Inside the Industry: Penny Martin
“Be aware that as fashion journalists, you will always ask the same questions,” Penny Martin jokes. Elegant and poised, Penny is as quick witted and sharp as the magazine she edits. Penny dedicated an hour and a half of her busy schedule to posing the most frequently asked questions to herself for the benefit of LCF’s Media and Communication students. Members of the audience were also given time to pose their own questions.
“Never start with the beginning question,” Penny smiles. In this instance, the ‘beginning’ question is ‘Why did you start The Gentlewoman?’. For those unaware, The Gentlewoman was born out of the thirst for an equally fabulous, womens’ version of Fantastic Man; a magazine that spoke to women as intelligent individuals, not dumb consumers. “We wanted to build a language to represent serious women but not in a serious way,” Penny says. Flicking through back issues of The Gentlewoman, left on The Lounge armchairs, you can spot the telltale signs of playfulness that the magazine does so well. In the most recent issue, an editorial entitled ‘Country’ features little snippets about the lives of the animals captured in the shoot.
Playfulness aside, Penny is committed to long-form, quality print journalism. In the case of The Gentlewoman, this means manipulating the dull Q&A format of most interviews, presenting an interview instead as a genuine conversation. It means asking American Apparel to shoot an exclusive advert that fits in with the aesthetic and values of the magazine. “Having American Apparel advertise in the magazine, but not as they usually advertise felt like an endorsement that what The Gentlewoman is doing is important,” Penny notes.
The Gentlewoman is described as a ‘fabulous publication’ that ‘celebrates inspirational women’ in a warm, personality-driven way. To Penny, this means talking to a wide spectrum of women – whether that be Margaret Dabs, the go-to person for medical pedicures, or Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, no-nonsense businesswoman with a mesmeric voice. Recently, another of Penny’s most frequently posed questions has been about her decision to put a megastar on the cover. “We’re not trying to exclude anybody,” she says, matter-of-factly. Penny is admirable of all different types of women – a quality she traces back to her days working at London’s Fawcett Society Women’s Library.
Asked by one student who inspires her the most, however and Penny replies with ‘clever people’. “I wilt when I’m not in the company of people who are smarter than me,” she admits. For the people in this room, Penny is herself an absolute inspiration. She’s funny, intelligent and clearly works hard.
“People employ me now because I’m not a straight fashion journalist, I’m not an artist, I’m not a writer… I guess I’m all of those things rolled into one”. If ever I get the chance to be even half as fabulous as Penny Martin, I know I’ve done well in life.
Originally posted, here. Image credit: Monica Alcazar-Duarte.