Meet the NY Mag editor changing the fashion game
The world needs more women like Lindsay Peoples. As fashion editor at New York Mag’s TheCut, Peoples is at the forefront of journalists pushing for real-time change. When she’s not serving major looks at Coachella or leading talks about the issues facing Planned Parenthood and women’s rights, you can find her disrupting the digital sphere with seriously impactful content. She has a knack for stripping down stories to their no-bullshit core, contextualizing fashion trends and celebrity profiles within a larger cultural landscape. Authenticity is evident in every detail – from a puffer story styled on Lil’ Yachty, a profile celebrating inclusive youth like Rowan Blanchard, to an interview with Issa Rae (one of her favorite pieces) that is pure black girl magic – Peoples has clearly found her purpose.
Her warm, Midwestern charm was unmistakable from the first hello. But it was her sureness and passion for telling stories about women and culture, and people of color who are doing great things, that instantly drew me in. We talked about speaking up, how to make fashion work for you, and all the shifts in the digital space. My only regret was that I didn’t meet this woman sooner.
COOLS: Can you explain your path in fashion? How did you get where you are today?
Lindsay: I am originally from Wisconsin, a place that is not at all in the fashion world. [In college, I] originally thought I wanted to be a designer. I remember watching the Hills and thinking ‘Oh, I can do parts of all of these jobs,’ and in reality I cant. I felt like I really needed to know what I was good at and what I could bring to the industry. So I went to a small arts school in Iowa and I would come to New York or LA in the summer and intern. The first magazine that I [interned] at was Teen Vogue, and I actually ended up working there right after school. It was such a pivotal point in the industry because things definitely started to change. I remember when I was interning; everybody was going on all these lavish vacations and everyone in fashion had like forty people on their masthead for one department. And then things definitely started to change in the space of digital [becoming] more prominent.
I [stayed at] Teen Vogue [for] two-and-a-half years. I was a market assistant there; I [assisted] Mary Kate Steinmiller and Gloria Baume. I would help them with shoots and conception and making sure they had everything they needed, but I did feel the pull of wanting to write. That’s when I decided I wanted to go to Style.com. I remember it being a very big, “oh my god. What are you going to do there? Online is such a scary world!” – everybody at work was telling me to be careful. But I loved it [there.] I learned a lot. I got to work with Nicole Phelps. She’s a legend and she’s incredibly intelligent and she just – knows her shit – there’s no other way around it. I worked for Rachael Wang as well – one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. She’s incredibly generous and so smart, and she knows what it’s like to be in fashion but also just be a real person. So she really was always giving practical advice on what to do and how to get where I wanted to [be.] She was one of the people who opened the door for me at New York Magazine. She heard about the position and really rooted for me to start working here. This is the thing that most bosses don’t do – she was like, ‘you’re ready to fly on your own. You don’t need to stay under me anymore.’ I am forever indebted to her for that.
So, I’ve been at New York Mag for 2 years now.
COOLS: You’re a fashion market editor, so your day to day changes a lot. What’s the most rewarding part of the job?
LP: I think the most rewarding part of my job has been finding my purpose. Which sounds really cliché, but I don’t think it’s something that happens often in fashion. I do feel like there’s a lot of people in fashion who ware mindlessly wandering and liking the clothes, which if fine. But I really feel like I’m doing what I was born to do; in the sense that I am talking about women of color and culture, and it meaning something. Not just being like, this girl’s cute and we like the way she dresses, but what this woman brings to the table, what she does for the world. Hey this woman is important and she’s doing something for us. People always ask, ‘what’s your motto? What’s the one piece of advice you’d give someone?’ I always have to remind myself of this and why I’m in it, why I’m doing it. Just liking clothes, or just liking fashion, isn’t enough to keep you emotionally there, in my opinion. To keep inspired and to keep [going] forward and keep the conversation pushing forward in a positive way, you really have to think, why am I even doing this in the first place? For me, it’s what my mother said to me a long time ago; ‘you have to stay in this because you needed this when you were younger. You needed to see women of color doing amazing things and being on magazine covers and telling their stories and you needed to see people that were like you.’ For me, finding that purpose and being what I wanted to be when I was younger, is the best thing.
“[I] really feel like I’m doing what I was born to do; in the sense that I am talking about women of color and culture, and it meaning something.”
COOLS: One of the things that drew me to your work is that you’re so outspoken on social media. Do you see the social space changing as more and more people are speaking up?
LP: I definitely think that things are changing; I just [believe] that you have to want to see that change. It’s very important for me, and if I don’t see things changing and if I’m not able to talk about the diversity of culture, then I don’t want to read it. For others, their priority is to sit front row. And to each his own, I’m not knocking anyone. But as things change, people are starting to realize that there’s more to life than this vapid side of fashion, and we have to use this platform and this amazing creativity to [create] social change.
COOLS: I have to commend you for calling out Vogue for their false attempts at ‘diversifying.’ Did you have any qualms about this?
LP: I get a lot of people would be like, I would never say something like that because oh, they would never want to hire you. But, if they ever were to hire me, it would be for my voice. They would want me to be honest; they would want me to bring my perspective. I don’t have any qualms with it because I feel that brands do a really good job of just checking boxes. They’re not trying to push the conversation forward, or consciously learn about these communities that aren’t being heard. And for me, I love Vogue. I read Vogue. I’m not a hater of it. But I will call you out in a second if you do something that’s completely disregarding these women. It doesn’t really make sense to me and so many people hit me up and were like ‘aw, man I wish I was bold enough to say that. I wish I would have said something’ – and they work at Condé! It’s really not that big of a deal to me. We should be able to have conversations about race and be like hey that wasn’t okay and that wasn’t cool because of these reasons and here’s how we improve. We have to be checking people, because if we don’t they’ll just continue to be ignorant.
“Just liking clothes, or just liking fashion, isn’t enough to keep you emotionally there, in my opinion. To keep inspired and to keep [going] forward and keep the conversation pushing forward in a positive way, you really have to think, why am I even doing this in the first place?”
COOLS: Favorite piece you’ve ever written?
LP: I wrote a piece last year on these nine black female judges in Alabama. I think it’s really interesting when you can talk to women about their life and their struggles and it not be in this clichéd tell us about your workday and your work-life balance. Really talk about the issues that they face in their community and what it’s like to be in a male dominated work environment and facing these racial issues in a time and a place that has [had such] horrible racist things [happen.] And they’re really such a good example of people who are like, ‘look, we’re sick and tired of police brutality in our neighborhood, we’re sick of racism and we’re all educated so we’re going to run for office and be judges in our district.’ It’s something that has never happened before and they’re just bosses. Talking to them was like talking to your girlfriends. They weren’t pretentious, just really fun to be around. They’re examples of normal people who said, ‘ok, we are going to make a change in our field.’ And I feel the same way about fashion. This is the field I work in and this is how I want to change it. Even though we work in completely different worlds, we had so many things in common and that was really cool for me.
It’s between that and Issa Rae. I love her. Insecure is an amazing show. It was one of those things where I had been pushing and pushing to feature her. I remember when the copy came out and I loved the pictures, I loved the interview. It was one of those rare moments when you can actually spend time with someone. We ended up staying after the shoot for like two, three hours after wrapping and just talking, about everything. And that’s black girl magic; Just pure love for another black woman.
“We should be able to have conversations about race and be like hey that wasn’t okay and that wasn’t cool because of these reasons and here’s how we improve. We have to be checking people, because if we don’t they’ll just continue to be ignorant.”
COOLS: What advice would you give to young journalists wanting to enter the field?
LP: I always get asked this question and I don’t know if there’s a good answer. Because during the time that I’ve been in fashion, which is not that long, there have been so many jobs cut and people used to spend so much money and go on these crazy trips and it’s not that anymore. Mastheads have downsized dramatically. People are doing print and online whereas it used to be very separate. I feel that if you want to be in fashion, you have to have a niche and you want to do something that’s different and that we don’t see. Everybody likes Balenciaga, obviously. It used to be this thing where you could just like clothes and that’s fine, but the landscape is changing. It has to be more that just the clothes, you have to have something more to say. You have to bring something interesting to the table.