Chatting ‘Cause & Effect’ with Amnah Hafez

Since skeptics proclaimed that print is dead some years ago, the opposite seems to have happened. There are now more fashion magazines than ever – just walk into Wardour News; the choice is overwhelming. Yet something is missing in all those glossy pages, a void that Amnah Hafez and her incredible team at a new magazine Cause & Effect are about to fill. I wanted to know more about their exciting venture, and so I spoke to Amnah to find out what to look forward to. One thing I am already sure of: I cannot wait to get my hands on the first issue. Now everyone, form an orderly queue, please.

BK: What inspired you to start your own magazine? 

AH: I wanted to see a magazine out there that was inherently diverse and inclusive. I was frustrated at the lack of that in the magazines I was picking up. And by that I mean in terms of age, gender, race, body type, work experience etc. I wanted to celebrate those who I felt were ignored. The content I was seeing never represented me, my friends or a lot of the people I know and respect. It was born after years of discussion between Tom Rasmussen (Executive Editor) and I. We essentially were so upset at how the industry was basically based on exclusion.

BK: Why Cause & Effect?

AH: When the discussion began on how we wanted to layout the magazine, I thought about the number three a lot. A number I always felt was complete and whole (I am superstitious and believe good things and bad things happen in threes, and so this was my good thing in threes, I suppose). I started to research the number itself within the context of religion and mythology, and ended up reading about the rule of three in Wiccan religion. “It states that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times.” Essentially Karma. Cause & Effect was born from that. We wanted to put out something good into the world. We wanted to carve out a little place for ourselves within the industry where we could showcase the works of people we admire and create content where the unappreciated could feel appreciated.

Taking a break. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What is the concept/ethos of the magazine?

AH: This is exactly what we wrote down when we set out to begin the magazine, and what we would send to potential contributors:

Cause & Effect marries fashion and politics. We want to talk about a love of fashion that doesn’t require moral and intellectual compromise. We want to explore beauty beyond the realms of the unachievable, the non-diverse. We want to discuss mental health, race, body type, gender, sex, sexuality in a candid way, in a beautiful way, in an accessible way.”

BK: Is there a magazine that influenced how you put together C&E?

AH: Not really. William, my husband and our Art Director is a furniture designer who also creates digital artwork. He doesn’t have a background in graphic design per se, so the layouts are influenced by the pieces he was working with rather than existing designs he’d seen elsewhere.

BK: Why did you decide to create a print magazine rather than going digital? 

AH: Because I’m not well equipped to deal with that world just yet. Ha! I also wanted to create something that you could always go back to. Like any of the coffee table books that you would have. I wanted it to be tangible and beautiful. There is such a quickness to online content. It’s there, then it’s gone. I know you can save it, but how often do you go back to something you bookmarked? Or re-read an article you’ve saved? I don’t know, that’s my feeling about it. The books I own are always my source of inspiration.

Backdrop. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What types of articles can your readers expect from issue one?

AH: Articles on mental health, fetishism, leaving religion, fat-shaming, being a drag queen in the Middle East.

BK: You have a very small team of five editors. How did you manage to put the magazine together when you all have other jobs as well? Was there a big dependence on other collaborators? 

AH: In a way, of course, there would be no magazine without their help. We have some amazing contributors in this magazine that we were so eager to work with, so we’re very lucky they agreed to work with us. But at the magazine itself, we just divided the work between each of us. Everyone in my team happens to work freelance, so we met when we could and split the jobs between us. Tom and Emily Carlton (who is our Managing Editor) concentrated on the written content as well as commissioning writers, while myself and Vince Larubina (Senior Fashion Editor) produced the shoots. I styled some of them and came up with some of the concepts for them, and we also handled all creative aspects of the magazine such as finding and commissioning artists. It’s an annual magazine so it was basically done in our spare time.

Hair and make-up. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: How did the decision to work with your husband and close friends come about? Was it something you always spoke about or did it happen quite organically?

AH: As I said, Tom and I talked about it for sometime and when we began, it was the two of us that really founded this magazine. We reached out to people we knew to carry other responsibilities in their spare time, because we couldn’t keep up with the workload. I think it’s natural that you’ll reach out to people you know because you trust them, know what their job situation is like, so you know when they’re available and how often, and most importantly, know that they’re good at their jobs. I reached out to Vince (who lives in New York) because he had just quit his job because he was unhappy (he’s got the best eye and the best taste, and his body of reference is just unbelievable), and I needed the help. So he came out to London and lived with me for some time and we worked on the magazine together. I couldn’t have done it without him.

BK: Do you have any tips for people who would like to start their own magazine? 

AH: Have something to say. Make it your truth. Always ask! You never know who will agree to contribute or help out. Remember that this isn’t a job where you’ll be making money (ha), so you’ve got to fucking love it.

Editorial sneak-peek. Photo by Amnah Hafez

BK: What are your hopes for the magazine in the future? 

AH: For someone to buy it and read it? Haha. I would love to continue to showcase and represent more people I admire, for those people to inspire others as they have inspired me. I have a vision for the brand itself, and for the magazine but it’s baby steps. I want to eventually create an online presence, e-commerce (t-shirts, posters etc.), eventually a charity, but some of it is not for quite some time yet. I want to make a few more issues before expanding – I just hope that with time, Cause & Effect can be my full-time job.

Getting camera-ready. Photo by Amnah Hafez

First issue of Cause & Effect will be out in March/April 2017. 

Ready-to-wear, rupture and continuity in the space of Elle magazine post 1968

Image

The student protests of May 1968 brought focus to Paris’ streets on national and global levels, and this was echoed in French fashion imagery. A ready-to-wear editorial in the 2 September 1968 issue of Elle by Claude Brouet and Marie-Thérèse des Cars set the tone for the straightforward representation of women and the city that would characterise those in magazines in the latter part of the decade and into the next. Here, Peter Knapp photographed women in the streets of Paris, walking or standing against city walls, sometimes looking beyond the camera or directly into its lens. In one image, a model traversed the picture plane in long, confident strides with one arm stretched upwards, as though to shield her face from the bright sunlight. This pose was repeated throughout the editorial; in some instances, the model’s smile was absent, turning the functional gesture into one of protest. In view of the student protests and strikes that engulfed the country three months earlier, contemporary readers might have interpreted the editorial in terms of solidarity.

Indeed, in this imagery, Knapp may have directly referenced the first day of the protest, in which many commentators later remarked on the still, sunny aspect of Paris’ streets before violence erupted. In the 17 June 1968 issue of Elle, for example, journalist Denise Dubois-Jallais contrasted what began as “a lovely Friday in May” with the image of “[…] enraged young people, cobblestones in hand, running towards a police car and, all of a sudden, the noise of shattered glass […].” And although those protests did not focus on women’s rights, they served as a symbolic call to arms, according to commentaries such as that by Michèle Perrein, in the 21 October 1968 issue of Elle. In an article on her personal experience of sexual inequality, Perrein wrote that: “the student revolt […] did me well, so much that I felt, deep down, it corresponded to my own.” Likewise, Knapp’s images represented the calm period that loomed before more vocalised feminist struggles in 1970, the year that saw the establishment of the Mouvement de Liberation des Femmes, as well as Elle’s Etat Généraux de la Femme debates.

Political concern was also held in tension within the text that accompanied Knapp’s images. It conceived of ready-made fashion in terms of action and choice. The author ranked the season’s clothing trends as secondary to the reader herself, who would deploy the clothing to feel comfortable and liberated in it: “But the essential, in all that, will be you. Your way of choosing clothing for its comfort and freedom […].” The text thus highlighted both continuity and rupture. Magazines had promoted ready-made clothing’s freeing attributes—achievable through the wearer’s skill and personality—since they began to feature ready-to-wear in the mid-1950s. However, given magazines’ constant representation of novelty, these attributes were repositioned in view of the May protests to signify the reader’s recognition of her control and capability.

The clothing produced in the mid to late-1960s also worked alongside Elle’s new discussion of wearer experience. From the mid 1960s, magazines characterised jersey and other knitted garments as second skins. And consumer testimonies were consistent, such as that of Monique Naudeix, who recounted how her prized knitted jackets by Sonia Rykiel from the late 1960s “hugged the body.” Peter Knapp’s photographs in the 8 September 1969 issue of Elle highlighted the ways in which fabric clung to and draped against models’ moving bodies. Several small images flanked central ones to depict subsequent steps in the act of walking. In one image, a model wore a knitted ensemble by Sonia Rykiel, a garment that allowed for her swiftness, evidenced by its blurred edges that also blurred the boundaries between body and fabric. These photographs showcased clothing for easy, confident feminine movement. Also central to the image, although secondary in importance to the monumental, active model, was the Paris street, which imbued it with urban capital. And after the events of May 1968, simple streets and pavements assumed an iconic status. As opposed to post-war imagery, in which models hesitatingly tested Paris’ new spaces, busy with street traffic, that symbolised modernity, in 1969 and 1970, magazines showcased women walking assertively on Paris’ pavements. In her June 1968 article, Denise Dubois-Jallais unknowingly set the stage for these visualisations in her description of the aftermath of the May barricades: “the people, curious, arrived with the sun. No cars. The streets [were] like pavements. No cars except for burned carcasses (what a symbol!).”

 

Sources

Denise Dubois-Jallais, “Sous le balcon d’Albertine, cinq mois, une révolution éclate,” Elle, nos. 1171, 1172, 1173, 17 June 1968.

Michèle Perrein, “Le droit de renaitre,” Elle, no. 1192, 21 October 1968, 35.

Elle, no. 1185, 2 September 1968.

Author, Interview with Monique Naudeix, Paris, 1 December 2014.

 

We will be posting a sneak peak of our Women Make Fashion/ Fashion Makes Women conference on the blog later today, for those who missed it. Watch this space for this special unscheduled post!