Of The Minute
March 18th, 2009 by Janelle | Interviews, Model News
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Matthew Edelstein by Thomas Whiteside

Fashion isn’t just for paper pursuits. While the good old-fashioned printed magazine is an enduring tradition, the boundaries have been broken. As the role of new media increases, pioneering publications create names for themselves via an online platform. One of the most notable (and innovative) online magazines is Contributing Editor. Launched in 2008 by former Details fashion editor Matthew Edelstein and Ryan Schmidt, Contributing Editor strives to serve as both a must-read for the fashionable urbane man as well as a launch pad for exciting new talent. Models.com caught up with editor in chief Matthew Edelstein to talk menswear, creative freedoms and the changing landscape of publishing.

MDC: How did you get your start in fashion?

From a really young age the world of fashion fascinated me. When you’re young and from a small town the only job you can really think of being is a designer.  I came to Parsons, did a year of fine arts and then went into the fashion and design program. I decided early on that being a designer was not the right fit for me so I changed majors and ended up graduating with a degree in fashion business. I wanted to be more of a big picture thinker and not so much about actual garments. The idea of fashion – the culture and the people, that fascinated me more than making clothes per se. It wasn’t my strong suit.

When I was in school i had a lot of internships and towards the end of my time at Parsons, I was an intern at W in the accessories department. I worked with Anne Slowey who is now at Elle. She taught me a lot about working at a magazine; Anne is very inspiring and thoughtful about fashion.

Petey Wright and Tomek by Sharif Hama for Contributing Editor


MDC: You also were able to assist as well, how do you feel that shaped your career?

Michel Botbol moved back from Paris and was looking for an assistant. I along with several other people applied for that job and I ended up becoming Michel’s assistant when he was at W, then I moved on to Harper’s Bazaar with him when he became creative director of Bazaar.

Being an assistant at that level is an amazing learning experience because you’re working with the best photographers, have access to the finest clothes, the best models – everything exists in a rarefied state. From that point on I knew that I wanted to be a fashion editor. I love the editorial mindset, having a specific point of view and seeing it through. It’s what I always had it in mind for my career but didn’t know how to articulate it into a specific profession.

MDC: You were also the fashion editor at Details. How do you think you influenced the style at Details during your tenure?

I think we really refined the fashion perspective of the magazine. For me it was really important to define the Details man through pictures and through the fashion that went into the magazine and we really accomplished that over those 4 years. In my opinion the fashion is stronger now and there is a tighter point of a view than there was when I started all those years ago.

The Young Lords by Guy Aroch for Contributing Editor


MDC: What do you think the difference is between working in men’s fashion vs. women’s?

At the end of the day it’s fashion and it’s about creating pictures and working with photographers so in a sense there are similarities. Women’s fashion is much more competitive and exists in a different state. Mens’ is a little bit more low key but we always hope to bring the same creativity and passion to the work that we do.

MDC: Why did you choose the web as the forum for Contributing Editor, rather than a physical magazine?

Print is obviously extremely price prohibitive, publishing a magazine on paper is an incredible investment. Me being one person working with a partner, I don’t have those kinds of resources. This coupled with the fact that online just seemed more like the future and it fit in with what we really wanted to do with Contributing Editor, which is to give the next generation a chance for exposure. So much of my generation is shut out from those big printed magazines by the generation behind us. There is a lock down by top photographers and people of my generation needed a kind of forum for their work to shine.
Eli

AJ Abualrub by Eli Schmidt for Contributing Editor


MDC: Where did the idea itself come from?

I left Details full time last summer and I quickly realized that being a freelance person you’re waiting around for people to come to you. I wanted to be entrepreneurial and put myself out there more pro-actively. My friend Ryan Schmidt came up with the idea to just kind of start working with our friends, do photoshoots and put them online really quickly; it turned into a kind of editorial project. It began a little bit more low key but then we realized that we could easily do it and people would be interested in working for us and have access to great young photographers and models.

MDC: What is your role at Contributing Editor?

The way that I work is just to kind of constantly be pushing things forward. I’m the one who kind of signs off on all the content and I work with Ryan on the design but I’m also pushing things along, talking to writers and photographers, just sort of moving things forward all throughout the day.

Mikus Lasmanis by Joe Lally for Contributing Editor


MDC: How do you select / find the talent for Contributing Editor?

You meet with one person and they’ll introduce you to someone else, it’s really such a small world at the end of the day. New York fashion is an incredibly tight knit group. It generally happens quite organically. We also do have an email address on the site and people email submissions. We mostly don’t publish things that are emailed because I like to have a relationship with the people I’m working with but once in awhile we’ll get something truly great and put it up. We also don’t run anything that hasn’t been done specifically for contributing editor. We don’t repurpose content from other places – we wont’ rerun other magazine’s editorials. It’s all original.
MDC: Describe one memorable shoot you’ve done for the magazine thus far?

Travis Davenport and his twin brother Bryan, they are really into skateboarding and they had an idea to do a fashion story with them doing skateboard tricks and we ended up shooting it really easily in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. It was kind of their idea coming together in a way that they’d never been able to do before because as a model you don’t really get to express your ideas, you are expressing other people’s ideas in photos and I felt the joy really came through in these shots. There are a lot of high points, it’s an exciting way to work because you can be much more creative and free.


Brian Davenport by Derek Kettela for Contributing Editor


MDC: Do you think Contributing Editor brings something different to the table?

Definitely, different than what other American men’s magazines are doing because they have a huge readership and have to appeal to customers and audience in order to sell those magazines. We don’t have those constraints we don’t have to sell any magazines so we can do pretty much whatever we’d like to do that fits into our vision. I want CE to be younger and take more chances. Have an editorial point of view that is maybe a bit left of center.

MDC: What makes working this way different from the day to day at a magazine?

If I wake up tomorrow and say ‘I want to do a fluorescent club kids story’ i can go out and do it the next day without having to hear from my boss that he’s not ‘feeling fluorescent club kids’. At fashion magazines there are a lot of rules and you have a ton of people with strong personalities who don’t always agree, you have to navigate political waters and so when I left magazines after being on staff it was a great freedom and I want to extend that sort of freedom to other people, across the board with everyone I get to work with.

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14 Comments

  1. JASON KANNER says:

    I love Matthew! I love what the work he does…he treats the models and agents with such respect and gratitude. Not only is he kind, but certainly one of the most innovative stylists working in our business. Awesome interview Janelle

  2. DaveFothergill says:

    Congratulations Matthew!!!!! I really enjoy working closely with you and appreciate and respect your work. I really believe you are on the cutting edge of fashion and not only are you innovative and creative…but you are a true pioneer in the industry. Contributing Editor is the wave of the future and will continue to set trends by using the best photogs and models on the scene. Much continued success!!!!

  3. mimi Yapor says:

    Matthew we look forward to all of the amazing images that CE will inspire.
    Good luck and keep up the hard work.

  4. joe says:

    Is it possible for models.com to interview one of the up and coming African male models trying to find success in the racist fashion industry– just wonderng– someone like Salieu Jalloh, Dominique Hollington, Alassane Sy, Ger duany, David Agbodji, or others

  5. betty says:

    Joe,
    We are way ahead of you. Just keep your eye out on us the next several weeks.

    PS, hate to tell you this but just throwing out cries of racism doesn’t help anybody. One year ago, the world would never have guessed that the American people would vote for a black president.. And here we are today… What are you DOING to make the fashion industry more inclusive? Besides writing on websites that is?

    Betty
    MDC

  6. betty says:

    By the way Joe, we’ve featured Dominique as model of the week, we’ve had Salieu as a feature on Feed… I’m waiting on Ger and Sy to come out in something great and David we will be doing a little something on him.

    Betty
    MDC

  7. MARY33 says:

    wow :)

  8. Keith says:

    Matthew…your vision is an amazing. My good friend Will email me this, I usually catch all the cool things on models.com. Some how I missed this interview, but you are totally inspiring to up and comers like myself. I just wrapped a shoot in Fort Greene Park Brooklyn with a photographer and a model friend today. It was cool, to come back to my email and read the dopest interview ever…I appreciate you and thanks Models.com, William Yan of WilliamYan.com, and Matthew Edelstein of Contributing Editor. OOo Matthew thanks for the feed back on previous email and words of encouragement all was noted and taken heed to.

  9. Cameron Krone says:

    Betty –

    I COMPLETELY agree! Go get em! Why are we crying out about racism STILL! Should we have 50% african models and 50% white. I don’t think anyone cares anymore. A good model is a good model, regardless of skin color. Come on! :)

    Stop it with the “racism card”
    -CK

  10. mikyandstyle says:

    i’m a fashion designer student in milan… marangoni… i started this cours thinking i would have become the biggest designer but now i know this is not the right fitt for me us whell and i whant to change to styling…

    i so whant to worck and have some experience… if you could help me ore onley maby sudgest what to do i would be so gratfool… i do now whant to own money i onley whant to lern!

    thanks

    xoxo
    miky

  11. John says:

    Btw, Joe never said the “r” word or played the “race card”. Cameron, only a white person would believe that racism in fashion and the beauty industries no longer exist. Fashion twits.

  12. lexie says:

    I love CE! I live in the Philippines, which is a third world country, and there just aren’t many high-fashion nor edgy magazines here, especially about men’s fashion. Almost everything has to cater to a commercial clientele that has to consider monetary constraints. I adore the creative freedom that I see within the stories in CE.

  13. Gina says:

    Love this site/mag! Definitely the wave of the future – and so leading edge right now. Please keep up the good work.

  14. Matty says:

    John, did you read the same comment the rest of use read in regards to Joe? I’ll quote it for you so you don’t have to scroll around:

    “the racist fashion industry”

    It’s ridiculous to call the fashion industry racist when African and African-American male models have been prominently featured in multi-million dollar ad campaigns for designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger etc., and often become more popular than their white counterparts, resulting in many of going on to second careers as actors.

    That’s not to say racism isn’t still an issue, but it’s hardly the way it used to be and it seems to me some people would still rather deal the race card than look around and acknowledge the changes that have taken place.

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