.
LM: I grew up in a household where quality, sophistication and creativity were highly valued. These are standards I see diminishing in importance in popular culture today.