The 10 best independent fashion magazines in the world right now
This post was published in October 2021. To stay up to date with the latest independent magazine news and reviews, sign up for our monthly email newsletter
Fat, shiny, and addictively readable, fashion magazines are renowned as the most seductive (and sometimes problematic) stars of the newsstand. Our 2016 roundup of the best independent fashion magazines is still one of our most popular posts ever. Here’s an update: these are our 10 favourite fashion magazines in the world right now…
It is partly in honour of The Gentlewoman’s new issue, which stars Little Simz, that we decided to update this feature, and reassess which really are the best independent fashion magazines in the world right now. Often imitated but never bettered, the magazine’s fashion stories are unique: a quirk of The Gentlewoman’s is to take something tiny — for example, the act of tucking in your shirt — and theme an entire shoot around it. The magazine also has a knack for choosing fabulous cover stars — including Beyonce, Zadie Smith and Caster Semenya — and interviewing them in a way that is intimate, but never invasive.
Founded by stylist Mary-Lou Berkulin at a point when she was falling out of love with fashion, Monument provides a counterpoint to the industry’s obsession with the new, in that it deals with ‘old clothes’. The magazine is conceived as a “paper monument” to the work of the ‘Dutch Wave’, a group of Dutch designers active around the turn of the millennium, who Berkulin admires because of their refreshing disregard for glamour: “[They] showed me that there are various ways of approaching fashion; that a beautiful hat can be made from tape and cardboard, that you can do your own photoshoot in a metre box.”
In this issue, Monument’s second, Berkulin explores the archives of Keuper/van Bentm, a visionary duo active between 1997 and 2001 whose many transgressive acts include creating an entirely fictitious collection (they sent out a booklet to buyers and journalists, describing in nerve-racking, minute-by-minute detail a fashion show that never actually happens).
A satirical magazine, Buffalo has spent many years taking the piss out of what is probably the most humourless industry on earth: fashion. The truly bizarre thing is that other fashion magazines let Buffalo mock them (issue 9 pastiched Dazed, 032c, and iD covers) and every top designer queues up to be featured by them. Perhaps this is the ultimate mark of the fashion world’s desperation to keep up with the zeitgeist: brands want to be involved in the ‘cool’ magazine, even if it comes at the price of being the butt of the joke.
The first issue of Viscose was designed to look like a brown snakeskin handbag and issue two looks like a washing label, emblazoned with a handy breakdown of materials: “71% Criticism 19% Research 10% images”. Inside, there are lovely in-depth reviews of events only people really into clothes would care about (Miuccia Prada’s last solo womenswear presentation, for example). But there are shorter, juicier features too, like a series of photographs of Lady Di’s pregnancy dresses. Viscose only launched this year but by undergoing a complete redesign every issue, it is fast establishing itself as one of the most intriguing fashion titles on the newsstand.
Boy Brother Friend’s focus is men’s fashion and issue two, which is themed ‘Power’, begins with editor KK Obi’s reflections on growing up in Nigeria under the influence of his impeccably dressed father, a lover of “broken suits, safari jackets, and ostrich leather shoes”. The pages that follow seek to “examine the diaspora and male identities through contemporary art, fashion, and theory.” The breadth of the magazine’s scope makes it rich and surprising: political pieces on subjects like the #EndSars movement in Lagos sit next to surreal and beautiful fashion stories.
Novella is a magazine that places fashion in unusual contexts. In this first issue, which is small and deliciously pink, contributors reflect on the material world as it relates to romance. One great spread in the debut issue features racy eighties book covers, where the women are all pictured lying down, and the men are all gripping massive, unsheathed swords. Interspersed throughout are pages from ‘Pearl Moon’, a romance novel by Katherine Stone. The pages are loose, and certain words have been cut out by hand, and printed on the page behind. The story becomes a kind of jigsaw puzzle: you have to move the page around to fit the gap to the correct word.
There are photos of clothes in The Skirt Chronicles, and these clothes are delicious, but the content is literary, and refreshingly quiet. The latest issue has Charlotte Rampling on the front; a first for a magazine that has never featured a face, let alone a celebrity face, on its cover (skirts are usually the stars). But Rampling, editors Sarah de Mavaleix, Sofia Nebiolo and Haydée Touitou explain, encapsulate the qualities they most admire in a woman: “elegance, grace, and a strong will”.
Vestoj looks at fashion from an academic perspective; one of the contributors to the masculinities issue, for example, was Mark Twain. The essays in here have a special gift for taking something ostensibly light — the perfection of Joan Crawford’s mouth, say — and using it to make a deeper argument; in the case of the Crawford piece, that’s about beauty as currency (“If you want to see the girl next door, [Crawford] quipped over and over, go next door”). Themed ‘On Capital’, the latest issue pulls off a delightful feat: it’s challenging but it also makes you laugh. One of my favourite spreads is a David Shrigley line drawing of a hand wearing an engagement ring, captioned: “LOOK AT MY HUGE FUCKING DIAMOND RING”.
The first physical publication from online fashion magazine Indie, this thick, pink, hard-backed magazine contains so many stunning spreads it is difficult to decide on a favourite. One contender is a bum pic by Pierpaolo Ferrari and Maurizio Cattelan, the photographer-artist duo behind Toiletpaper. You see a bottom, with two smiling faces on it. One cheek is winking at you. Indie follows in the grand tradition of fashion magazines: the pictures are better than the written content. But when the pictures are this good, frankly who cares? Another fabulous feature, by the Paris-based Thai artist behind PZ Today, stages phobias as a kind of “exposure therapy”. The healing methodology seems to be: take a phobia and make it sexy. Ailurophobia (fear of cats), for example, is illustrated by a woman wearing only a 10 denier bodystocking and a tail.
Untitled Folder is a magazine based in Shanghai, China, made by the fashion stylist Edge Yang, and the artist known as Boihugo. The focus is on ‘oriental’ (their intention is to reclaim that word) queers around the world, and while fashion is just part of the magazine’s focus, the clothes in here are exquisite. The latest issue invited a queer former soldier, a ‘Sainsbury’s bouncer’, a tortured art tutor, an adventurous housewife and a Tinder-addict to dress up in “post-quarantine rave” looks. The cover of this issue is also designed to look like a nipple.