Last week I was lucky enough to attend a preview event for local festival PaisleyMake. The idea was to highlight creativity and design in the area, with PaisleyMake one of many celebrations to come that will shape, enhance and inform Paisley's bid to become City of Culture UK in 2021. This is big. Really big.
I wrote about the design showcase in partnership with Scotland Re:Designed on my inspiration blog, but another key part of the day was a passionate talk by Penny Martin, Editor of The Gentlewoman magazine.
I must admit I hadn't heard of The Gentlewoman, despite magazines - particularly the more niche titles - being my abiding obsession (hello FLOW, Kinfolk, Oh Comely, Womankind, et al, and fabulous Nova when it returned briefly in the early noughties).
The Gentlewoman must now be added to that list as its premise promises something deeper and more rewarding than most other 'women's magazines' out there:
The Gentlewoman celebrates modern women of style and purpose. Featuring ambitious journalism and photography of the highest quality, it showcases inspirational women through its distinctive combination of glamour, personality and warmth.
Penny had me at 'Angela Lansbury was on the cover of Issue no. 6' and the idea of 'an arch, arcane approach; witty and slightly insincere, a Diana Vreeland-esque voice'. Yes.
There was talk of counterpoint, antidote, outsiders and 'being the cult'. Oh yes.
Of the 'interior furniture' of the magazine (which I imagined mapping to the interior furniture of my mind), 'the creative conversation' and a 'thoughtful pause' before relenting to the 'slavish consumer' mentality. Triple yes. Multiple yes's.
All this intrepid fabulousness; the reality over frippery (though there is some well-placed frippery, with tell of gorgeous photo-features on lazy breakfast-brunches, tight tights and an article on mushroom tea - which actually sounds quite sophisticated) will have me scouring my local newsagent and probably subscribing.
I loved hearing about how the magazine was brought to life, how people conflate the words and get the title wrong (understandably one of Penny's pet hates), and about how The Gentlewoman strives to differentiate itself from its ilk in every issue.
The strong, design-led covers above are from a totally different iteration of The Gentlewoman which went out of print in the 1930's.
They whisper of the mysteries of feminine things in an urgent, powerful (witchy) voice and were the perfect inspiration for the modern, intelligent biannual that champions black and white photography, long-form journalism and women of note.
I can well understand that 'editing a magazine is like curating an exhibition in a gallery', as Penny explained they print in double-black, don't use a grid, are fastidious about paper, and obsess over small design details that elevate the magazine into much more than 'just a magazine'. These are the kind of details I love.
It's consumable art for the modern world. The Gentlewoman has gone meta.
Their partner magazine is Fantastic Man, and of course we all know: behind every fantastic man is a gentlewoman. Or something like that.
The autumn/winter issue is out this week, and features Zadie Smith on the cover.