JCR: Tell us about Trace‘s philosophy?
CG: Trace is a transcultural styles and ideas magazine. When I started Trace in London in 1996, my goal was to show the beauty, creativity, and intelligence of young people, including people of color, through a style magazine dealing with music, fashion, film, art, and popular culture.
JCR: The magazine has successfully positioned itself to be equally relevant in key cities such as London, Paris, New York, São Paolo, etc, why do you think more publications aren’t as globally spirited?
CG: The magazine has always been a reflection of myself and Trace magazine’s contributors. Our editors, writers, and photographers come from all over the world, and they are all curious about major metropolises and cultural shifts around the globe.
JCR: In recent months, The New York Times has buzzed about the new racial
identity (everything in between black and white) that’s not so easily categorized, old news for Trace?
CG: Definitely old news for Trace, because Trace has built its identity on a transcultural, multiethnic view of the world. If you come to the Trace magazine office in SoHo, you will hear three or four languages spoken at any given moment, and you will see French, British, Japanese, African, as well as black, white, Asian, and Hispanic American editors. This is the world we live in, and our Trace microcosm is pointing the way to the future of America.
JCR: Define transculturalism, and tell us about its current and future impact.
CG: Transculturalism is a movement where people are no longer defined by racial, ethnic, or religious backgrounds, but rather by their cultural sensibilities. Contrary to previous generations and the stereotypes that came with racial segmentation, the new transculturals can belong to several cultures at once, and the impact is becoming huge, because they are shaping the way young adults around the world live, dress, dance, and date.
JCR: Trace’s True Consulting arm advises clients on how to communicate with this multiethnic audience, is there something in the agency name?
CG: True was actually the original name of the magazine, in 1995, when I started it in London in a corner of the Dazed & Confused magazine office. In 1996, the name changed to Trace, but with our two-year-old advertising agency, which is a partnership with Omnicom TBWA, I brought the True name back, because I believe the new transculturals value nothing more than authenticity.
JCR: Where does music stand in the mix? Is it the music that’s catapulting this multi-cultural movement forward? Trace TV (now under different ownership and a serious MTV competitor in France) was established on a music platform and the magazine’s content leans heavily toward music.
CG: Music is the glue that holds youth culture together, as the most common denominator. Many phenomena start with music, and music influences fashion, film, art, and pretty much everything else. When we started the Trace TV network in France and Africa with funding from the Goldman Sachs investment bank, we quickly realized that young people in all our key markets were all interested in the same music. For Trace TV, it was hip-hop, R&B, and reggae, and last year, Trace TV’s viewers were into Sean Paul and Beyoncé, just like everyone else I knew.
JCR: Why is fashion lagging behind when it comes to representing the new racial and style mélange in the world?
CG: I find that many of the most influential fashion arbiters are cultural followers, and not the trendsetters you would expect them to be. They wait for music, or art, or film to set the trend, and they adapt their fashion designs (if they are designers) or coverage (if they are journalists) to whatever is happening in the street. I mentioned Sean Paul and Beyoncé earlier, so it was interesting to me to see the Jamaican ragga style adapted by the recent Dior collections, and last year Beyoncé became a fashion icon to the point where, in Milan last season, I saw her getting more paparazzi attention at the Dolce & Gabbana show than Monica Bellucci and the Duchess of York combined.
JCR: What’s behind your very successful annual Black Girls Rule issue?
CG: “Black Girls Rule” is just a phrase I thought of in London in early 1997, when I was trying to find a cover line for photographer Thierry le Goues’ first black and white Trace portfolio of sexy black supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Brandi Quinones, and Kiara. That issue was the first time Trace got noticed outside of London, and quickly Black Girls Rule became our best-selling issue every year. It was like Trace‘s Sports Illustrated swimsuit moment, and because we promoted the issue with t-shirts, stickers, and always received a lot of television and press coverage for that issue, we decided to make “BGR” the highlight of Trace‘s publishing calendar. The challenge now, seven years later, is to identify the hottest new black models, and photograph them in a classy way that reverses the clichéd, slutty images of black models in many magazines and music videos.
JCR: What’s your take on the paradigm shift taking place in fashion where brands like Sean John, Ecko, Roca Wear, etc are showing huge sales growth and are establishing powerful roots in the industry?
CG: Sean John, Ecko, Rocawear, Enyce, Phat Farm are all brands with tremendous growth potential, because they have established credibility with the core hip-hop communities worldwide, but now they have the backing that will take them to the next level, and attract buyers outside the urban base. Seventh avenue and the major retailers are supporting these brands, because they know that they sell, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Ecko or Sean John emerged as the next Ralph and Tommy at the end of this decade. I travel all the time and I can’t go anywhere in the world without seeing Ecko’s rhino; it is already starting to feel like the polo player, because it is so ubiquitous.
JCR: Trace annually profiles a major region of emerging trends. You’ve covered Brazil and Mexico in the past, what’s next?
CG: We’ve done Brazil, Japan, South Africa, Mexico. Now, we are getting ready for a South Asian expedition, but you will have to wait till next year before you read about our discoveries. One hint: we always try to identify the country that will have huge and immediate influences on global youth culture. So far, we’ve been right on all our country destinations, so we hope to strike hard again next year.