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the mb q&a

the mediabistro Q&A:
Bay Garnett, coeditor, Cheap Date

Hometown: Gloucestershire, England.
Age:
28.
First job: Intern at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
Career highlights: Fashion agent; fashion stylist.
First Sunday Times section she reads: Front section.

BY ALBERT LEE | If Visionaire was fashion media's epitome of the late '90s— expensive and self-serious in a sort of pointless way — then Cheap Date is the style guide for post-boom present day. A frugal yet fashionable quarterly about secondhand-clothes shopping, the publication wields influence beyond its tiny print run of 7,000, thanks to a cult readership among style journos in the know and a masthead peppered with demi-celebrities like Sophie Dahl, Marlon Richards (son of rocker Keith), and Paul Sevigny (brother of actress Chloë). One must admit there is something terrific about a magazine that can translate the experience of digging through smelly thrift-store bins into a rollicking photo spreads of the Hilton sisters in $12 dresses. On the occasion of its first full-color issue, out this week, "editor-in-cheap" Bay Garnett, daughter of fashion writer Polly Devlin, sat down for a chat with mediabistro.com.

How would you describe Cheap Date to readers who haven't seen it?

It's a fun, irreverent, antidotal kind of magazine about secondhand thrift collecting. It's an anti-lifestyle magazine. It's not telling you how to lead your life or what to do or what to buy. It's about imagination and thinking for yourself. It's non-dictatorial. Free-thinking, I guess. That's the way I see it. It's fun.

Who else is involved in it?

Kira Jolliffe, who founded the magazine in England, is the joint editor. Things change all the time. Right now: Marlon Richards, Gregory Homs, Pascal Dangin — he's a brilliant painter and retoucher. He's done so much for us. I met Pascal through Craig McDean who shot the campaigns, and Craig's a good friend. Everybody just got involved through friends. They're doing things they might not usually do. You can't call up an agent and say, "Oh, I want Karen [Elson] and Erin [O'Connor] to do their backstage steals, please." [The two models produced a feature, "The Best Things We've Nicked Backstage at Fashion Shows," for the latest issue.] It wouldn't work like that. It comes from a place of love. Certainly for Karen and Erin. They're really close friends. They're fun and clever, and they enjoy doing it themselves. A couple of years ago, Karen had been doing these shows, and she had on this great coat, and I asked her, "Girl, where'd you get that coat?" And she said, "I nicked it backstage." And so the idea was born. "God, imagine a story on the stuff." And she went, "Yeah!" It's a real Cheap Date story. It's a simple idea, but it really works, doesn't it?

In the new issue, you're covering Mary Quant, Jayne County, Jackie Collins... That's some editorial mix, Bay.

I suppose it's the same way that I dress. I don't follow any kind of guideline or rule. I was having lunch with Mary Quant in London, and I said, "I'd love to do an interview with you." She invented the miniskirt. She's an icon of the '60s. I ran into Jayne County and I thought, "God, she's amazing. She's an original." We were having dinner somewhere quiet, so really it just happened like that. And my sister was interviewing Jackie Collins anyway [for another magazine].

I love this "photo novella" with the Hilton sisters.

I'd been trying to get the Hilton sisters for a really long time, and it was proving very hard. I always wanted them. They're so obviously wantable for something like that, no? I did this very small Harper's Bazaar thing [Garnett was featured in a "Best-Dressed" story], and Nicky Hilton was with me there — she'd been asked to do it — and I asked her there. She said, "Oh, can Paris do it, too?" Annabel [Mehran] shot it — she's brilliant. It was terribly exciting. We wanted it for so long, and when something happens for Cheap Date like that, it's a really big deal, because it's not to do with a publicist. It's not to do with a celebrity puff article about plugging a film. It's about having an interest in somebody, genuinely. There is no other agenda. The agenda of Cheap Date is really quite pure and innocent, as opposed to a publicist going [in a pinched voice], "Yah."

So I imagine you don't deal with any publicists.

I can't. I've tried before. It really doesn't work for me. They don't get it. Maybe with this issue, they will more. I don't know. I really don't know. Do you think they would more?

I don't know. They're trained in a certain way to feed you things, and peg them to releases.

Yeah, it's so boring. So boring. I can't bear it. You know, like Vanity Fair. Like, give me a fucking break! Like, they have a picture of a celebrity on the cover with a quote from Byron, and it's all about the adoration of celebrity, and it just makes me sick. It's in no way engaging someone because they're interesting. They're just about these stars being different from you and I, and I think it's just horrible. I really do. I feel quite strongly. I think it's really, really horrible.

Karen Elson says you "are" Cheap Date.

What Karen really means by that comment is, I think, that I'm Cheap Date in terms of the ethos of hunting down what you want to wear. I'm quite style-conscious, but I don't like to pay a lot of money, and I like odd things, so thrift stores are the best places to find that. Whatever — I'm on Harper's Bazaar best-dressed list, and it's all secondhand clothes.

Of course, Bazaar is very much about what Cheap Date isn't.

I think it's a relief to people, Cheap Date. Because people can relax a bit. It's not another magazine that goes, "This designer is in." It doesn't matter. I mean, of course it matters, because there's a huge amount of money involved, and talent, but all these dickheads in the press — there's a lot of absurdity as well, within fashion. There's a lot of stupid people, let's face it. A lot of really fucking stupid people I've met. A lot of really brilliant people, but I mean, most fashion parties you go to, people are really boring.

Why do you think something like Cheap Date is important?

I don't think Cheap Date is necessarily so important. It's not feeding starving children. I think the reason people like it is that, with fashion and with commerce, it's all about news. Everything has to be new. What Cheap Date finally is saying is that actually things don't have to be new. You can just shift things. You can just do things in a different way. All those clothes [photographed in the magazine] are from thrift stores. When you read Vogue, the feeling that you're left with is dissatisfaction with your life. It's predicated on making you feel like that, because it makes you hungry for what's inside [the magazine]. You don't feel thin enough. You don't feel beautiful enough or glamorous enough or rich enough. There all these things — enough! Enough!

Who's reading Cheap Date these days?

I don't know, really. I get wonderful fan mail from teenagers, going [squeals], "I love Liv Tyler and I just want that T-shirt!" And things in the mail with sweet wrappers. And wonderful emails going, "I love Cheap Date, and I used to read fashion magazines, but you've changed things for me." Cheap Date does go across America. You can get it in Portland and different places. But I do think of Cheap Date as very fashionable.

Kristina Richards at Bazaar likes us. Stephen Gan, who's now the creative director of Harper's Bazaar, has been very, very supportive, before I was cool, before anybody knew about me, and I will never, ever forget that. The whole Visionaire team. I love what he's doing with Bazaar now. I don't know if [Vogue editor] Anna Wintour has seen us, but I presume she has; her son wrote a piece on haircuts for us. I remember [Vanity Fair editor] Graydon Carter picked it up once and said, "What's this? It looks like a hotel brochure." In front of a whole bunch of people at Da Silvano's. I was 26, you know? It was just devastating to hear. I'm older and tougher now. But it was just a really, really mean thing to say. Really mean. I don't need to hear it from an old man like him.

What do you make of the state of fashion journalism today?

I'm sure if I was a fashion editor, I'd take stuff from the cupboard, and I'd have a laugh doing that, but I don't care about the way they behave. It's of no interest to me.

What's the story of Bay? How did you come to the States and get involved in fashion?

I grew up in England for the first nine years in Gloucestershire. Then I went to a day school in London when I was 14. I worked in Venice at the Guggenheim Collection, I totally wasn't in fashion. I did a degree in art history at Exeter University. I always looked at fashion magazines... [Yawns] I'm so sorry! I'm so hung over... I remember my father coming back one day: "I found this big, glossy magazine called W, and it looked kind of marvelous, and I got you a subscription for it." My father got me a subscription for W. Isn't that cute? So that was really the first time I'd looked at fashion magazines. I had that in the middle of Somerset in western England, where we'd go down for weekends, and pore over the pages of W, and in that sense, I think fashion magazines have that kind of appeal to a young girl. They're very powerful. Some people don't really have an interest in it, like my sister Daisy. She was never affected by it. But I think I was. In fact I know I was. To say they've never had any bearing on me would be dishonest. They were very seductive. So glamorous.

Then I came here. I did an internship at the Pace Wildenstein Gallery in 1997. Then I went back to England, and then came back here in '98. I got a job as an agent, agenting in fashion photography and stylists. Cheap Date happened very gradually. I didn't know anyone when I came to New York. I just met one person, Jade Parfitt, and she was terribly kind to me. She's a very good friend. Then I called Kira and said, "Why don't I do a Cheap Date here?" And she said, "Okay." So I did one and then another. Then she said, "Well, I'll come over, and let's do it together," and I said, "Brilliant." So it started like that, and then we just did this color one. It happened like that really. Stories happen as I live, really. I've picked up maybe one phone to a publicist, and had the phone slammed down on me, so it's had to be very much like this.

What other magazines are you reading?

The New Yorker, to tell you the truth, is the only magazine that I buy regularly. I don't really buy fashion magazines. I just sort of look at them — Vogue, Bazaar. Sometimes I buy them, if I'm feeling lazy.

The whole project may sound like it's just good fun, but actually, you're quite serious about this project. What's your dream for Cheap Date?

To do another one. To make it better. To get some advertising,. To make it into a success.

Do you worry about becoming beholden to advertisers?

No, they can fuck off. If anyone's going to be advertising in Cheap Date, it'll be because they like Cheap Date.

Where are some of your favorite places to go thrifting?

Uptown, in the Eighties on Third Avenue. If I'm feeling depressed or anxious, I go thrift. For me, being alone with a trolley, hunting down and going through stuff, it's just so cathartic. There's something about it. I'm away by myself in the world, and I'm doing what I enjoy. It's a form of release for me. It's a real source of pleasure.

To find out where you can purchase Cheap Date in your area, please email cheapdatenyc@hotmail.com.

Albert Lee is the editor of mediabistro.com.


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