A chat with The Gentlewoman's EIC Penny Martin

A chat with The Gentlewoman's EIC Penny Martin Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for chipingym.jpg
Indie women's magazine The Gentlewoman is a fave here at Gym Class HQ. What's not to love? We had the good fortune to chat with editor-in-chief Penny Martin for our sixth issue (way back when). We thought it about time we touched base with Penny just as the tenth issue of The Gentlewoman drops (with Swedish musician Robyn on the cover, FYI). Over to you, Penny.

What makes for a great The Gentlewoman cover star? And how do you juggle the often contrary forces of celebrity (for newsstand punch) and obscurity (for industry respect)?
I know when a cover star has really hit the mark when someone says to me, "Oh, I really love her!", as if to say they don't just "love" them in the sense you're meant to love a woman in the public eye, but that you "really love" them, in a more personal, passionate and perhaps secret way. Those Gentlewoman covers people have "really loved" are the ones with a big story, extraordinary talent, an element of surprise and who maybe aren't featured on magazine covers very often. Plus a great portrait helps. So I'd say Adele, who we were the first to put on the cover of a women's magazine, and Angela Lansbury are strong contenders. Plus Phoebe Philo was important for us since she was our first, Beyoncé was obviously crucial since she allowed us to portray her in such an unexpected, Gentlewoman-ly way, and now Robyn, who I've been after since we first launched the magazine. There has to be balance between interest, recognisability, topicality and glamour. Luckily our ten cover stars thus far have them all.

What's the process of deciding on a cover colour?
That usually gets decided in the final days of production. Since our cover portrait is always black-and-white, you'd think it would be quite arbitrary but you'd be amazed which colours don't suit which portraits. 

How much attention do you pay to other fashion magazines? Do you see mainstream women's fashion magazines as competition on the newsstand?
Oh, plenty - I just love magazines and consume them with all the excitement, obsession and pleasure as anybody else. Clearly, all consumer magazines are supported by similar advertising sources but in terms of the newsstand, no, I don't regard other women's magazines as "competition". When you see us presented alongside all the other titles, it's pretty clear we look, feel and sound completely different. It's a lot of work to maintain that point of difference but really worth the extra effort.

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