Holly has commissioned some of the best editorials in AnOther Magazine and has also helped launch a few photographers careers. She is charismatic, warm, driven, and talented. She is an incredible role model for people inside and out of this industry.
This interview took place between Tate and Holly at Dazed Media's London office
TVPS: Starting off can you give an overview of how you got to where you are today?
HH: Yeah, so when I was at Saint Martin's I was in the fashion communication and promotion course, but I didn’t enter it with an awareness of fashion. Which sounds strange, but I was advised the course when I was in foundation year. I actually wanted to do fine art and specialize in photography, but my professor told me, "You just won't do any work." I am not very good at self-motivation, I need targets, I need deadlines. So he was like, "You'll spend 3 years doing nothing. You need to do a course that's much more, almost vocational, really concentrating on one thing." I'd never considered fashion before, so that was quite a turning point. But I did start taking photos during the course, so when I left, I was a photographer. I took pictures, I got commissioned...
Yeah, I saw you got published by Dazed before you started working here.
Yes! So weird. It's all come full circle.
It took me a couple of years but I realized that I way preferred other people's photographs to my own, and that's not me being humble. That's just factual. I enjoyed taking pictures, and I liked the pictures that I took, but I didn't feel like they represented the aesthetic that I had in my head. So it just didn't match up for me, and it didn't satisfy me as much as a creative career should.
Then I met my now-husband who is a photographer and he just lives for it. You know what I mean? It's his entire world. He's got such an obsessive personality. He is completely addicted to it, and I was thinking, "I'm just not in that place." I’ll always love it, but I started to get those feelings like, if I did this every single day, and had to do it for money, would I love it as much? I don't know if I would.
So those were the thoughts that were going through my mind, and I was taking photographs, working in a designer boutique, which was amazing because there were so many creative people working there. One of my best friends there was a stylist, one was a set designer, Georgina Pragnell, who's doing incredibly well now. One was a pattern cutter who now works for so many amazing designers. So it was a real creative place, really interesting people to meet there. But I didn't imagine myself working there forever.
I was on Facebook during my lunch break and a friend of a friend, Chloe Kerman, who was a stylist at the time, had left Tank Magazine. I knew she had gone on to work for this new magazine that everyone was really intrigued by but no one quite knew what it was. She posted on Facebook "We are in desperate need of a producer." I thought, "Oh, maybe I could do that."
At the time, the boutique that I was working for was closing down the woman's bit so I emailed her.
I was interviewed by Garage’s managing editor at the time who's now one of my very good friends, Becky Poostchi, and she was having a dinner party at her house in France. So she was interviewing me on Skype while she was preparing for this dinner party. It gave me such a good feeling about it and I got the job. Garage completely changed my trajectory because it was something I'd never really considered. It was such an exciting project. It was a brand new magazine, and they'd never had an issue before. It was right at the beginning of their story, and it was so exciting to be a part of that.
And now you’re at AnOther, but I was in wondering in particular how you split your time between AnOther, AnOther Man, Digital AnOther, and Dazed Media Studio?
Laura Genninger, who was the art director for AnOther Man became creative director for AnOther at the same time I came on board. It was a lovely turning point for the magazine, I guess it was an excuse for them to think about who they were as a magazine and redefine all of those codes that make AnOther what it is.
At first, I was between digital, AnOther and AnOther Man, but how my time was split was quite interesting because the needs of each one were so different. For AnOther, we have a massive fashion team that has been here for so long. They are so creative and tight-knit and therefor have pretty precise ideas about who they want to shoot with. But the other sections of the magazine were really up for grabs. A massive portrait section in the beginning and we also have Document. All of those visual elements were something I was so passionate about and so lucky to be involved in. In short, I took care of front sections and anything that wasn't a direct fashion story.
Photographer Jack Davison
Photographic Editor Holly Hay
MUA Liz Daxauer
Photographed Lindsay Kemp (@lindsaykemp_of)
Also building a relationship with Laura from the beginning of her story at AnOther was exciting because it was new for both of us and she really wanted to have a conversation about it.
And then on to Man, which was a bit more mixed. I’ve actually stepped away from it recently, but at the time I did a lot of research. They have a massive amount of archive imagery in the issue, so I did a lot of that for them. Alister Mackie, the creative director, would have this image, and you’d think, "Where the hell did you find that?" And you'd have to source it, find out who took that picture, the story behind the image, etc. So it was a research project, in a way. He has such a specific way of doing the magazine. He creates this scrapbook every issue, which is almost a page-for-page reference for what the atmosphere of the magazine is going to be. It's a really incredible way to work; you have to unpick those references and decide who photographically could represent that.
When I first joined AnOther, the editor for the website was still the person who started it, Laura Bradley and we went to Central Saint Martins together. It was really amazing to reconnect with someone that I studied with, and we were so in line with our aesthetic and our sensibility for imagery.
I'm so interested in the digital side for AnOther because we’re a bi-annual magazine which means the appetite is so there for our reader. Also, the things and people that we have access to are so extraordinary, but we only have a certain amount of pages in the magazine. It's really exciting to be able to extend the stories online or to engage an emerging photographer and give them a project that excites them. What's amazing about AnOther as a company, is that we're so loyal to our contributors. It doesn't feel like we're saying, "Oh. This is all we're ever going to give you, online pieces." There are so many photographers that we've commissioned for online that have graduated into being a big part of the print magazine, which is really lovely.
That's such a nice space to give people a chance to grow and to foster new talent. That must be so exciting for you, too.
Yeah, and to be able to get them in front of the whole team. It's a real excuse to show what these people can do and what they're capable of. That is what I'm ultimately so passionate about, is meeting new photographers. New photographers to me though, they could have been working for years. Finding out what defines their process and what engages them. Trying to give them projects that satisfy that for them and really excite them and get them meeting amazing people to inspire them. That's what it's really about for me.
Then Laura Bradley, who was editor of the site, went on to become editorial director for Dazed Media Studio. She's there building their identity as a creative agency. So that was my in with the commercial side of the company. Her first project, which is an ongoing thing, is doing all of the social for Miu Miu.
Oh yeah because I saw that you worked on their eyewear campaign. It was so good.
It was gorgeous, wasn’t it? I love Victoria who did that film. She brought me onboard for that, which was such an incredible thing to be a part of.
Circling back to new talent, I heard you say in one of your interviews that you become interested in a photographer that has a strong point of view and that has a certain take on the world. So I was wondering when you're looking at a new photographer's portfolio, how does that come across?
It's about someone being so dedicated to something that you can see it instantly. It's such a specific interest and this need to understand and to explore something through images. It's so important for me to meet photographers because it's so easy to have an impression of someone through their work but what I’ve realized is that you can't assume any of that stuff. You have to meet them to understand what their intentions are. Otherwise, you can never commission well because you're making up the story for them.
And they're never going to be able to give you the work that you want because you have to hire the photographer that has what you want already so that you can take it to this new level.
So Dazed Media continually uses their voice to inspire conversations that surround current affairs and to give a voice to people who are facing adversity. I was wondering from your perspective if there are specific components that a fashion editorial needs in order to successfully and tactfully portray a strong opinion on sensitive matter?
It's a genuine interest in people, and that's what Dazed particularly as a magazine does so impressively, like blows you over every time.
They engage a community of people around them, and it's authentic. I think that actually sums up Dazed completely. It's the authenticity with how they do things. It's the real life conversations.
That must play back into the company culture. It seems that you’re living what you’re preaching, which is pretty rare for today.
Yeah, I think it is. It has been for so long. I don't know if you read the Dazed 25th-anniversary issue, but they had loads of people write in and share their favorite memories of Dazed. It's really amazing to read that because that still exists. It's grown so much. People can't believe it when they walk into the office, how many people there are because they’re are so used to going to visit independent publications, and there being 4 people around the table. Where Dazed is a massive company, and it has to be, because there’s so much to be done. But it's still a real team spirit. To be honest, that all comes from Jefferson, he's so endlessly passionate about what he does and not afraid to give people large amounts of responsibility.
Yeah, because you're never going to get the extent that you want to from your employees unless you put trust in them.
It's so not a micromanaging situation up there. People are allowed to do their jobs, and I think that shows. Also, it's like people give a shit about each other. They've bothered to employ such interesting, intelligent, creative people, so they let them do their jobs. That's how you get the best out of people.
When you’re looking at the shows and more specifically how the set and location were used to further the collection, how does that affect the way that AnOther reacts editorially?
It has the biggest impression on the magazine. We basically can't even think about the magazine until the editors have come back from the shows. There might be carryovers, ideas of photographers that they want, that everyone wants to talk about, and also in terms of themes, that all comes out of the shows as well.
I also find it really interesting because I don't go to the shows. So after they come back and they’ve digested everything, I'm so interested in the stories and ideas that they've seen and seen repeated. Those threads are stitched throughout the whole issue, but it does come from a fashion perspective.
Susannah Frankel who's the editor in chief now, she’s putting a...
She's done a great job.
She's the most unbelievable person to be around on a daily basis. She's so present and so approachable, and she's put this fashion lens on everything that the magazine does now. It's really pulled it all together.
Jefferson Hack is one of the leaders in fashion publications and has never been afraid to experiment and break traditional approaches, which the industry has celebrated. What do you think that says in regards to where publishing is heading?
I'd love to have that conversation with Jefferson because he is so interested in new technology and pushing those boundaries, but he always brings it back to publishing. That's what was so interesting about the digital edition that AnOther did a couple years ago. It was still at it’s core all about publishing but how to further that experience and make it more precious. I think that's probably where it's going, isn't it? It's no way disappearing anytime, you know?
I completely agree.
It's become... it's not luxury. It's just become more precious and timeless.
We did a hologram of Karl Lagerfeld on one issue. Then there was this other one where we had a Willy Vanderperre and Katy England shoot mounted a postcard on the magazine. It all felt really collectible. I think that's also interesting when you think about different covers of a magazine and making that special. How is it defining this moment.
For sure because the magazines that I buy now I’d like to think that one day my kids will look through and really get a sense of what was happening.
It's like a record. It becomes an archive.
Yeah, and you can't find that in digital. It doesn't work that way, because you only really pull up exactly what you’re searching for.
Yeah, it just doesn't translate. I think for a bi-annual magazine, the time that goes into developing a piece of content is so thought out. It goes through so many rounds of development. It's so considered who we’re going to interview and then the team that's put together to bring that to life. I guess it also must become important to the people who are being interviewed, who are being photographed because, in a way, it defines a moment for them too.
One thing that stuck out to me is that you’ve continually participated in things that are educational and accessible for people who want to make their way in the fashion industry. So I wanted to know why you feel that’s important?
When I was at Saint Martin's, the industry felt so impenetrable, and it's not. It's like a bunch of really normal people up there who have this as their job, and this is their passion. They have a group of friends just like anyone else and boyfriends just like anyone else and problems just like anyone else. I feel really passionate about breaking that wall down, and I keep saying all we do is work really hard and want it to be great. It's as simple as that. I want to tell people who are interested or intrigued or passionate about going into this industry, that you have to work really hard and you have to know your shit. Then you'll get there.
And it's a really exciting industry to be a part of. I was speaking to a photographer this morning who just started working in fashion in the last couple of years. He said “It's so weird. One thing is so relevant, and then it's on to the next thing. That’s so exciting being able to generate those ideas so quickly and being able to satisfy all these little things that you're interested in." And he’s right; it's all relevant to fashion. You can bring all these different interests together for fashion.
And where would you like to go?
I'm really interested in the commercial side. I want to do more of that.
I think brands are getting clever, and engaging artists in really interesting ways. It can be such a simple and fab transaction because you've got this brand, these are their coats, this is what they believe in, this is what they do. If an artist can connect with that, it's such a perfect thing. They get to use these gorgeous clothes that they really relate to, and it feels very in line with their aesthetics and their sensibility.
I don't think one is more interesting than the other but I've done less of the commercial stuff, so I'm intrigued by that. I'm intrigued by the idea of pushing brands into engaging artists in really interesting and different ways. Something really sccessful we have done for Miu Miu was with the artist Polly Brown and her work for the brand had nothing to do with clothes at all. We got her 100 boxes from Miu Miu; they have those gorgeous pink boxes. We were like, "Go do what you want with these boxes." She took them to the countryside to her friend's house. She stuffed them all into a bath, piled them on to a massive trampoline. Littered the over a field etc. Polly loved it, Miu Miu loved it.
That's so fun.
Is there an impact that you would like to have on the fashion industry?
I would like to be able to give projects to photographers that they always wanted to do. That's the impact that I would love to have, that a photographer might talk about something that I’ve commissioned and say, "I loved doing that."
Lastly, any advice for someone who looks up to you?
Don't try and do it all. Try and do one thing really well.
And be the best at it.