Saturday, 28 May 2011

In the Editor's Chair - Cynthia Lawrence-John

I do love conceptual magazines although they can be a little out there, they are very beautiful and inspirational. Enter Volt magazine which is a biannual publication that is a creative hybrid that shows off the work by from some of the directional fashion talent from all over the world. Volt covers British fashion, beauty and talent the work of photographers, stylists and artists. It was launched in 2007 in the midst of a very glamorous party in London and this was followed by a launch in Berlin a year later. Volt's online editor is Cynthia Lawrence-John who is a top stylist who was has worked with Sugababes, the Ting Tings, Kanye West, VV Brown, Lady Gaga and Rihanna. She took five minutes out of her busy schedule to tell me all about the publication.

How did you get into magazines?
I have worked in the magazine world since I was about 24, when I graduated with a photography degree from LCP (London College of Printing). My first job in a magazine publishing company was at Natmags/ Hearst publishing, as a Picture Editor which taught me a tremendous amount, much of which I still use today. I was also the Fashion Director of Sleaze magazine. Volt magazine was the original idea of Rui Faria, who is the editor-in-chief and also a beauty photographer. My initial job was fashion director but now I also work on the marketing side.

Describe the concept of Volt magazine and the idea behind the name.
Volt magazine is a biannual and is published as a Spring/Summer edition and an Autumn/Winter edition. The concept is for each image to stand up in its own right, as a beautiful image. It is unbound and over sized so that the magazine does not have the same format and constraints as traditional print magazines. Volt magazine aims to 'slow down' the viewing process...the large unbound format forces the viewer to actually 'LOOK' at the pages and content, as opposed to 'skim' the content. In each issue we like to commission well-established photographers and image-makers, as well as upcoming talent. We also like to feature well established brands alongside new design talent.

The design is very slick and very modern, how did you decide on the art design of the publication?
The art direction of Volt magazine has been a very organic process. Volt is not about following trends in design or a grid. Each story is designed with the concept of the story in mind, however the design does not take over from the story. In terms of the style of photography, it varies from issue to issue. I love photography, which has a cinematic feel and also documentary/reportage. Rui loves full on glamour fashion. I guess Volt is really a combination of the two. I love models that are ‘real’, with an inspiring personality. I love fashion and clothes, but it is important to me, particularly in my work that the models own ‘person’ comes across even if they are playing a character in a story.
Who is behind Volt magazine?
Volt is a surprisingly small team; Rui Faria came up with the original concept, he is a beauty photographer as well as running a photography agency called Areia. I am the fashion director, as well as working on the marketing and special projects alongside Rui. Jason Leung is the menswear fashion editor, Linda Ohstrom is our incredibly talented and wonderful beauty editor, Katie Baron is our features editor and on the design side is Angelo Pandelidis. Voltcafe, the online sister title to Volt magazine is very important, Anna Bang is the features editors on Voltcafe. We also have a team of amazing interns and students who are absolutely vital to the magazine.

Describe a day in the life of Cynthia Lawrence-John.
A day in my life is very varied! Which is why I love what I do. Aside from working as fashion director on Volt and Voltcafe, I am also a freelance stylist. One day I may be prepping for a fashion editorial, the next day researching photographers and new talent for upcoming issues of Volt or Voltcafe. The next day I may be doing a fitting for a music video or film, the next consulting for a brand, my days are never the same and I do not get bored, which is very important to me. I do not like to feel in a rut whether it be a creative rut or a career rut. I like to feel I am always learning something new.

Which blogs do you check out regularly?
To be honest, I must confess I don’t really check blogs on a regular basis. Maybe I should as there are some great ones. I do look at Lulu Kennedy’s blog and Sharmadean Reid as I find them both very inspiring and I like their take on life. I love The Sartorialist but when I do have time to read, I am more likely to pick up a book than to check blogs maybe I am just old fashioned?

What magazines do you read?
I love I-D, Fantastic Man, Twin, Another and Another Man, Teen Vogue, L’official and BUTT, although I do read others but I don’t want to go on.

What tips do you have for anyone who wants to become a magazine editor?
For anybody who wants to become an editor on a magazine I guess the main thing is to have a voracious appetite for all facets of the magazine world. I never studied fashion, my background is more in the theoretical side of image making and fashion, as opposed to the practical side of things. But I      enjoy both equally. I always want to keep learning and it is important to me to continue evolving. I learn as much from the young interns who come into magazine as they do from me. In any field always be open and ready to learn and take on board new ideas.

Issue 9 of Volt magazine is out now.

Check out the Volt website here.

You can follow Cynthia on Twitter.

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