Magnified wraps 2017 with a look at FRANC, a homegrown biannual publication, which has blossomed over its four issues to date. It looks at ideas and the meanings behind our choices through a prism of evolving themes and conversations around fashion. We spoke to its founder Briony Somers.
Can you explain the origins of Franc and its sources of inspiration?
FRANC started in 2015 after Lauren (Henshaw) approached me about started a fashion magazine in Trinity College. I was really interested by the fact that even though I’d done work experience with Vivienne Westwood and Roksanda Ilincic, and had just come back from walking for Simone Rocha in London, I’d given up reading fashion magazines in favour of more academic stuﬀ. So the inspiration comes from how interesting concepts and ideas are at play in fashion. Sort of like if Malcolm Gladwell wrote about clothes.
The current issue discusses the concept of ‘presence’ through a myriad of prisms (protest, environmental, storytelling) though ultimately fashion is the constant thread of reference. Does the relationship of the chosen subject (obsession, pretence and fear being previous ones) to fashion dictate its inclusion for consideration?
Yes, but most things relate to fashion! The themes evolve out of each other so as we’re working on one issue I usually see a thread that we pull through as the theme for the next. When deciding if an individual piece relates to fashion we work from the understanding that fashion is a way of doing things, it isn’t about the clothing but the meaning and significance we attach to it. We would rather publish a piece about taste and desire, such as the essay on romantic attraction in the current issue, than reporting the details of the industry. Besides, writing essays for my history degree showed me that pretty much everything can be connected to fashion!
You cast yourself as founder, editor-in-chief, fashion editor and model in Franc. It’s quite Lily Cole of you if you don’t mind me saying. Is she a role model of sorts?
Oh she’d be a good one! I loved the piece on her in the last Happy Reader. Starting out I thought a lot about Anja Rubik who, a model who’s worked with pretty much every designer imaginable, launched erotica title 25 Magazine. At the moment I’m really interested in what Reece Witherspoon is doing with her production company Pacific Standard. In the way that working as a producer allows Reece Witherspoon to create, and star in, projects she really believes in FRANC has given me a huge amount of creative agency around skills I was usually deploying for others. With the theme for this issue being presence it seemed apt that we’d make decisions based on what felt right in the moment and Sean Jackson, the photographer, asked if there was a way I could be the model in our editorial. I think culturally we’re seeing a liberation of creative expression. As old gatekeepers fall away; someone like Aziz Ansari producing, directing, staring in and inspiring Master of None doesn’t seem so strange because traditional ideas of being a ‘comedian’, an ‘actor’ or a ‘director’ have fallen away.
What were/are your experiences of fashion as a model like?
Very informative! I have learnt a huge amount seeing incredibly talented people work; from designers like Simone Rocha and John Rocha, the photographer Perry Ogden and even the director Neil Jordan. When I was on work experience with Vivienne Westwood I got to watch her in her studio for almost a full hour because they wanted to fit something on me, modelling opens doors that can usually take much longer to enter. It’s an industry that doesn’t always respect the young women that work in it, but learning to stand up for yourself is a lesson that lasts a lifetime.
You state “the price of full presence is high….the feeling of presence, the high, the freedom and the insatiable desire for it not to stop.” Can you expand upon this idea?
I think we feel most ourselves when we’re fully engaged in something. When we allow who we are to emanate through something we’ve produced, and that can be anything, from a conversation to a piece of art, we make ourselves truly present. But pouring ourselves into something can require borrowed energy. It’s as if presence in one moment can rob us of the next. After each issue we’ve released I’ve got sick from exhaustion.
What are the greatest challenges to achieving ‘presence’ in a mental and physical capacity?
Fear. Being present means we are vulnerable to being seen and that can put us at risk of judgement, rejection and even violence. The theme grew out of issue three’s exploration of pretence where we looked at the image we construct of ourselves, as an act of fearful protection and an empowering playfulness. Presence means being guided by what we’re feeling and the moment we’re in. In many senses the current moment is defined by a battle over who has full rights to be present; physically in the case of immigration, emotionally in the case of marriage equality, safely in the case of women. Fearing what others might think or the enforced fears of a hostile society limit the extent to which we can tussle exist in the world. This is why the spoken contribution Joe Caslin gave at our launch, discussing his murals during the marriage equality campaign, was so powerful. It is important we not only listen to the stories of those we share this world with but we learn to connect to them, even if it brings tears.
What’s next for Franc? What are your learnings to date and the greatest opportunities and challenges to its future?
The next instalment of issue four will be the podcast we are launching in the coming months. We’ve got a really great network of stockists (including MagCulture and Magma in the UK) which we’re currently growing, eventually launching in the States. One of the contributions to the current issue was a t-shirt with an embroidered illustration by Elizabeth Gill. I’m really excited to see how we can translate FRANC into other items because FRANC isn’t about a particular product but an approach. I think the biggest lesson has been to not be guided by fear. Jill Sander recently said “you do the best you can in any given moment” and that’s what we try to judge ourselves on. The greatest opportunity would be how well we’re seeing FRANC translate into other markets. The challenge is holding our nerve!
What magazines have you most recently purchased?
I tend to do an occasional big shop so when I was visiting MagCulture over the summer I bought the Skirt Chronicles, interiors magazine Apartamento, The Paris Review and ideas based tennis magazine Raquet. My last at home shop was with the brilliant Sunday Books where I got Luncheon, The Gentlewoman and System.
Issue 4 of Franc magazine is out now priced €8.50 and available from Article, Stable, Trinity College Library Shop, The Winding Stair, Om Diva and Tower Records.
Words: Michael McDermott