Leith Clark on women, age and publishing in The Violet Book Issue 2
- Liv Siddall
- 8 December 2014
It’s great when we speak to editors and founders of the best magazines on the stands today, and they say that the reason they created it in the first place was that “There wasn’t a magazine for me on the racks. There wasn’t one that did what I wanted.” Leith Clark is a stylist to the stars, and has been entrenched in the world of fashion and style for over a decade.
The Violet Book, or just Violet is a magazine that seeks to challenge how we perceive women in this particular field, and speak to famous clothes horses and famous faces with the intention of bringing out their true character and previously untapped wit and intelligence. It’s very well-designed too. Here’s Leith on the past, present and future of the fantastic Violet Book and the importance of its voice in the world of women’s independent magazines…
What made you think there was a space for Violet on today’s magazine racks?
Because there wasn’t a magazine for me on the racks. There wasn’t one that did what I wanted, and it was the same when I started Lula. I started it because there wasn’t a magazine out there for me at the time, so I made it. Lula was very successful in those eight or so years and I learned to trust my instincts. So Violet was a bit easier to begin for that reason. I was more confident about the process and about the curiosity that drives it all. I wasn’t confident that people would like it, just that I would like it. Both issues have felt extremely satisfying when I’ve first held them in my hands. I feel a real love for it, and then I wonder if anyone else will.
The team of women who produce Violet are all women I love and admire, and we are all constantly asking questions and exploring things that interest us or attempting to satisfy wonders and learn from each other.
Also I think it’s important to say that I think as I’ve gotten a bit older I have started to feel frustrated and confused at the way youth is over-celebrated. It all keeps getting better so why look backwards? You know, you’ll be driving around Paris for example, and you see all of these amazing older women who haven’t ruined their faces with plastic surgery and who look fucking awesome, walking along the street with their silver hair and their tiny dog and I want to stop and ask them to tell me things. Where are they in the media? They make me excited about what’s ahead. Instead, I feel like I’m faced with someone who looks very hungry with fake blonde hair and a rubber face: 50 trying to look 16, which I don’t understand. And an ad next to it selling “youth serum” or something. It all just feels a little bit scary and wrong. I want to learn from other women directly, conversations rather than a press release.
"I have started to feel frustrated and confused at the way youth is over-celebrated. It all keeps getting better so why look backwards?"Leith Clark, The Violet Book
Tell us about the process of picking this issue’s cover
I lived with Alexa 10 years ago and the first word I think I would have used to describe her back then was clever. It’s still the same now. And if you saw her on Popworld, that very first time we saw her on TV, you would without a doubt agree. Quick wit. Clever. Sharp as a tack. But I think, because of her public persona or whatever, not everyone knows that. It’s become visual. Not everyone knows what she does, how much she does, how much she puts into it. Essentially, she has become a business. She’s made a business out of herself. And that’s brilliant and hasn’t been done before. So of course that feels daunting in that there’s no example before her for her to look to, and social media and the internet has made so much more possible than once could have been – and so much faster.
"I think the female gaze is lacking in most creative fields and it’s a unique one - especially when it’s looking at women. I love the stories we tell each other, and I love the way we see each other."Leith Clark, The Violet Book
It’s also much easier to make a mistake. Anyway, last year Alexa turned 30 and stopped to look around a little. She kind of took a breath and looked back at what had happened (and truly before that I don’t believe she had stopped at all) – and she tried to figure it out a bit. With that came a grace and a confidence, an appreciation, and most importantly, a curiosity that was so wonderful as her friend to witness. And that journey is what Violet is all about, really.
Tell us about the commissioning in this issue and what you look for in a photographer or illustrator
I try not to overthink it and simply to search for what I want to see and what i want to learn about. Pieces in Violet are usually about us searching for something. Oh and I do commission a lot of women. I think the female gaze is lacking in most creative fields and it’s a unique one – especially when it’s looking at women. I love the stories we tell each other, and I love the way we see each other. There is a group of women who come together to create Violet and they have ideas about what they want to learn, and who they want to learn from, and that’s the beginning of commissioning for sure. A genuine interest or hunger.
What do you get the greatest pleasure from when putting a magazine together?
Satisfying curiosities, getting new ones, being nosy, supporting things and people you think are awesome… challenging conventions… asking more questions… Learning. Tying it all together, collage-like.
Any words of advice to people thinking of starting their own publication?
Make it for yourself. Don’t over-think that.
About the Author
Liv joined It’s Nice That as an intern in 2011 and worked across online, print and events, and was latterly Features Editor before leaving in May 2015.