The power of skirts
The latest issue of The Skirt Chronicles opens with a story about someone caught in a love affair with two sisters. Short and strangely painful, it’s totally unlike anything you expect to find in a fashion magazine. What follows is a murder scene from The Godfather — “Leave the gun, take the cannoli” — disguised as a piece about Sicilian sweets. There are pictures of clothes (and skirts) on these pages, and they are delicious, but difficult to differentiate from the rest of the content, which is literary, and refreshingly quiet. An interview about Chanel beauty, for example, is accompanied by still lives of dried flowers, and netting. Not a Chanel logo in sight.
The intention, as the editors explain, was to create an “intellectual magazine that is interested in fashion and photography as well”. Testament to The Skirt Chronicles’ loveliness is the fact that this doesn’t come off as stuffy. Pieces are thoughtful but not austere: one memoir of a teenage family holiday to Skiathos, for example, is largely about the joy of jerking off in the sea. Islands are actually the theme for this issue — Skirt Chronicles’ fourth — and pieces about Nantucket, Jamaica and Anafi are tinged with the dreamy loneliness of holiday-time.
Sarah de Mavaleix, Sofia Nebiolo and Haydée Touitou — Skirt Chronicles’ founders — talked us through the new issue.
The issue opens with three micro stories about sweets. They are almost like fairy stories, or fables. Then there’s an extract from a novel soon to be published by Semiotext(e). Both are different from what you might usually find in a fashion magazine. Was it your intention as editors to create a literary fashion magazine?
We aim at constructing a publication with a strong focus on garments, but which also has an attachment to literature. We believe there is a place for an intellectual magazine that is interested in fashion and photography as well. Hopefully, The Skirt Chronicles is as intellectual as it is beautiful, as informative as it is challenging.
We love the the series of photographs of vacuum-packed clothes. It makes us think of holidays, which seem to be a silent theme of this issue. What is the allure of the vacuum pack?
That photo-story, Variation II, was indeed linked to holidays. Just as the cover represents an ideal suitcase, the vacuum bags are about the transition from winter to summer (or the other way around). We worked with Tim Elkaïm — who often works with Hermès — to bring new meaning to the scarves and clothes. Sarah [de Mavaleix] worked with our set designer Céline Corbineau to put all the scarves in the vacuum bag. It was interesting taking the air out of the bag and discovering the strange forms they would take.
You feature an interview with Eleanor Coppola. In the introduction, it’s interesting that it isn’t immediately mentioned that she is Francis Ford Coppola’s wife. Was that a deliberate editorial decision?
We actually didn’t need to discuss it with Christopher Niquet who did the interview. He chose not to remind the readers that Eleanor Coppola is Francis Ford’s wife, and that seemed very natural to us. His desire with this interview was to show that she is not someone’s wife or mother or aunt before being herself. That being said, we also open the piece with a picture taken on the set of Apocalypse Now, during which Eleanor Coppola directed a behind-the-scenes documentary film. So it’s not exactly information we hide either. What is strong about this interview is that it is about discovery of an artist’s body of work.
We are the skirts!
One essay, Playmaking by Daniel Judah Sklar, is about teaching kids to write in the Bronx. It feels unrelated to clothes, until the children are asked to imagine what their characters are wearing. That seems to sum something up about the significance of clothes to people: that eery ability of clothes to evoke their wearer. How would you define the importance of clothes to the magazine?
We appreciate dressing as a form of self-expression and as explored in Sklar’s piece, we find clothes to be very personal and character building. Clothes and textiles bring together so many different cultures, traditions and generations, which are all common threads of the publication as well.
You’ve themed this issue around Islands. We imagine that’s got something to do with Brexit?
To be completely honest, we didn’t think of islands in correlation with Brexit, even though it’s an issue that affects us deeply. And surprisingly, when contributor Alexandre Khondji looked at the issue, he pointed out that the poem we decided to feature — No Man is an Island, written in 1624 by John Donne — had also been used by Wolfgang Tillmans in his awareness campaign before the referendum. So maybe on some unconscious level it has something to do with Brexit, who knows!
And finally, why skirts? What is so particularly great about skirts?
We are the skirts!