Did you have to hit rock bottom to not be afraid? Do you have feelings of how volatile the fashion industry is right now? Conversations in Romance Journal, the aesthetically muted, large format magazine from New York, are filled with empathy and candour. It doesn’t necessarily carry a feminist agenda, though each issue speaks to 10 inspiring women with impressive achievements; it doesn’t assume the role of a mental health magazine, though their interviewees speak with brazen honesty to reveal their sensitive, complex inner selves — struggles with anxiety and insecurities despite their successes.
Lying open, the magazine’s gracefulness emanates through rousing shots of exotic plants, and across the nude and peach-toned A3 pages, intimate portraits, along with elegant typography are given plenty of space for slow, contemplative reading. Their first issue is themed around emotions, and speaks to, amongst others, Christene Barberich of Refinery29, designers Rachel Comey, Normal Kamali and Aurora James. Founder Roanne Adams tells us about her revitalising journey of starting the magazine.
What is Romance Journal?
Romance Journal is a state of feeling. It is a publication devoted to exploring truth and raising our collective consciousness. In the midst of personal trials and global challenges, each issue, based on a theme, will explore human experiences through the eyes of 10 powerful, thoughtful, and creative women (we may expand to men in future issues) awakening to their life’s purpose.
I love the way the magazine asks honest questions about people’s failures, or faults in the industries they work in. Why was that important to you?
I was really curious to hear if the successful, creative women that I looked up to had ever struggled in their lives/careers with what to do next. I wanted to know if any of them had felt like they were failing at something they had previously been succeeding at. I also wanted to know if they went through a hard and confusing time, and how they got themselves out of it. Did they give up? Or keep going? And if they kept going, what was it that gave them the energy and motivation to get back up? I find that a lot of people are secretly suffering in some way. They have a wonderful looking life on Instagram, but often feel a lot of stress and anxiety in reality.
Was it difficult to get people to open up about these questions?
Most of the women were totally open and willing to share. I think they’re all in good places in their lives, so none of them were very concerned about feeling vulnerable or opening up and talking about a challenging time. They all spoke about the past though. I think it’s easier to speak about how we felt in the past than how we feel right now in the moment…that takes courage. I think they also realised that Romance Journal is a safe place to be honest and that by sharing they are giving advice and may ultimately help to heal others.
I’d like to use one of the questions frequently asked in the magazine back on you — what emotions did you go through while making the first issue?
Great question! I’m an extremely feelings oriented person. I also consider myself very intuitive and empathetic. The reason I chose the theme of ‘Emotions’ for the first issue, was because at the time the idea for Romance Journal came to me I was feeling completely burnt out, disconnected from myself, and didn’t have the clarity to understand why I felt so bad. I realise now that I was living in a place of stress and ambiguity. The stress and pressure of running my business and supporting my family had gotten to me, causing negative thought patterns which then turned into negative emotions.
I felt this disconnect so acutely, because up until this point I generally lived a joyful and supported life and not much had changed. I realised it had to be me, that for a multitude of reasons I had allowed myself to fall into a fear-based mind set. I needed do a few things to get back to feeling like myself…one of which involved tapping into my personal creative side. Romance Journal became the creative outlet that would allow me to connect to other women who might have experienced a similar situation yet never spoke up about it. I was seeking answers, connecting to others, and a developing a way to focus my energy into something with purpose. Learning to identify and honour my emotions was the best way for me control them. To be in touch with our emotions and to be conscious of our thoughts can fundamentally change us.
Aurora James’ description of our emotions on a relative scale of 1-10 is spot on: “If you’re in your house, reading this magazine, you’re probably well qualified to be an eight. You just haven’t realised it because you’re fixated at your five thinking it’s a one.” Gratitude appears in a lot of your interviews. Why do you think that is?
Yes, gratitude is a real thing! For me and for a lot of the women I interviewed, who are in touch with their emotions and aware of their privilege, they feel such gratitude for life and for those that have helped them along the way. If you are present to this, there is nothing to fear…thus nothing to complain about or ruminate over.
The design of the magazine is beautiful. How did you decide on the minimal layout and oversized format?
The design is very much a reflection of RoAndCo and the type of work we do. I love oversized magazines. I wanted it to feel special, like something you can put on your coffee table…but not too big that you couldn’t take it in the bath with you. My hope is that our readers turn their phones off, kick their feet up and immerse themselves in the journal.
What’s next for Romance Journal?
Issue two will launch in the fall, the theme is around Resistance. Resistance as a state of feeling. A personal state of feeling and a collective state of feeling. Resistance shows up in many forms, both personally and as part of the collective consciousness. When you feel resistance, it often manifests in your body as tension, pain, nervous energy. Resistance comes from a fear. But feeling it, acknowledging it empowers us to make a change. Put simply — the acknowledgement of resistance allows us to break down fears and move forward. To evolve personally and as a nation, planet and as a whole.
On a more literal level, the issue will explore the ongoing resistance movement and how through art, design, activism, inclusivity, empathy and community, we the people, can shift the pendulum back towards justice and progress. The issue will feature 10 powerful, honest, and passionate women. Women who stand for peace and equality and have the courage to speak honestly about their beliefs.
We’re looking to offer Romance Journal on Sampler when it comes out — Subscribe to the free newsletter so you don’t miss out