This is the very first issue of Vintage Magazine, and it is tempting to judge it by the cover. I was seduced by the huge watercolour Marie Antoinette and bold purple lettering radiating simplicity and beauty from the printed page. Since conventional wisdom dissuades us from judging books by their covers, I decided to take a closer look. Vintage is driven by editor Ivy Baer Sherman, who was inspired by the short-lived Flair Magazine that ran from 1950-51. Using different papers, inks and surprise elements in the layout, it attempts to recapture Flair’s absurdly artful presentation, which included die cuts and foldouts.
The articles are not only fashion-centric, for the publication aims to study the “impact of history on our present culture.” That said, I was more interested in the essay on Ferragamo than the one about Ferraris (about which I am not entirely surprised). The fashion-related pieces include musings on Barbie, a short history of hairstyles (with a flipbook feature) and an essay on Ferragamo’s invention of the wedge. The writing is interesting and provides some good synopses, but never takes a definitive stance. While it’s clear that Salvatore Ferragamo was forward thinking in developing the wedge (no less than a paragraph is spent namedropping his clients), the piece never seems to move beyond an inventory of material innovations.
Speaking of material innovation, Vintage Magazine aims to take print media to the next level. In a world where digital media seems to be eclipsing print day by day, this publication is aggressively tactile, providing an experience that cannot be duplicated online. Different paper weights are bound together by a red ribbon, with windows and flaps cut out. There is also a charming illustration spread where watercolour paintings are reproduced on thick textured paper. The most ambitious layout accompanies an article on record sleeves, with text written on pseudo-45 covers. The only problem is that these interesting shapes and sizes tend to, well, fall out of the binding. The flipbook feature, for example, which has cutout faces set into illustrations of hairstyles, loses its effectiveness when the images don’t line up properly.
Vintage Magazine is incredibly ambitious. While the debut issue did not blow me out of the water the way I had hoped, I eagerly await the follow-up. I was impressed by the attention to detail, even if it wasn’t executed impeccably. I would love to see these cut-out techniques applied creatively to a fashion editorial, but with such a broad subject matter, every issue is sure to be a surprise. The inspirational touchstone, Flair, folded because print costs were too high. At $20 an issue, I think the Vintage team have their costs covered. This mag is a fantastic experiment, and I can’t wait to see what else they will stitch together.
Vintage Magazine, by Ivy Baer Sherman, 2009
review by Hillary Predko