Can Fashion Magazines Really Make a Difference?

Addressing issues like poverty, human rights violations and racism head-on, PETRIe is a fashion and photography magazine that knows its purpose.

Can a fashion magazine take a serious stand on societal issues? They can, and they do, according to Grace Wang in Stack.

“It is easy to reduce fashion magazines as frivolous, but independent titles like Vestoj and Tank are proof that they’re anything but,” she writes, adding another title to the list of fashion indies with a mission.

“Addressing issues to do with poverty, human rights violations and racism head on, PETRIe is a fashion and photography magazine that knows its purpose.”

The hard cover, oversized magazine reads more like a textbook that is “confident in the intellect of its readers,” Wong explains. The team at Stack interviewed the creative team behind PETRIe to understand why they chose fashion as a backdrop for championing some serious social journalism.

“I feel there is this unspoken rule that frivolous fashion cannot sit alongside serious journalism covering human issues that impact society on a daily basis, such as overlooked poverty, underemployment and disillusionment of younger generations, human rights violations, or racism and sexism that are at risk of becoming the norm,” explains Zadria Smith, founder and editor-in-chief.

“With PETRIe, I wanted to create beautiful, thought-provoking and arresting imagery that balances out words that may not always be the easiest to read, because of the topics and perspectives that challenge the established norm,” Smith continues. “I felt very inspired by what now-retired Graydon Carter had done at Vanity Fair, but wanted to do this on a much larger scale that wasn’t so focused on America, and looked at us as a global human race.”

Smith’s background gives the clout necessary to pull it off; five years in luxury fashion magazines pointed out what was missing in fashion journalism. The team explores current societal events before deciding on their topics, and they usually hone in on the underrepresented in society. Inspired by Ray Petri, creator of fashion house Buffalo, the magazine chooses to focus on what Petri has called “the underbelly of society.”

And it’s beautifully done. Beyond the content, the format is worth a mention.

“Amidst the fast-paced stream of information and the visual overload we as society are confronted with on a daily basis, PETRIe is designed in a way that counteracts these tendencies,” explains art and design director Katja Alissa Mueller. “Everything — from the hardbound cover, the format, the use of two different paper stocks, the tailored layouts for each story, the time we put in to typeset all copy to facilitate the reader’s experience — is designed to last, and underlines the thinking against a throw-away culture.”

“We envisioned the issue as a piece of design that will live on your bookshelf or coffee table for years to come and serve as source of inspiration, as well as a mirror of society at a given time,” she continues.

They do not shy away from the difficult issues of gender, race, or poverty and the boxes that society usually wants us to put these in. Instead, they use fashion as a way to bring them out of hiding, into their own and express the uniquely inherent beauty in everyone.

It’s a well done work of journalism with a key artistic treatment, and a refreshing take on fashion and its potential uses.