Last month I got to interview Leith Clark, founder and editor-in-chief of Lula, for Nowness, and it warmed my heart, a lot. It's long but I couldn't bring myself to cut most of it, so read it on the toilet or something. More is on Nowness, along with more photos!
Tavi: For my blog, I've never really cared if people liked the same things or whatever, and now I guess I have to think about that more [because of Rookie]. I was curious about that for you -- Lula is so personal, but have you had to kind of shape your tastes or mood as you've learned more about the people who read it?
Leith: Not in the slightest, and I don't think you should, either. The first one that we ever did was kind of by accident. It wasn't like, "I'm going to start a magazine." It was just by accident, and then I kind of took it like there was only going to be one, ever. I'm going to make one that is my dream magazine, and when I'm eighty I'll show it to my grandkids and say, look, I made this. I completely for some reason didn't remember that anyone else would see it at all. I thought I was just making it for me, and then when it came out, I felt so upset, and I remember I went to a pub where my Features Editor -- she was working at a magazine full-time then -- I went to a pub near her office and sent her a text message and said, "I have it. I'm sitting in a pub. Can you come when you can?" She came, and I was in the corner in the dark with a large glass of wine at 11am, and was feeling really awful and sad about it, that it was so private, and all of a sudden it was real and it was in the world, and I felt really strange, vulnerable. And she said, "It's beautiful. It's so beautiful." And I went, "It is? Is it? I have no idea, is it?" And I'm staring. "Is it? I have no idea." And then she loved it, and I thought, OK, fine. And my boyfriend loved it, and my friends loved it. And so I was like, great that's great. And then a company wanted to distribute it, and they wanted us to print more, and then it was in every country. And it was never meant to be that, it was just meant to be something that I liked. So I've never changed how I worked. I've always done it the same. And we're at about 121,000 copies now, and it still has a really high sell-through, and it's never tried to be anything other than what it is.
I think if you're a creative person, you think you're an exception, that you're special, that your tastes are really unique, that if you made something for you that nobody else would want it, but it's completely not true. Even if there was another Lula that someone else made that was completely different, I would love to just dip into a universe, even if it wasn't mine. It's a fun thing to do. Getting someone's point of view, it makes print relevant, as opposed to the web, I think, for sure. And you use your blog in the same way, for sure, but I don't think you should ever worry. Designers, if they made clothes worrying about their audience, it's a different kind of collection than someone like Rodarte, who’s making clothes for their own universe. As soon as you start guessing what someone else wants rather than what you want, it’s false. I think you should always make things for you. Imagine the world if everybody did! It’d be such an exciting place.
T: Yeah, and then a lot of the time people just don’t relate to it anymore. I love looking back on the first issue I bought of Lula, and remembering where it was in my life then...
L: Which one was the first that you saw?
T: The witchy one with Ali Michael. I go back and forth between that one, the Edie Beale one, and the Rodarte one as my favorite – and the Kirsten Dunst one – (laughter). Seriously! Because I’m like, this one has a Bud Cort interview, but this one has – yeah.
L: His interview was a cool thing.
T: That was really sweet. I remember I found an issue at the local bookstore, and they had all these copies, and I was like, No one here [in the suburbs] reads this, do they? So I left a note in one of them.
L: You wrote a note and left it in the store?
T: In the Lula, in another copy that was there, because I didn’t think other people in my town read it. It felt like this secret, ‘cause the first issue I got, my friend who I knew from blogging sent to me. We had similar interests and everything, but I didn't think people like that lived around here.
L: What did you write in the note?
T: It was simple, like, “I didn’t know people here read Lula. If you buy this copy, write to me.” I mean, we just emailed and we never actually –
L: You mean, someone bought it and then wrote to you?
T: Yeah, she emailed me.
T: But we never got together, and I think she goes to my school. Like, I think it’s the same person, but I don’t want to be creepy.
L: That’s funny.
T: Yeah, that was nice. Lula has a very faithful following and community like that, especially the fanbase online, but you guys aren’t actually, like, tweeting all the time.
L: All we do is the scrapbook updates.
T: Yeah, I love that. Could you explain the philosophy behind that?
L: A blog is for magazines this thing where you’re reporting whatever you see as fast as you can because you want to be first, but it’s the same picture as the other ones, or some people use it as a Tumblr where they collect photographs, or some people use it as a…I don’t think anyone knew what they were asking, or I don’t think they knew what it meant, or what they were supposed to be using it for, or when it was necessary. The only part that I hated about it was how fast it was, and press days -- everyone snapping the same picture. Over and over again. And I wanted to do the opposite. So our website has slowed down, so when you go on it, you have to be patient. It doesn’t load quick. It’s fade in slow, and out, and really drowsy. And the scrapbook is supposed to be all the moments in between the things we think we’re supposed to be looking at. So, originally when I gave instructions to the girls who started doing it first, it was like, take a picture of your legs on a plane or out the window or in your car or when you stop somewhere weird on the way to somewhere you’re supposed to be going, or if you doodle on a napkin. All those kinds of little moments that are the ones we should pay more attention to. And then it’s kind of evolved into whatever it is now. Sometimes if I know someone’s going somewhere fun, I’ll say, can you take pictures for it, but otherwise it pretty much just is the 50 girls who have contributed, and they just randomly will send stuff.
T: It's a very different kind of homemade from magazines or websites that are always talking about what it's like at the office. I think it’s amazing that you can have that community and personal feel to it without having to be, like, "us at our computers."
L: I don’t want to see the guts. I don’t want to see the guts. I just want to see the dream. I didn’t work in fashion in the first place to see the tape on the back of the dress or the pins. You want the dream, and you want to be able to be a part of creating that dream. Behind-the-scenes stuff made it like a reality TV show, and I’m not interested. There needs to be some magic, and you need to be able to create things the way you want to, not because you’ve learned how you’re supposed to do it.
It’s really unfortunate. When we started Lula we did everything backwards and upside-down and wrong, and it worked out, and more and more everything is like a how-to, and anyone can do anything ‘cause it’s just how-to everywhere. And it’s a shame, because you should make your own rules, and anything that’s worked before doesn’t mean it will work again. The Internet’s been amazing for information and for sharing and for opportunity, but it’s made a lot of people lazy. Why did you start a blog?
T: It was kind of before it was this thing where bloggers were sitting front row or newspapers were writing about it. Susie Bubble was my hero...kind of the only people who read fashion blogs were other people with fashion blogs...there was a community on Flickr called Wardrobe Remix, where a bunch of people just posted outfit pictures, and it was nice to see that you could actually put something together from thrift store finds, and I guess I just wanted to be more a part of that community. I was in middle school, I hated school, I was not a very social person. I mean I would go home and, like, make something or read or I watched a lot of movies, but I think I just wanted a new outlet.
L: So yours was almost to externalize.
T: Yeah. And then it became more . . . I think I’ve had moments where I’ve tried doing the more, like, blogger-at-fashion-week-reporting thing, but it doesn’t work for me. I like relating a collection to something personal.
L: I think you could do it on this trip, because you’re being really decisive about what shows you’re going to.
L: So it doesn’t even have to really be about the show. It could be about the days you didn’t go, and stuff.
T: Right. The moments in between.
L: Right. But as soon as you’re going to everything, then it does become forced.
T: Yeah. And I think it’s harder to appreciate. For a while I couldn’t figure out why I felt so compelled to record so many things and be so nostalgic and have it all in one place.
L: You’re nostalgic for things you didn’t experience, which is really interesting. I got Sassy. I was the right age when it came out. And I read it, but it’s interesting to me that you want to read it now about people who aren’t, you know --
T: Yeah. It’s still in a way like the same music I like. But I can’t really figure that out either. It’s weird. If you go on Tumblr, it feels like half of the Internet is teenagers wishing they were alive in the ‘60’s or something. And one thing that I’m writing for Rookie is about why the 21st century isn’t that bad, and it’s like, "We have Miranda July, you guys!"
L: Yeah! We have Miranda July. Have you seen The Future? I still haven’t seen it.
T: I saw it last night with my sister and dad.
L: I like the cat voice.
T: Paw Paw. It’s cute.
L: I’m so excited. I’m so excited.
T: You’ll like it, I think. It’s nice to think there’s something that can kind of define your generation. I get so weirdly proud of, like, Elle Fanning and Hailee Steinfeld and Chloe Moretz, just because they’re people of my generation and they’re doing good things and they’re talented. I like to think the Internet isn't too bad either. Dressing and recording outfits…obviously it’s narcissistic in a way. I’ve said that. But for me it’s just a really good reflection of what I’m into at the time. I’ve always been obsessed with recording things. So that’s probably the foundation of my blog.
L: I think it’s funny that your blog’s called a blog. It’s so personal. It feels more like a scrapbook. Where if you go on a magazine’s blog or something, it’s so disconnected.
T: It’s kind of static, blogging like that. And thank you.
L: It’s very brave to put yourself inside it, because then people understand what it is, and, you know, that’s probably why everybody reacted so much to your Rei Kawakubo rap. Otherwise it’s people with these gigantic opinions hiding behind something, and that was what was so ridiculous to me, is we’re all trusting these opinions of people who can’t even admit who they are, which just seems ridiculous. When I first went to shows, I stood at the back, you worked for it, and all of a sudden fashion people were reading responses to shows from people who wouldn’t say who they were and who’d never sat at the back. So from a really outsider perspective it was really weird. And then you were really like, ‘Hi, here I am in my room. I’m not hiding, and this is what I think.’ And it was a very different experience, I think, and you clearly didn’t give a fuck who was reading it, which was great.
T: It’s hard for me to have that perspective on it because in some ways I feel like the same person who I was when I first started going to Fashion Week, but in some ways I don't. I was…smaller, I had weirder style.
L: You’re still the same person. I’m still the same person I was when I was, eight. I’m sure you’re the same person.
T: There are some things that just always stay the same.
L: Yeah. You’re in a creative industry, so it’s important to remember to not overthink it. To just remember to be primal, and not worry so much – you can’t – about how people are perceiving you. People will hate you and find you obnoxious, and they don’t need to pay attention. And if they find the need to say whatever about you, then it’s sad they can’t find something else to do.
T: That’s the Internet’s biggest problem, I think.
L: Right. I don’t understand why people spend so much time focusing on things they don’t like.
T: I think that when you’re very bored and you want to find something to complain about, the Internet feeds that human need. I think that people have always been this way, but the Internet just really feeds that quality of negativity and envy and finding things to be angry about. Everyone wants to be heard, and the easiest way to accomplish that is to say something shocking or contrary…So much to say about the Internet. (Both laugh.)
L: You wrote something once that I read . . . after a show you were upset. You'd sat next to Anna Wintour, and the people made you sad. I thought, I don’t know, the last time I saw you at Rachel [Antonoff's] thing, you loved – I’m hijacking the interview, asking you questions – you said you loved her presentation where it was emulating a high school dance, right? And I got annoyed with you, and I was like, “Go to a real high school dance! Match up with your friend, hide under the bleachers, go like My So-Called Life, blah blah blah." I though it was so great that you wrote that entry - about everyone taking for granted the joy of it. But as someone who doesn’t have to have any ties to it, you don’t have to have to go things, you get to go to the four shows that you want to and whatever. But it’s also like the instant gratification thing is a shame. Part of me feels sad for you that you didn’t have to stand in the back for a long time wanting to get to the front, because I think you obviously have a such a natural love for it, which is so wonderful, but if it’s pushed on you too fast, you’re not going to even realize what you’re in, and I think that’s the biggest difference between your generation and mine. In mine, if you loved a band, you had to, like, get on a train for two hours, and go to some weird record store in some weird town, and you’d be afraid of the street you were on or whatever, and you’d find it, and there’d maybe be one copy in vinyl or whatever. And now it’s so fast, which is also wonderful in another way, but I don’t know, I felt like I wanted you to rewind and run home and sit under the bleachers at your real school dance so much. I didn’t want you to have to sit next to the people who have the serious faces.
T: Right. That makes sense. I think a lot of people expressed a kind of "what a shame" about that post.
L: I think you were really brave. I think it was really brave to write that.
T: Some people thought it was jaded, but I’m at least glad that I can recognize that that is a sad thing, and I’m not like, "You kidding me? This is awesome! Look at how cool and glamorous this is!" You know? My friend and I from school are really into Riot Grrrl...
L: Aww – I used to write that on my hands in high school.
T: Really? We were saying that it’s great that there’s this kinda feminist community now online, but if you think about living in the suburbs where there was nothing you liked, how much more special it would have been to find a Riot Grrrl zine that blew your mind that way in a record store. My other friend will not watch a movie for the first time on Netflix Instant or whatever. She has to find it and everything.
L: That’s nice. Have you gone to a school dance yet?
L: Promise you will. Promise, promise.
T: I know, I will, I think I’m going to Homecoming this year. [For the record, I did go to the homecoming dance a couple weeks ago. It was anticlimactic but worth it.]
L: Good. You’ve your whole life to go to fashion shows. You don’t have your whole life to go to school dances.
T: Yeah. That’s true.
L: I modeled when I was a teenager in cheesy catalogs. And the best part of it was that all of a sudden, high school was easy. People were mean and it felt like it was the most important thing in the world, and then all of a sudden I’d be in some other city with people who worked for a living and had jobs where they put makeup on people’s faces. And it was such an exciting thing, and all of a sudden, the little high school world that felt all-consuming and important really didn’t matter. I’m sure bullying and all of that could have easily crushed my spirit. And I’m sure being a strange soul, too, you probably don’t have the easiest time with people at times, and I didn’t, and it’s really great when you get to have a place to go and realize it doesn’t matter. But you also can’t escape it, you also have to acknowledge where you are and make the best of it and learn everything you can from it. I never wanted to go to university, but my mom said you have to go just to not look back and not have gone. You know, and I think there are certain things in life you should just, even if it feels bad, try out so that you don’t look back one day and stand in a room with grumpy adults and a fake high school dance, and realize you never went to a real one. Although I don’t think anybody was really grumpy at that presentation! That was really fun.
T: No, that was a fun one. You're making me emotional! Oh man, now I forgot what I was going to say.
L: I’ll stop hijacking, I promise!
T: No, no. I think this is good. It’s conversational. And I prefer reading interviews that are conversational than it just sounds like a robot generating questions or something. I mean, sometimes people think I’m home-schooled, or they ask if I’m going to go to college, but, like, I’m definitely going to go to college. I go to a school that is kind of like an all-American high school, and I really value that.
L: Teachers spend a lot of time trying to encourage you to want to write. So, whether they’re interested in what you’re writing or not, you’re writing. So it is good.
T: I think also now with the Internet, and all these young photographers on Flickr and everything, the online creative community is very valuable.
L: Do you love Lina Scheynius?
L: So do I!
T: Oh, I love her so much.
L: Me, too.
T: People are acting like it’s this new thing for young people like her to be so talented, but I’m sure there were always talented teenagers, now there’s just a place where you can actually discover that.
L: Absolutely. Well, maybe Sassy was the only one who got that.
T: I read that when you were starting Lula, you felt that there was this kind of "middle man" type of sexualization when you read some other magazines.
L: Yeah. I call it an invisible man in the room, where you’re making a fashion magazine that's supposed to either make women buy clothes or tell them about beauty or give them a means of expressing themselves, but it becomes about sexualization, and it becomes about nudity rather than the actual clothes, and it becomes quite hard, and it’s quite intimidating. It’s definitely not what I find beautiful, and it makes me think of high school and the girls who started to wear things that were too tight and trying really hard to be overly sexual and get attention from men when the men that I know don’t want women to look like that. So I’m not sure where it came from or why it’s there, but for me the reason I wanted to work in fashion had nothing to do with that. It had to do with when I was little how important clothes became, and not in the kind of, "oh, I want to be so pretty" kind of way, but in the way it could make you feel.
I always say the same story. I did ballet, and it was quite strict, and they were really mean, and I loved it, I loved that discipline, but I had a hard time when they would be like, "Perform now!" – when people were watching. But if they gave you a costume or something, it became very easy to [perform], and you kind of believed it, and I loved it. They gave me a bluebird costume, and I really believed that the wings were working, and you really realize how important a dress can be and how much it can bring to something, and something so small can make you so happy. And that was not what I was reading in fashion magazines. It wasn’t anything about feeling beautiful or anything. It was something different that I didn’t get. It kind of felt like it was a magazine for men, to look at pictures of women. I didn’t think it was what women wanted to look at. I didn’t quite get it. In Lula I just tried to be really primal and stupid, really. Not overthink it. You know, we wrote that "girl of my dreams" tagline thing or whatever you want to call it because it seemed so much more interesting to celebrate women who inspired us rather than whatever else was going on that I don’t quite get. I actually said the middle man thing for the first time last year. I always used to say that I thought magazines were masculine, for women. But I never really explored that thought. It was just a talk.
T: No, it makes sense. If you look at a lot of "women’s magazines" the women are so sexualized in a typical male fantasy way, even though they’re trying to sell to women and not men. It’s like they believe that women want to buy what will make men like them. And, I mean, it’s pretty insulting. That’s one reason why I do think that blogs can be a positive thing. I think it’s good that now there’s less of one single dictatorly voice on what’s beautiful. You can find another site something fits your idea and your philosophy on that, and there are like-minded people. I think I would have had trouble if all I got to read was, like, Vogue or something. I like that now I can get what I like from Vogue, and then go read a feminist site instead. I can get the inspiration from Vogue, but I can’t look at the other stuff like it’s supposed to be real.
L: Fashion and feminism don’t have to be so separate. They really don’t have to be. I hope that we do that [with Lula] anyway.
T: I think so.
L: I just don’t think that it makes any sense. Gloria Steinem was criticized in the sixties because she was wearing a miniskirt. What’s that have to do with what she was talking about? How is that relevant in any way to her voice? Was she supposed to be like wearing frumpy clothes to have it mean more? What does that mean about women? You have to look a certain way to be smart? I think it’s so weird, and then women’s magazines separate that, too.
I remember when I was a teenager, I volunteered at a rape crisis center, in a women’s group after school every day. And like I told you I was modeling, like the equivalent of J. C. Penney, kind of standing-there-in-a-jogging-suit kind of modeling. Like, ridiculous, but really funny. And I would come from a shoot, in cheesy girl makeup to this table of women who were, like, 50 plus. Some of them were quite militant feminists, not just feminists. I don’t wear makeup often, I don’t like how it feels on my face, and I didn’t then either, but I loved sitting down at that table and having them, you know, "You can’t sit here with us organizing this feminist rally if you have just been . . ." And I’d be like, "But why? What does it have to do with anything? Feminism is about opportunity and being able to do whatever you want." I loved arguing about it. I never got bored of that discussion.
T: Many people can remember some dogmatic, political person at their school, and this guy at mine came to my lunch table and he was like, "I saw you wore a sweater that said, 'Feminist' on it. Do you even know what that means? Is everyone at Fashion Week a big idiot?" And I’m like, "You know that fashion probably has such a bad rap among people like you because you -- maybe on some subconscious level because you’re so political externally -- you probably dumb it down because it’s one of the only industries dominated by women or gay men."
L: And artists. It’s a way for artists to make a commercial living.
T: Right, so people think that then it must be silly. But like, you realize that by jumping to that conclusion you’re probably being not as feminist as you think by just arguing against fashion entirely?
L: If you’re wearing clothes that tell everyone you’re political, then you’re actually using fashion for your politics.
T: There was a point in the beginning of this year where I'd just gotten contacts, and it was like, maybe now I can actually like the way I look. Before, I didn’t try to go into that territory because I felt like, well, if I wear makeup, people will know that I’m trying, and then they have the opportunity to criticize me. And then I was like, well, maybe I do want to be pretty and wear makeup, and that made me think about how that matched up with my politics, and my friend basically was like, "You need to stop overthinking it. It’s just fun. And it’s good to be multi-faceted instead of showing that feminists can only dress frumpy." I like that Lula can celebrate fashion, but it also, like you said, just celebrates women who are inspiring. And gets rid of that feeling of the invisible man. And, a weird commercialization in magazines. Like, I like when you guys feature someone and it’s not like they have anything coming up, they don’t have anything to promote, but they just should be celebrated. Their voice should be heard. So I like that.
L: I love when people say yes to doing that. I understand when people say no to that, because I understand how hard it is when some of my friends who are actors have to promote a movie, how exhausted they get. But you know how painful it can be, so you don’t want to do it unless you’re doing it for something you love that you want to promote, but at the same time, because you start to feel so drained by that, it’s really great to do it on a time when you’re not forced to talk, even though it makes people feel like they’re maybe being self-indulgent. It’s actually a really nice time to have a conversation.
T: Yeah. And I think that if it is a little self-indulgent, that’s okay, too. Kathleen Hanna had this blog post a few months ago that basically saying that she always thought that she had to stick to being a community's artist and everything. Now she was looking at Carrie Brownstein, who is very, ‘Yes, I’m a writer, I’m a musician, I’m on this TV show, I’m awesome.’ And Kathleen realized that it’s not like not being all about the community is selfish. It can be feminist to just kind of own what you do and be proud of it.
L: Carrie Brownstein interviewed Miranda July in our next issue.
T: That’s awesome. I saw her name in the thank-yous in the credits last night. I was curious about that.
L: They’re just really good friends, the two of them. Miranda’s always clever with ideas for what should happen. She kind of curated her whole piece in the next one actually. "How about we do this? And how about this?" "Yes, yes, yes. Everything is just solid. How about you on every page?" She’s so cool.
T: Yeah, she is.
L: The other thing that I try to do with Lula…sort of the only way you can exude strength is to do it in a masculine way. I find that so, so sad. To wear stupid sparkly clothes doesn’t have anything to do with your strength or your character or your whatever. It’s really interesting watching women in politics and how they [dress.] You know, Michelle Obama’s been so graceful and so feminine, and she has such a strong voice, but she’s never tried to act like a man to do it.
T: And that shows also the power and influence of fashion. And how even people who would call it silly or say they don’t care, they do pay attention. People think about it, whether they want to or not.
L: Aung San Suu Kyi with flowers in her hair, wearing long colorful funny clothes, changing the world! It has nothing to do with trying to dress serious, I don’t think she’s even wearing makeup. You never see any other women in that position not wearing makeup.
T: Right. Do you know Hello Giggles?
L: Yeah. I saw your Taylor Swift video. I wrote to you when I saw that. Then it started this thing where me and Karen [Elson] and Sarah [Sophie Flicker] were going to do the Supremes or something.
T: Right! Yeah, you guys have to do karaoke for it.
L: I had dinner with them last night. We should have done it then.
T: Yeah. Gosh, why aren’t you thinking about karaoke all the time?! Well, I like it because a lot of people are critical of that Zooey Deschanel aesthetic, where they think it’s submissive, and now that site has that aesthetic, but they also have smart, clever, critical writing. They can have some attitude, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also be wearing a sun dress or make some fun karaoke video.
L: Totally. I think it’s great, and I’m a big supporter of Zooey. I think she’s amazing, and it’s really sad when people bother spending time criticizing what she is, because again, she’s being somebody who’s not apologizing for it. She isn’t trying to act like anyone else and isn’t worrying about what the audience thinks. She’s just doing it, and it’s wonderful.
T: And you notice that people are quick to call Zooey or Miranda annoying or something, but you also notice that they’re women who do so many different things and are so successful and good at them all, which might be what makes people uncomfortable. They also do it in a way where they’re not acting like a man. They have a more feminine style. And I know there are people who feel like, "Oh that’s too dainty. I don’t like this idea of femininity that doesn’t accurately represent female culture." But that’s why you have to change the culture. It’s not like that aesthetic has to be the defining one, there should just be more aesthetics, more voices. And then there are options for people, which is one reason why I like the Internet. You don’t have to feel totally represented by a magazine because you have a blog you read instead. Or even just on a smaller scale, when it comes to feminist sites, you don’t have to feel represented by Jezebel. There’s Hello Giggles, and vice versa.
L: And you can just dip into each one. You don’t need to be owned by anybody.
T: Right. I wanted to talk more about Lula for a bit. Each issue has you know a very strong mood. I’m curious because it does feel so personal -- is that just a response to that season's collections, or is it what you are feeling?
L: During the witchy season, after each show, someone would come up to me and go, “What are you going to do? Oh my god, what are you going to do?” And I’m like, it’s totally fine. And then in my head or in my book I’d be writing down names like Wednesday Addams, and then whenever I’d watch another show, I kept coming back again to Wednesday Addams over and over again. Then I felt like, why don’t we just make [the mood] that? It was really fun. Having worked at Vogue, sometimes there’d be one advertiser you’d have to have in that story. You’d end up spending so long on this one picture, and it ended up being the best one, because you had to work so hard. For us a lot of the time, for that issue specifically, we had to really sort of make something that wasn’t a very Lula season make sense to Lula, and it was a really a good exercise for us.
T: (Both laugh as a window washer appears outside the hotel room window.) Hi, window washers!
L: Their job is so terrifying.
T: Have you ever seen How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the movie?
T: I used to be obsessed with it when I was little, and I haven’t seen it since, so I don’t even know if it’s good or not, but they have a lot of nuances with that. Actually, maybe the window washer thing isn’t even that big a thing, I just remember it. What are those little memories for you?
L: We put in the second issue of Lula my favorite one, a film called Babe! It’s about a little homeless girl who lives with an old man in the back of a theatre. He’s a drunk, and she’s in an orphanage, but goes and lives with him. And she wears star sunglasses and rides a skateboard, and she almost does a striptease for these boys in an orphanage at one point. It’s really weird and quite dark, but lovely, and I don’t know how it existed, and it obviously wasn’t for kids, but I used to choose movies from the cover, and the cover is this girl with purple lipstick and parted hair in the middle. It’s actually played by Yasmin Bleeth. In these glasses, whenever I was sick, I made my mom go to Jumbo Video, and rent me that movie, and then after that I was Mrs. Parker, and I was probably too young for that, too, but I really loved it, with that pretty picture of Jennifer Jason Leigh on the front. But then when we started Lula, I was trying to remember the things that as visual references were the earliest ones and were really important. One of our interns started stalking the director of Babe!, and I went to his house in LA and met him. And you can’t, like, get it anymore, and it was his first film, and he gave me one on DVD, and I made my boyfriend watch it, and he was like, "You can see the boom in one of the shots!" You can see it. And I’m like, "I was a kid! I didn’t care about that!" It's this weird sort of backstage area where they live with old movie posters on the wall and feather boas from the costumes everywhere, and it was really strange but I don’t really want to watch it all the way through now. I just want to remember it the way it was. And he just kept saying, “You can see the boom. I went to film school, don’t do this to me.”
T: I just rewatched Bye Bye Birdie, which I was obsessed with.
L: It’s so good.
T: I had no clue how weird that movie was. There's that weird scene where Rosie dances on tables and then these guys all attack her?! And the Telephone Song is obviously amazing, but they’re supposed to live in this small town and then it becomes this nationwide phenomenon that Kim McAfee and Hugo Peabody got pinned.
L: I remember when I first watched Dirty Dancing -- I think I was in 3rd grade -- I didn’t understand that she had an abortion.
T: I’ve never seen it.
L: Dude. Please watch it before they remake it and make it an awful situation. They’re remaking it this year. People from High School Musical are doing it.
L: Yes. I know. It’s an absolute travesty. Please make sure you watch the original.
L: It’s so good.
T: Why is Zac Efron taking over all these eighties dance movies? I heard he's in the new Footloose.
L: What? Why is there a new everything?
T: I don’t know. I mean, in a way that kind of makes me understand why people are so bitter towards my generation, because everything is a cover or a remake or a sequel, but you know, each generation is a product of the one before. But that’s why I also do like seeing, like, Elle Fanning. It feels like you already feel like know she’s going to be like this classic person.
L: She’s such a lady. She really is such a lady.
T: And reading her interview in Lula, it’s like she’s still so unjaded and excited about, you know, talking about how much she loves Marilyn Monroe.
L: Yeah, I know. I had dinner with her at the Chanel dinner. We sat across from each other during Couture, and I love a girl who sits down and says, “This is my grandma.” That’s a really good beginning to a dinner. They have a really good family, those two. Then a week later I met Dakota with her mom at Wimbledon, and it’s so nice. They have such a great family.
T: Oh, that’s great. And all the campaigns, Marc Jacobs with the Fannings, and then Miu Miu with Hailee [Steinfeld]. I hate to clump them all together, but they do represent something. No pressure.
T: I was thinking about how my dad reads at the kitchen table every morning about all these important song writers and people he admired when he was young dying, and it's nice that I'll have people of my generation like that too. Oh god! I didn't mean to talk about them dying. That was not, like, a sweet story! (Both laugh.) Like I cannot imagine how weird it must have been to be a fan of Michael Jackson when he was little and be the same age and watch him and grow up with him like that. But now I guess we do have people that we’ll grow up with, which is nice. Because obviously the only goal of these girls’ jobs as actresses is to serve my own needs so I feel like I’m part of something! (Both laugh.)
L: I don’t know who mine are. Zooey and Kirsten . . .
T: We talked about Kathleen Hanna. How did you discover Riot Grrrl?
L: High school. I don’t know. Maybe Sassy, actually. I remember reading American Vogue and Sassy at the same time. But I didn’t read American Vogue, I just looked at the pictures. And I read Sassy. Oh, and there was this magazine called, like, I want it to be called In Style, but it wasn’t. It was something like – It had a round logo. I could only ever find it sometimes, and the fashion pictures were better than the Sassy fashion pictures, but the articles weren’t as good as Sassy. Probably I read about it there. And then I also had a gigantic crush on my friend Chris’s older sister Rebecca when I was 10 or 11, and she used to wear Laura Ashley dresses with Docs, and no makeup, but sometimes with a little bit of black smudgy, and I’d sneak into her room and record CDs from her, the Pixies and things like that. She shopped at this market in Toronto called Kensington Market for all of her clothes, so I started doing that, and it probably was also something to do with her, where I would have found out about it. And I guess I was really responding to angry girl music, because until you found that, it was all bubble gum, and I just never really understood or felt a huge affinity with any of it. As a teenage girl, you do want to listen to Bikini Kill. Courtney [Love] was important. And the first time I ever heard Juliana Hatfield on the radio… I don’t remember what song it was, but it was this mean guitar and this fairy voice, and I just thought, "Thank you, very much," because it took a really long time for somebody to sound like that for me.
The first thing I remember about Riot Grrrl was like a picture of a girl with it written on her hands. But I don’t remember really how. There were independent record stores that you could just dip into. If I did dumb cheesy modeling things, I’d be in cities, and I could visit some of those places, or stand in line for someone to sign a record.
T: Do you think that modeling had to do with your interest in fashion?
L: No, it wasn’t fashion. It was like –
T: J.C. Penney, you said?
L: Yeah, I did like, YM. It was not fashion, but I saw the fashion roles, I saw the jobs. But I never meant to actually work in fashion, at all. I was interning at magazines, and I was a teenager and interviewing bands and stuff. More the writing part. And then from modeling, the photographers would be like, "I really like your clothes," -- and they were vintage things -- "I’m doing an advertising job – will you style it?" And I’d just bring my own clothes and do stuff. And that seemed more fun than being the person in the picture. And then I would miss the modeling to do that, and then the magazine that I was interning at said, "We’re going to do a fashiony section – will you do it?" I think everyone just sort of assumed that I was that person, but I never meant to be, I think. I think I thought that it had to be more difficult than that. Like whatever you grew up to be, it had to be hard. It doesn’t. You just do what feels good. And fashion always just felt really natural.
I went to university to study journalism. I had a fight with a teacher and went back to my room and grabbed a magazine that was on the floor, and it was Interview, and I called them, and I said, "Do you have internships," and they said, "no." And I went, "yes you do." And I went to Kinko’s overnight and faxed this resume, and they called in the morning and said, "Great, when do you want to start?" And I was like, "two weeks from today." And I called my parents and said I’m moving to New York and came and just ended up in the fashion department, just because that was the instinct on the ground. I just read the number and asked the fashion department without thinking. It was never a path, I don’t think. But I did always like magazines. Liz Tilberis, nineties. Amazing. She’s the dream.
T: Now I want to talk more about magazines. This could go on forever. But I think we might have to wrap up. I want you to know this was really special for me. This sounds like pandering, but my relationship with fashion and personal style and fashion as an industry has been really strange, but even throughout all the, you know, that blog post about sitting next to Anna Wintour and all that – Lula has been the one where I don’t feel like it's a secret society nobody else is allowed to be a part of. I’ve gone months without buying any of those other magazines, because it just suddenly felt weird to read them, I felt alienated, but too close, like the magic was taken away or something, but Lula never felt that way.
L: Oh, I’m so glad.
T: And I think it’s because of what you were saying, that you just stick to what you like and --
L: -- don’t apologize.
L: Oh, I’m so glad. Sometimes, there’re obviously days like…you know, you’re not doing it under a publishing house, and not having like endless budgets for things like that. It really could wear you out, but it seems to make people so happy, which is so great.
T: Because it’s refreshing.
L: I don’t remember fashion magazines whose role it was to make you glad, and it’s so nice that girls seem to feel like that [with Lula]. I love when people take pictures of it with things. It’s so cute, like, "my saddle shoes next to my Lula" – it’s like these little still lives, it’s so cute. Like, I would have done that. I just wouldn’t have had an Internet to put it on.
I think we all have a responsibility to be honest, that people don’t necessarily [oblige]. And my relationship with blogs is confused because with some of them, I don’t understand having large opinions invisibly. I think it’s sad. But I love the platform to say what you think fearlessly and honestly. I think it’s wonderful. And as a teenager, to be able to explore and make who you are and your creative world, to keep a place where you keep building on that and figuring it out. People go through their whole life not doing that. People have no idea what paintings they like or if there’s a song that makes them feel a certain way, because they haven’t explored that enough or realized how important it is to have those things that you feel really drawn to for no reason. Blogs and the Internet are giving people an excuse to nurture that.
T: I think the biggest way that having a blog has altered my life is not so much the opportunities and Fashion Week, but how my tastes have developed. That’s part of your identity and part of your style and how you get dressed . . .
L: And it teaches you bravery to stand by your convictions and have an opinion like your Anna Wintour one, for example, and then have to deal with the fact that someone else is reading your opinion. As a teenager, it’s like really admirable to say what you think out loud. Most people don’t. They have journals.
T: I have both. I think it’s good to have both.
L: Absolutely. But it’s hard to say what you think.
T: Right. I think also it might feel not as weird to me or other people who have grown up with the Internet, because you almost start to think of people as just a number on a video game, which is nice when it comes to something like criticism, but can also be dangerous.
L: How do you feel about print? What do you think? Do you think people in your generation are going to buy magazines?
T: I think so.
L: What do you buy?
T: I buy Lula, I buy some Vogues, not just American. I buy i-D and Dazed and RUSSH. Lately, most of my money has been spent on records. Which, I mean, I’m not going to stop that inclination. I really want to buy one of the new Loves with those covers.
L: I bought the Elle Fanning one. It’s pretty.
T: I can’t decide. But I probably won’t have an option, because they’ll probably only have like two of them in my store at home. We should find a good end to this.
L: Make up something quick!
T: Is there anything that you’re excited about for the future? Miranda July’s movie, or the actual future?
L: I’m excited about Miranda July’s movie. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to see it. I think I’ll be in different countries all the time . . . airplanes . . . watch movies . . . But I’m excited to go home and see the boy at my house who has dimples. The Norwegian word for dimples means "smiling holes." Ask your mom what that word is. [My mom is Norwegian.]
T: I will, and then I’ll tell you.