Showing posts with label Vogue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vogue. Show all posts

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

My favourite glossy magazine

Glossy magazines have always been a big part of my life. My mum started her career as a feature writer for Woman’s Mirror, a weekly magazine in the Sixties, and I can vividly remember the day she met me from primary school brandishing a tall retro coffee pot in her hand. She’d bought it with the proceeds of her first magazine commission and she was SO proud. So was I for that matter.

In the intervening years I’ve subscribed to scores of different magazines – from Vogue to Country Living – and even worked for a few myself. I love that exciting moment when they thump on to the doormat, usually a couple of days before you can buy them at the shops.

But in recent months I’ve cut the magazines I read down to two. I’m not sure why but I found that I was flicking through most of them and barely reading any articles. They all seemed a bit samey and dull.

There are two subscriptions I’ve hung on to though – for two magazines I reckon are head and shoulders above the rest. One is Grazia, the weekly magazine I’ve blogged about before, and the other is the utterly brilliant Red.

So what’s so great about Red? Well, for starters, it looks like a work of art. The photography is stunning and if I was a student I’d be half tempted to tear the fashion pages out and stick them on my walls. But more importantly, it’s full of stuff I actually want to read. Take the March issue. It’s got an At Home piece with novelist Maggie O’Farrell (I’m counting the days till her latest novel, Instructions for a Heatwave, is published on February 28), an interview with Noel Gallagher and a Q&A with the wonderful Tracey Thorn. The Everything But the Girl singer has just written a book about her life called Bedsit Disco Queen – my favourite book title of the year so far.

But as I flicked through the current issue’s 274 pages I was sad to see that the March issue is editor-in-chief Sam Baker’s last one. She’s leaving to write her next novel and have a go at being her own boss – which shows that she follows her own advice because Red is all about inspiring its readers and exhorting them to try new things.

So, from a loyal Oxford reader, all I can say is goodbye and good luck to Sam Baker. And thank you for all the amazing issues of Red you’ve published over the last six years.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Natalie Haynes and Alexandra Shulman appear on With Great Pleasure

With Great Pleasure is one of the best programmes on BBC Radio 4.

If you haven’t discovered it, do give it a try. The series asks well-known names to pick prose and poetry they love - so it’s a fantastic way to discover new writers and hear old favourites.

This week I got the chance to attend a recording of two forthcoming programmes at the BBC’s Broadcasting House. The shows featured two ultra-inspiring women – the first, comedian and writer Natalie Haynes and the second, Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman.

The programmes will both be broadcast in February so I don’t want to give too much of the game away but Natalie Haynes’s selection included two rare and exquisite readings by one of our most distinguished writers. Like the rest of the audience, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when he walked on to the stage.

Then it was time for the second recording. I was fascinated to hear Alexandra Shulman’s choices – not only because she is a brilliant editor but because she is exactly the same generation as me. And sure enough, listening to her choices (beautifully read by Tracy Wiles and Stella Gonet) sent a shiver down my spine. Her favourites included Noel Streatfeild’s classic White Boots, Dorothy Parker’s The Telephone Call, Rosamund Lehman’s Invitation to the Waltz and even Mediterranean Cookery by Elizabeth David. Shulman recalled how the book took her straight back to her North London childhood, in the days when her mother (the distinguished journalist Drusilla Beyfus) would rush in from work and start cooking supper from scratch in their tiny kitchen.

As the child of two journalists, Shulman said that when she was growing up journalism seemed like very hard work for little remuneration. But she loved reading journalists’ writing and the journalist she most admired was Joan Didion, whose Play It As It Lays was another of her (universally excellent) choices.

Shulman, dressed in a stylish bottle green velvet dress, was surprisingly modest and self-effacing as she talked about the titles she’d selected. Being asked to do the programme was, she said, “an incredible treat and privilege.” Actually, being part of the audience was a treat and privilege too.

PS. Alexandra Shulman’s debut novel about three friends who graduate in the 1980s is out in paperback this week. Can We Still Be Friends (Fig Tree, £5.99)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Alexandra Shulman's debut novel - and how my 80s began

Alexandra Shulman, the brilliant Vogue editor-in-chief, has just written her first novel. Can We Still Be Friends is set in the 1980s and relates the lives and loves of three female friends. I’ve ordered the book from Amazon and can’t wait to see how her memories of the decade compare with mine.

Shulman gave readers a vivid snapshot of her 80s in a first person piece for The Times Magazine at the weekend. “My 80s began in the summer of 1980 when I was dumped by my boyfriend,” she said. “He chucked me the day I learnt my university degree – a 2.2 – so I began my 80s walking the streets of London in floods of tears.”

The image Shulman conjured up was so striking that I got to thinking about how my own 80s began. In the summer of 1980, I’d just graduated too – with a degree in history and politics that I’ve never used to this day.

I spent the long summer holiday driving through France in a bright green (and very temperamental) 2CV with my boyfriend of the time and arrived back in September to start training as a journalist.

I nervously drove the highly-strung 2CV from my parents’ house in Dorset to Plymouth, where the Mirror Group Newspapers training scheme was based, and booked into the YMCA for the first few nights. After teaming up with fellow trainees Fiona Millar and Jenny Craddock, we looked for somewhere more permanent to live together and ended up in a tiny ground-floor flat in a place called Mutley. Within a couple of months, though, Fiona moved to the Tavistock Times with Alastair Campbell, while Jenny and I were dispatched to the Mid-Devon Advertiser in Newton Abbot. We moved to a house in the wilds of Dartmoor, where it rained so much I had to start the 2CV with a liberal dosing of WD40 every morning to stand the faintest chance of getting to work.

My starting salary was the princely sum of £3,300 and mostly went on rent, petrol, the pub and trips to London to catch up with university friends who I thought were leading more glamorous lives. My favourite clothes came from French Connection, In-Wear and a shop in York called Sarah Coggles. I whiled away lots of evenings playing Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and Carly Simon on my (oh dear) record player. It wasn’t quite a wind-up gramophone, but not far off…

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Stella McCartney and the mysteries of make-up

The February issue of Vogue lands on the doormat with a huge thump and it’s a corker. It boasts a fascinating tribute to the painter Lucian Freud by friends and acquaintances and a report on what happened when 17 Vogue editors met in Tokyo. But the most enthralling piece of all is an interview with Stella McCartney, who comes across as engaging, family-minded and refreshingly down-to-earth.

One of the most endearing and surprising revelations (considering she’s one of our top fashion designers) is that she isn’t in the least bit interested in make-up. As interviewer Christa D’Souza observes: “To prove it, she brings out a tatty black vinyl make-up bag meagrely filled with a few stubby pencils – so old, she triumphantly points out, ‘you can’t even read who they’re by… My mum only ever used an eye pencil. I tell you, the older I get, the more I seem to be turning into her.’”

I always feel that along with gardening and crosswords, make-up is one of those things that I should have mastered by now. My make-up bag consists of five lipsticks (all virtually the same shade), none of which I use, some ancient Bobbi Brown eye shadow, a blunt Chantecaille eye pencil I’ve lost the sharpener for and some Eve Lom lip gloss, but I haven’t quite got the hang of any of it.

For three months, after a scary eye operation, I didn’t wear any eye make-up at all because I was too nervous to put anything near my eyelids. Admittedly, as I ventured out bare-faced, I didn’t feel quite myself. I was so self-conscious about my pale lids and unadorned lashes that I asked my daughter about 100 times a day “do I look mad?” “No more mad than usual,” she’d say briskly. “And can you PLEASE stop going on about it?”

Actually, I think my daughter has got applying make-up down to a fine art. Her two lovely flatmates are brilliant at it and when she goes out they do her face, blow-dry her hair and paint her nails. Wow. I wonder what they’d say to an extra flatmate?
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