Interview with New York Look’s Janet Ozzard

Posted by betty | July 22nd, 2008

One of the more pleasant surprises that emerged from the avalanche of coverage from NY’s last Fashion Week was the imagery of the event in New York Magazine’s “Look”. Coming from a popular, established news weekly, “Look” is surprisingly one of the most daringly directed fashion glossies to come out recently in America. March 2008 marked their 2nd issue of the magazine. MDX spoke to editor, Janet Ozzard about the process and the hard work and teamwork behind the 2 issues. See the video below as Janet explains how the March 2008 cover was finally chosen.

-Can you explain the concept behind the magazine?

The idea really came about because Adam Moss, the editor-in-chief of New York Magazine, noticed how crazy busy our website was during Fashion Week. We began putting up fashion shows in several years ago, when we redesigned the site, and we lured Amina Akhtar, who I’d worked with at, over here from her job at the New York Times website to run it. Anyway, Adam noticed that the site went berserk during Fashion Week as people came on, not just to look at the runway slide shows, but to read all the coverage: the Fug Girls, who attend the shows and write hilariously about them, the model news, and so on. He realized there’s this appetite for fresh off the runways fashion, but edited. I mean, there are how many thousand pictures generated by hundreds of shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan. Even the most hardcore fashion lover needs some guidance at the end to sift, dissect, explain—but right away, while the appetite is still sharp. So he convened a group: Harriet Mays Powell, the fashion director; Jody Quon, the photo director; Chris Dixon, the art director, and me. We proposed and drafted and mocked up and did all that stuff, and voila, Look!

-Besides the presence of America’s Next Top Model and programs like that around the world, can you explain what you think is happening in popular culture as to why people are becoming more and more obsessed with models?

It’s interesting. As celebrities become more and more accessible—we know everything about them– models seem conversely more appealing. Every time you see a model, she (or he) is perfect, fresh from an hour of backstage hair and makeup. So, they seem flawless and a little remote, which naturally makes us curious about them. And people develop favorites, thanks to websites like ours and yours, so they become almost like baseball players. I hear people saying things like, “Did you see how many shows Natalia’s doing this season?” or “I heard Calvin’s got Ali on exclusive!” or whatever. It’s like following a sport.

-The photographer who shot most of this past issue, Magnum’s Christopher Anderson, has a phenomenal eye and created some unbelievable pics of life behind the scenes in the modeling world. What was the process like of finding him?

For our first issue we used Paolo Pellegrin, who is a Magnum photographer and more generally accustomed to going to war zones. Our amazing photo director Jody Quon found him and gave him the directive to really just document fashion from New York all the way through to the last show of Paris. It worked so well, it was so unusual, and he was so original in his view, that we decided to do it again. Jody really championed doing it again. She then found Chris Anderson, who is also a Magnum photographer, and also someone who really is more accustomed to news photography, journalism photography. He also took to this assignment incredibly energetically and really just spent, I would say, three weeks to a month of his life just living with the photo crew and following different models. You’ll notice that every single page, every single photograph in there, that isn’t a runway photograph, is a Chris Anderson photograph. And at the end of it, we took his thousands of photographs which Jodie edited them down, and created this incredible portfolio, which really gives a lot of identity to Look, because it’s one consistent viewpoint. He’s not a trained fashion photographer, so he’s coming at it with a completely fresh eye. And that’s why you end up (for example, in our first issue) with Paolo being able to take things like hair clippings and making them look beautiful and Chris did that with this issue as well. I mean his viewpoint is not filtered or edited, it’s his eye looking at this world of fashion that is completely alien to him, and seeing it in a new way, and bringing it back to us so we see it in a new way. None of those photos, as Jodie notes, is staged. Each thing is just a fresh spontaneous moment, but it creates this gorgeous, consistent, almost filmlike document.

-Paolo Pellegrin who shot most of the first issue of “The Look” back in September 2007, won an SPD award for Best Feature/Story, alongside an Annie Liebovitz/Vanity Fair shoot. How did it feel to receive that award for Look magazine for its very 1st issue (alongside such an established publication like Vanity Fair)?
Well, that’s more of a question for the estimable Jody Quon; I know I keep punting to her, but one of the great things about working on LOOK is being able to be part of a team with Quon and Harriet Powell. It’s a lively little trio, I have to say. We all love fashion, in different ways and for different things. Jody at Marion Greenberg was on the Comme des Garcons account for years, and then at the New York Times magazine, so she’s got an incredibly sophisticated eye, but she’s also very attuned to journalism. Paolo was her pick as well, so she was delighted to be honored by the SPD.

-A lot of the 90’s supermodels are back for the fall. Do you have any favorites?

Well, that’s kind of my era; I’m 44. So the Linda/Naomi/Christy/Cindy quad is big for me. And Nadja Auermann! Where is she? In any case, Christy Turlington is one of the most beautiful creatures ever to walk this earth, and I think she’s a beautiful person as well; it shines out of her eyes. Cindy Crawford is cool; she’s so smart, and has such a good head on her shoulders. I interviewed her once when I was at WWD. Her agent said, “she’ll call you at noon,” and at precisely 12 pm my phone rang. “Hello Janet, this is Cindy Crawford,” she said. I was used to flakes who didn’t call, or called two hours late; her ability to combine professionalism with humor and daring made me think, “hm, I’d like to be her friend.”

-As someone who is not involved in the day to day intricacies in the modeling industry, it would be interesting to see who you think has made an impression on you, of the new generation of models.
I’ve been following the controversies around black models recently—the seminars Bethann Hardison has been holding, the article about Italian Vogue in the Times from a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been paying attention to people like Coco Rocha and Sessilee; I think they’re remarkable. Agyness Deyn has such a personality, it’s hard not to like her. Catherine McNeil seems like she’d have a sly sense of humor, and she’s a brunette as I am, so I’m partial there.

-Are you planning on doing another issue of it for the fall?

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New York Magazine’s Look. Issue 1. Ph: Paolo Pellegrin. courtesy of NY Magazine

Heidi Mount/IMG. New York Magazine’s Look. Issue 2. Ph: Christopher Anderson. courtesy of NY Magazine

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One Comment

  1. porter says:

    What a wonderful interview!The photography is just amazing in these issues. I can’t imagine how great it would be to be working for such an amazing team!! Keep up the great work.

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