the family way


A great Sunday morning = A thoughtfully-published magazine fresh off the presses, milk, toast with my aunt's smashing home-made kaya (a sweet, fragrant, spread made from coconut, pandan, and egg, has a sort of nutty/caramelised flavour).

The rest of this post is a long ramble about magazine siblings Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman. Feel free to skip...

I've been meaning to purchase Fantastic Man for ages, but never got around to doing it. Just as well that their latest cover featuring the dapper David Beckham looks incredible. He may have a small voice, cheated on his wife, and is merely a good but not exceptional footballer, but he is the best dressy male celebrity there is. All other fancily-dressed male celebs just look styled and, I don't know, conspicuously dressy, but David Beckham just seems natural with all his elaborately coiffed and gelled hairdos. The interview actually surprised me a little, he came across as a more level, genuine person thank I would have thought.

Fantastic Man on the whole is somewhat better organised than its sister, The Gentlewoman, and also less profile-heavy. I guess it makes for lighter reading and offers a bit of relief. It follows the standard magazine format of having shorter, snippier "what's new" things at the front and profiles and editorials at the back. It also has some of the hearty, "what's up with that" tone all men's magazines seem to adopt.


Like The Gentlewoman, they have a sure hand with picking interview subjects for their profile stories - I read every one of them with interest. I actually preferred Fantastic Man's fashion editorials, because they have a sense of play. The Gentlewoman did a great job with the fashion-y aspect of the magazine in the second issue, but their third issue was so heavy-going when it came to fashion - it lacked levity and felt like a drudge. I don't think fashion is shallow, but I don't think fashion is so serious either.


Fantastic Man's snippets and articles are also better presented in terms of context. You understand the relevance of the things they talk about to the greater world. The Gentlewoman starts with that Modernisms section where the subjects feel random. I suppose it's meant to look like a series of essays and discourses - about cooking, flowers, whatever - but to me, a magazine needs to have purpose, and if you pick a subject to discuss you make it clear "why we are talking about this, and why now". It's not just enough to assemble a bunch of interesting women - I'm not interested in stuff happening in a vacuum.

Maybe I'm judging The Gentlewoman by magazine conventions which the magazine actually seeks to break from, but while some things need to evolve, some common sense principles about how people should read and be presented with information are established for a reason, no? Some of my fave bits in the new issue of The Gentlewoman was that one about women in Berlin, which was cool because it was snapshot of women in a real city, in their own spaces, and how they live. It had context.


In the same vein, Fantastic Men could have done better - they had a great profile of men in four cities, with beautifully shot portraits of interesting people, but they were all studio shots. Why bother telling me this is Berlin and this is New York when it's all a white background anyway?


I think there's a deliberate attempt to strip down and really keep the focus on people and what they do, which is nice, but again, people in isolation is just not compelling to me. The world doesn't revolve around them, they're making a contribution to the world, so why not show a little bit of that.

That said, both magazines are stars; and they are issues to be bought and kept and reread. It's not easy to find a magazine that's more than shiny happy pictures and I'm looking forward to the next issues already. In the meantime, I'll be happily reading and rereading this.


Alexandra said…
Really interesting post. I'll definitely get myself a copy of Fantastic Man. What I love about the Gentlewoman is that it has more sustenance than other fashion magazines available currently but I agree with you in that it can sometimes get caught in it's own trap. Having said that there is a definite vision which feels very right for the moment and am interested to see how it evolves as the trend for all things Philo dissipates. I maintain that it's the most interesting magazine on the market currently though.
Alice said…
I haven´t read any of them, but I will definitely purchase them the next time I come over them. I get what you say about Gentlewoman, about it having these random pages with random subjects. I do like the fact that it makes it interesting, and you don´t know what to expect, or get, but it is also very confusing. I like "headlines" and sections, to know how to save, arrange and memorize it in my head.
you´ve got a great blog btw!
hannah-rose said…
fantastic man is a very good magazine.. i think the issues with the gentlewoman lie in the fact that it is still a bit young. I do agree that there are some problems that need to be nutted out - the first issue was so great though! i'm giving it the benefit of doubt haha - but time will fix most of these.. they do need a good sub editor however, someone to just sit down and find all those pesky little spelling mistakes and grammatical errors that creep in.

the shot of the man playing with the dog is so joyous.. i sometimes find it sad that there aren't more fashion editorials like that. I mean with real joy, not just manufactured joy. You used to find a lot of them in teen vogue, young, happy and carefree, but now it's all a bit disney sanitised...

Alex said…
fantastic man looks really interesting, and the editorials so much more fun than the gentlewoman's..I think in the most recent issue of the gentlewoman it could stand alone without the editorials which were just depressingly bad imo..but I really liked the stories on Fatima and Mabel and at home and at work. I don't think I would buy another issue sadly
0000 said…
Really interesting post! I've been really interested in this Gentlewoman because it seems all the bloggers are raving about the magazine. As I don't read any magazines, I've always been a little curious. Both magazines seems really great and well-assembled--maybe like a more serious Nylon magazine circa the late 90s/early 00s. Still, 25 dollars for two issues is a bit steep. How thick is the Gentlewoman?

I might subscribe just for the hell of it, but it seems like they only put out an issue once in a blue moon!
Nanashi said…
thanks for the post, I've been curious about the gentlewoman for some time (actually, I almost ordered the item from Creatures of Comfort). Fantastic Man was also among the magazines I wanted to take a look at. When in the gym and my choices are Self, Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Details I always end up choosing Details, the only men's magazine that is not about muscle boosting. Sigh. I just wish there was a good bookstore around here where I can flip through them before making the purchase.
Joy said…
Hmmmm...never heard of these magazines before. Where are they from?
lin said…
Alexandra: Agreed, I look forward to all the issues, and the profiles are all excellent, usually featuring unexpected subjects. I highly recommend Fantastic sells rather fast so I've been missing it but I'm definitely going to make more effort to get my hands on it when it comes out next.

Alice: Thanks! Yes, I do hold on to some conventions about editorial and publishing I can;t let go off yet :)

hannah-rose: Agree about the editorial with the dog, it's so good, and I've been going back to look at it. The mistakes in The Gentlewoman bother me too! But I want it to succeed as well, because it's exactly what I needed from magazines - something that isn't Vogue, but something that isn't too image-heavy either like Numero or Another or V etc etc.

Alex: Yes, the fashion was so grim in this one, it had no joy. But I really liked the interviews too, the one with Colette was cool, because I haven;t read a profile of Sarah anywhere else. And it's also nice to read about Vanessa Bruno.

0000: The Gentlewoman is about 204 pages, with ads, and beautifully printed and bound. It costs about the same as British Vogue for me here in Singapore, so it's not really outrageously expensive for what it is. It's definitely more serious and less pop than Nylon, which I also used to love when it first came out...wish I kept all my old copies. Anyway, the The Gentlewoman comes out twice a year...

Joy: The publishers are British and I believe the magazine is published in Britain. The interview subjects also tend to be fairly UK and Europe-centric but by and large still interesting enough for a non-UK/Europe reader. The Gentlewoman is really young, just started last year as a biannual magazine and only in its third issue.

Nanashi: I'm lucky to have a very comprehensive Kinokuniya in Singapore that stocks a fantastic range of titles, and there's always a browser copy on hand. Incidentally, the cost per copy has also gone down quite a bit. which is giving me hope that the magazine is doing well and circulation is going up.
son said…
interesting - am definitely inspired to check out fantastic man. i hope these mags help encourage others to up the ante on good interesting writing & topics, rather than the usual blather in between images.
lin said…
son: I hope so, I noticed they had more advertising in the magazine than in previous issues, which makes me feel like there's a genuine audience and market for something like this!
Fashion Tidbits said…
I'm going to have to disagree with you here, what do you mean that david beckham is not an exceptional football player???! He is definitely more than just 'good'!
If Jane said…
dying to get fantastic man (rather this issue!!!!) friend who works at the magazine store alwaaaaays suggests fantastic i see you two are in sync...;))
lin said…
Fashion Tidbits: I've touched a nerve I see :) I respect him as a player, but I'm just not as inspired by his play as I am by others, haha. As an all-time fave,I love Zidane, and I'm loyal to Man U because of stewarts like Ryan Giggs and of course the great legacy of Eric Cantona...maybe if Beckham had played on at Man U I could love him more hah. That said, I really enjoyed the Beckham intw, you should try to read it..

If Jane: I'm a latecomer to Fantastic Man myself...but better late than never. I say definitely buy this one.
Fashion Tidbits said…
Hehehe, all is forgiven. :P i see you are a man u fan too!

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