Eva Munz and Adriano Sack are the editors in chief of ILikeMyStyle Quarterly, the first user generated fashion publication. What exactly does that mean? Well, the magazine exists in tandem with ilikemystyle.net, a fashion and style oriented social networking website where users exchange their ideas on clothes and fashion, sharing looks, making contacts, and enjoying the Internet as a means of self-expression. What Eva and Adriano do is then use the dialogue and imagery generated by these users and extend them into content for print; commissioning stories ranging from total fashion editorials, to essays, questionnaires, style logs, and fashion experiments. In doing so they have managed to map out a new means of fashion epistemology, becoming a key player in the reassessment of fashion theory as it has rapidly transformed over the past few years and will probably continue to do so for many more. ILikeMyStyle is perhaps the first post-fashion magazine and has offered one of the most compelling directions in print publishing just as print and style itself give way to the high speed buzz of the Internet. And, it’s also Garmento’s neighbor at this year’s NY Art Book Fair.
Part I of II
How did you guys meet?
EVA MUNZ: We met approximately 15 years ago in Hamburg, through mutual friends.
Your background isn’t in publishing?
EM: I studied journalism and later I went to film school, I’ve always written but not very industriously.
ADRIANO SACK: I studied architecture and after 3 years I started as an intern, as you could say, at a magazine. Ever since I’ve been working as a journalist for different German publications.
EM: We met again and started working together about two years ago for Qvest magazine, which folded after the economic slump. This was in early 2009. We both decided to quit because of the new direction the magazine was going in. It was a good push in the right direction that we quit because we knew we wanted to do something together.
It’s interesting that neither of you are really “fashion” people. The industry draws people in for different reasons, I don’t think for you it’s about being fabulous and fierce.
EM: I would say Adriano knows more of that world, he’s always been writing about style and fashion. I have not really, but I was always interested in aesthetics and I think aesthetics and style really permeate political thinking.
Maybe that you both don’t come from strictly fashion backgrounds has an effect on the magazine. Your content is based on the readers and users, it’s genuinely democratic and inclusive, you don’t really find that in fashion magazines.
AS: No matter where you work you tend to get caught up in the rules of your environment, as creative the fashion world seems to be it is just as restricted and controlled. If you haven’t been in the circle of hierarchies—who gets invited to which show, who is friends with who, this whole industry thing—it’s easier to think about how we could view fashion in a new way. As soon as you’re following those rules there’s no other way to do it.
EM. We both observed that bloggers were becoming more and more powerful on the internet, democratizing the process of taste making. We found that the website, the social network ilikemystyle.net, was something very powerful and opinionated, but empowering people who didn’t have a voice before. We as editors in chief only have a certain amount of control over the direction our magazine goes which we find exciting but it’s also a huge risk. It is an all embracing approach of looking at fashion.
With ILikeMyStyle, there are no proclamations of taste, or the look the reader should being wearing, it’s not an instructive tone. You invite people to be themselves, you can edit that but in the end you have to work with what you get.
AS: When we came up with the idea for the magazine we saw that there were already other independent magazines that try to play by the rules: that try to get certain advertising clients, make some cute photo shoots, have a little section where you place all the product the PR agencies want you to show in your magazine, and we said “Ok, these magazines exist already and some of them are well done, others are not so well done and there’s no point in following that formula because it already exists.” Why bother doing something from scratch with no funding if it’s not a new idea? If you want to know that the new thing is colorblocking, or whatever it might be this season, there’s enough publications who’ll tell you that. If you do create a magazine like this on your own then you better come up with something that doesn’t exist already.
With its content, ILikeMyStyle certainly does break down all the rules. Just from the fact that it can exist, maybe it reflects a general change going on in fashion?
EM: I think it says a lot about fashion. Every designer, every person working in the fashion industry, when you ask them about their biggest inspiration they will never ever say “oh the last runway collection of so-and-so designer is my biggest inspiration”, forget it. They will always quote music, or movies, or art as their inspiration. I think the way the fashion industry builds on itself is mostly about a lot of different art forms. It’s interesting to navigate and explore this area and let people come up with their own conclusions—give people a piece of thought and let them explore by themselves and see what happens. Of course it always comes back again and again to certain collections, or colors, but also, what this magazine does more than let’s say a street style blog, it becomes a compendium for trends. It’s an incredible research tool for fashion brands and even photographers who look at the ideas that are out there and are user generated as an inspiration for upcoming campaigns. This hasn’t been explored yet but I’m 100% sure it is definitely on the radar of tastemakers and people in the fashion industry.
It’s important to note that the magazine is called I Like My Style, there’s a difference between fashion and style.
AS: What’s the difference?
Fashion is a cultural value, the strive for the new. Either for the sake of the novelty of something new or because the world is changing and the identities and paradigms that we buy in our clothes and express in our clothes are changing. The shift towards the new look, I define that as fashion. It’s a societal force that isn’t really connected to the individual. Style is the personal expression. I think someone might buy fashion as an attempt to acquire a sense of identity, they’ll buy it and totally assume it. Real style comes solely from within, you can’t buy that. I think people often confuse fashion with style.
AS: But ideally it goes hand in hand. These tie dye jeans and denim shirt I bought the other day, they’re from Dries Van Noten, I would never say I found my personal style in them, but I know things I like and things I don’t like. Somehow you try to plug into what’s happening. You might have a tailor who makes the same jacket for you that you rely on but at the same time you will shop Prada and Dries Van Noten because it fits into what you like and it adds some new sparkle. I wouldn’t say it’s two separate worlds, one can merge into the other. I don’t want to be someone who wears the same jacket for 50 years because I found my perfect fit, you have to keep it fun and alive for yourself and also for the people around you.
EM: I’m extremely fascinated by fashion although I would consider my own style slightly conservative. I always look for new styles and ideas and it gives me a framework or a hook to go from one season to the next. That’s the great thing about living in New York is that you actually have seasons. I used to live in Asia and it was always hot and humid and for 5 years my wardrobe was the most boring it had ever been because it was always the same kind of weather. Here you have to buy a couple of new things each season because you don’t want to wear the same coat as last winter, and that I find amazing. I love to see new looks and see new clothes. I do change every season in a certain way, not as radically, but it’s like seeing a new movie where you walk out of the cinema and you want to change your life because it’s so inspiring.
One thing I noticed in the last issue that perhaps was always there, is that it is a vehicle for critique of the fashion system and the fashion industry. Some of it is a direct critique, like an essay, but for example the section of fashion stories shot in the changing rooms of stores, it’s so rebellious.
AS: It’s rebellious because the stores are so stupid and won’t allow you to take photos, but in the end it’s completely embracing fashion because everybody goes in and tries on clothes they can’t afford, or they at least have to consider if they can really afford it. But it’s the most natural thing to do, I’ll try on something and think about if I want it or not. Documenting this is not what the stores want you to do but I think it’s hilariously wrong, everything you find in the store you can see online anyway, it’s no secret what Prada shoes look like. On one hand the stores wouldn’t allow it if they knew but at the same time it’s real people putting on real clothes asking “what do I look like?” in it. It’s YES in capital letters to fashion. It’s rebellious but at the same time it’s completely pro-fashion.
EM: I don’t see it as much as a critique, what we really want to provoke is a discourse. Sometimes it does involve critique, but most of the time it’s an affirmative “YES I want that Prada dress, or those amazing shoes.” I may not be able to afford all of the looks but it’s a means to reinventing myself. It’s an interaction with brands that’s so natural and so amazing. Hopefully designers will pick it up and see a new spin on how people actually wear their clothes.
But its also rebellious in that it’s a fashion story with no fashion editor, no hair stylist, no makeup, you edit out a lot of components of traditional fashion image making.
E: It’s very much what the internet has already done. It’s a reverse capitalist approach, yes, but it’s also very capitalist in that it’s so applauding, it’s basically a standing ovation to all the designers, showing these people’s desire for their clothes.
AS: That section is about dreams and desire done in a punk way, but Tavi doesn’t have a stylist, Bryanboy doesn’t have a stylist, these people are their own stylists. Some of these people get it wrong and some get it amazingly right and that’s what’s fun about fashion. No matter if it’s Purple magazine or V magazine, yes of course there are amazing people working there and they always come up with surprises, but as we said before, these magazines already exist. Keep in mind with our users that they are not your everyday people, they have their own blogs or are trying to get into fashion; they have a certain amount of knowledge and aesthetic skill. The fun part is that you don’t really control it. It’s like going to a party, you enjoy watching the super well dressed people as much as those who got it wrong. Both are part of the aesthetic discussion. If everybody gets it right that’s death. We need people who make mistakes, who go too far or who don’t go far enough because it opens your eye.
I especially loved the fashion show reviews, I was taken aback by how frank some of them were. There are some things I would never write.
EM: Do you think we make a mistake by allowing that to go into print?
No, not at all. You’re not advocating those opinions, you’re just showing that people have them.
EM: It’s important to share those opinions. We do not want it to be about a magazine about us. We want it to be open to discourse and other perspectives.
AS: Obviously, you were taken aback, and a lot of people would be, but think about Katie Grand or Nicola Formichetti, or Carine Roitfeld, they’ll sit at a dinner table and say exactly the same thing. And they don’t elaborate with 4,000 words as Cathy Horyn might do to say it. Someone can kill a collection with one sentence.
I love that as a reader, if I see a story that I like or that I don’t like, I can contact the user who’s made it or who’s in it. I guess I could always write a letter to the editor, but I never feel like anyone really reads those.
EM: In Germany we have a name for people who write letters to the editor, they’re a big loser, they’re like the saddest people with no lives.
Well, I’ve written letters to the editor and maybe I don’t have a life. But this is much more inviting, they’re all users and I’m a user, and so they’re just like me. It’s equalized.
AS: That’s sort of the point of the entire magazine, that it could be you. That’s the essence of the concept. While producing the magazine we are in charge of what goes in and what does not go in but fundamentally the idea is that someone who makes or writes something that is amazing will make it into the magazine. We’re on the same level as everybody who contributes.
Maybe fashion should be more like that.
EM: It is in ways. The only sad thing is that I find it is so hermetic when it should be a lot more inviting. The violence of participation should be celebrated a bit more.
That’s not a very fashionable perspective.
EM: But it’s a very modern perspective. A lot of decisions are going to be taken from the people in power because the internet, fortunately or very unfortunately, has redefined certain power structures. It is already changing, for the better or the worse? I’m not here to tell you, but it is a fact.