Vol. 11
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

Throwing off The Balance with Inez Garcia

July 2015

Fashion editor, stylist, investigator, blogger and keen eye.

Inez Garcia is a fashion stylist with years of experience in the fashion editorial space, working on some of Australia's largest publications as a fashion director. In volume 11, we learn how she's adapted to the ever-changing environment of the fashion world by allowing herself to pivot and transform, never pigeonholing herself as one thing. By approaching every challenge and opportunity with a “why not?” attitude, she has stayed in an industry where so many have struggled to remain relevant. Her latest extension is Inez Daily, which she describes as part of the continual evolution and has now entered the digital space.

Inez Garcia--- 21 March 2014

By Lorenzo Princi

What do you do?

What do I do? I’m a modern day slashy. I traditionally am what is called a stylist, a fashion stylist, but just over the course of my career I’ve moved into creative consultancy, trend analysis, fashion writing, all an extension of the main thing that I do, which is: I’ve been a stylist now for twenty years. So I guess it’s all a natural sort of progression from the experience that I’ve sort of gained over the years doing that.

Yeah, it’s always that weird one when you’re like, filling in your custom form [laughs].

"I’m a modern day slashy. I traditionally am what is called a stylist, a fashion stylist, but just over the course of my career I’ve moved into creative consultancy."
Inez Garcia

What does fashion mean to you and where does your love for it come from?

What-- I guess for me I kind of got into fashion because I’m quite sort of interested and engaged and curious about the whole creative process, and for me fashion was a natural extension of that—When I was growing up, and you sort of-- interesting looking back in hindsight and it’s so interesting to see, you know, the inner stylist evolving, me not even aware that that was an option.

Like when I left school, I went to university and studied commerce because I thought that was a smart thing to do and going-- and then sort of going, “well, I like economics and I find that interesting and commerce and--” but kind of like, all my natural instinct and curiosity kept leading me in other directions and following that, and thinking that was a little hobby and then one thing led to another. I was studying, working in a bar, meeting photographers, stylists, art directors, stuff like that and kind of went, “WOW! This is an option-- this is a legitimate business.” And sort of-- that sort of piqued my interest and made me think “I’d like to explore this further.” So I guess fashion for me was just a natural extension of my curiosity about all things being creative, and then I kind of experimented with that, assisted a number of people, found out that I was quite good at it and sort of you know? Stuck at it and my natural curiosity kept pushing my idea of what it meant and like you know, I went from like, a small glossy high fashion magazine to an international fashion magazine. And then I went from that-- I sort of-- I left there and I wanted to go to the youth-- more the youth market and what that meant fashion wise within Australia. And then I left there and went to another international fashion magazine.

I was constantly just sort of wanting to grow and learn and explore and I guess-- very long winded answer-- fashion to me is just an extension of my curiosity about the creative process, yeah…

"Fashion to me is just an extension of my curiosity about the creative process."
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

You have a way of finding that quirky pattern that is emerging and highlighting it. Is it an inquisitive nature? Or are you really on the lookout for that type of thing? You mention your analytical work. Do you think that plays a part?

It’s so interesting that you notice that just by looking at my work because that to me-- I’m always looking to throw the balance a little bit, when I’m creating something. I always say I’m a big fan of asymmetry. I like the beauty and the disorder and it’s sort of-- I like the fact that you kind of see that in what I do. Does that answer your question?

Lorenzo: So it’s a conscious thing…

I wouldn’t say it was conscious because-- it’s funny, my husband, Dave, will often ask me to try and equate how I ended up there, what process, and I can’t. It’s kind of hard because you kind of know and it’s-- I’ve got this little Rolodex in my head that I go through when I’m referencing, movies and you know? Typography and you know? Creative references and all this sort of stuff, and it goes on in my head and that’s how I end up there and I don’t know why? Right? Yeah… [laughs].

"I’m always looking to throw the balance a little bit, when I’m creating something."
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

Touching on style and personal style, you’ve worked on multiple magazines: Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and The (Sydney) magazine, each with its own style, demographics, etc. How did you balance their needs and bring your own style to them?

Yeah and I think that’s sort of an extension of my curiosity that I never sort of sit back and go, “yeah, this is my thing” because I go, “that’s interesting but I’m interested in that too” and I sort of-- I guess, and I just pushed myself to learn and evolve and grow with that and adapt, definitely. because it was-- it was like, “okay, I understand this market but now I’m curious about that market.”

Like I move from like-- Elle Magazine to the Sydney Magazine because that was the advent of what they call, national insert magazines. Glossy magazines that they were inserting into newspapers. They were free, they had big circulation and I’m thinking “wow that’s a real interesting new market. I haven’t explored that before, I’m really interested to see how fashion works there.”

And then I was doing that for a while and then the job at Sunday Magazine came up and went, “oh, I’ve never done a weekly before, let’s see if I can do a weekly?” [Laughs] and then exploring that and seeing-- massive reach, like I-- that was three million readers there as opposed to when I was working on Harper’s Bazaar, we had a monthly circulation in around the fifty, sixty thousand and that to me was really interesting.

I’d often, sort of-- I’d be away somewhere, like on holidays and I’d be looking around going, “do these people read Sunday Magazine as well?” [laughs] “Am I relating to them? Am I giving them what they need?” It’s sort of-- it’s a fun sort of process and then I guess my current process at Inez Daily was further spurned on by that curiosity out of how, you know? Traditional print media and how it’s changing, and not growing, and dissolving and moving into a whole new digital sphere and “how does that work?” So yeah I went, “I’ve done weekly and now I’m going to do daily!” [Laughs], yeah...

You were fashion director of Sunday Magazine between 2005 and 2012. That surely comes with a lot of pressure. Aside from the fashion aspects, how did you find the job?

Yeah, I always put that down to my commerce brain, in that I really enjoy that side of business as well. I understand. I really enjoy and sort of-- wrapping my head around the mechanics of how a business works, and building a brand, and marketing a brand, and reaching an audience and then demographics and all that kind of stuff. That to me is actually interesting as well, and how you can reach and affect them and satisfy them creatively as well.

Like, I love the interplay you know? So many people-- there was a great quote that I love about how-- I’m not going to do it justice but it was along the lines of “people-- I can’t understand when people say they don’t like fashion. They don’t want to be seen to be liking fashion” because there is that triviality to it. But everyone is affected by it on whatever level, and you know how they are perceived by other people, and that for me I find really fascinating. And I love you know working on a team towards that, and delivering to an audience based around that sort of stuff you know? I guess in a way for me is also creative. Working within the limitations and seeing what you can create within that, yeah.

"Working within the limitations and seeing what you can create within that."
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You could no doubt have continued working directly for others. However you are now working in a more consultative fashion. Why? And how are you finding it?

I think because to me the writing’s on the wall to a degree, and I guess it’s a very controversial thing to say but a lot of people have said it before me: that traditional print media is dying, and they’re constantly looking for ways to evolve and change and grow so they’re keeping pace with their market because their market wants different things. And I could see that, and I kind of felt continuing trying to keep the status quo when everything else is changing around you, just didn’t make sense to me and it kind of felt if I didn’t evolve and grow then I was going to lose pace with what was going on, and that’s probably the most important thing, I think, in pop culture which is essentially what I work in.

"If I didn’t evolve and grow then I was going to lose pace with what was going on."
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

Do you feel that the traditional houses aren’t reacting, or that they can’t?

I think they are trying to, definitely, but they were slow to react and now they are trying to play catch up and trying to-- and in that process, there’s a... you know? It’s, it’s-- there’s no outlay to get a profile up online, and so there’s a lot of people that got in there quick and they built an audience and they sort of defined a whole new era, and the idea of editorial online and everything.

And-- and you know the bigger, more traditional titles, naturally are slower to react and they need to have an ROI attached to everything that they do and-- and I used to say, “how can you give that if no one has ever done this before?” So, yeah and it’s sort of interesting now and I’m sort of just-- I still have a lot of you know? Friends and colleagues and everything that are still working in magazines and sort of it’s-- it seems like it’s just a really grim time to-- when you talk to them about budgets and you know? Staff numbers and you know? Deliverables and stuff like that.

The rising of the blogger has changed things for fashion and has parallels in other markets. Influencers can emerge from the streets rather than the traditional channels. How has that affected your outlook and your need to change? You do this for “real” so to speak and it can be threatening...

Yes, very controversial topic too. Yeah and I’m always kind of taking the temperature on it, kind of quizzing people about it and there is very much an old guard/new guard sort of mentality and the old guard were slow to react but the really-- you know the ones with the really established careers, amazing portfolios, you know? Creative-- I think typically, that type of person doesn’t feel comfortable promoting themselves, they’re sort of naturally sort of introverted people that love the creative process, doing their craft and everything and after that they’re not marketers, they’re not brand-- they’re not out there.

And so, they were slower to react, and then there was all these young people that came through, which seemed to have no credentials, which were sort of and-- and saying, when I take people’s temperatures, seeing like the general feeling at the moment is that crest of the wave, saturation point, when is enough enough, and I am starting to see the rise of more traditional people coming up through the ranks, building a profile, being-- and the way I see it, sort of always related to it is it’s almost like our entire industry was inside a snow globe, and someone gave the whole thing a big shake up and everything’s all flying around. There’s no rules. People are making it up as they go along. Some people are rising to the top, some people are still floating around and slowly, slowly as the years go on there is a new structure that’s evolving and coming out and everyone always laments the fact, you know? “Oh my god! There’s so many fashion bloggers out there. Girls taking photographs of themselves in the street” and so I feel like the general feeling is that people are tiring and how much is enough?

And-- and I guess what I’m trying to do is-- for me that doesn’t feel authentic, to me. I don’t want to take photographs of myself, that’s not what I do. I understand there’s a market that loves that but I also understand there’s a market emerging that identifies with-- more with my demographic, what I’m doing is looking for something now online as well.

"It is it’s almost like our entire industry was inside a snow globe, and someone gave the whole thing a big shake up and everything’s all flying around."
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

What are the differences and which do you prefer, controlled campaign creative, runway direction, controlled but live or the more raw, real world feel of the blog?

I really love, like it’s never just about me, what I really love is actually bringing the right team together and working toward a creative process. I’ve always said, “it’s not about me and my vision.” I come up with an idea and I put a team together and I want everyone to bring their ideas together because-- and I’ll never go, “this is what I want to have at the end.” It’s kind of-- I’m really excited to see what-- what we end up with and so you know? All my years of working as fashion director on different magazines, I’ll be like, “okay, I want to do a story about tailored suiting and I’ll go, “this photographer does fantastic studio lighting, he’s got this great sort of androgynous style to what he does, I want to work with him.” And then he looks really great, he works really well with this hair stylist and I want to work with-- coming up with that and you know? Really sort of giving a chance for the whole team to come together and create that.

So that to me is my favourite working-- you brought up like runway, I’ve done runway before and-- and I don’t love it because I kind of like being a little bit more considered and having that sort of chance to sort of work together as a team and have this organic process to come up with the final product. Yeah, yeah but in saying that I do love the lack of over thinking that goes into blogging as well-- and like you don’t have to go through five, six different channels and three months later it comes out-- I love the fact that I can go, “I love Khaki shirts right now, Khaki looks great with everything, I’m going to do a post about Khaki shirts and that’s it.” But I guess there is still an element-- I’m still controlling all of it, so that’s kind of nice [laughs].

"It’s never just about me, what I really love is actually bringing the right team together and working toward a creative process."
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

The noise levels have increased, there were always a heap of magazine and fashion weeks, but when you throw something like The Sartorialist into the mix, all of a sudden there is a 24/7 infinite cycle of fashion advice. How do you fit in?

Inez: What’s my plan? Yeah, I guess I started out with Inez Daily again out of curiosity. I was curious to see how fashion editorial transitions into the digital hemisphere and what it meant and sort of like exploring-- I, I didn’t really know-- I didn’t even know what a Wordpress site was, you know? I started with like zero knowledge like, you know, and just working my way through that and-- and working out and even just breaking the idea of what fashion editorial meant. For me it used to be an eight, ten, twelve page fashion shoot that you know? Dictated a trend and a theme and a story. Now it doesn’t haven’t to be like that and I’m exploring all of that.

So, I guess for me I treat Inez Daily as an extension of my own creative portfolio. I have the work that I do, I have an agent that represents me for all my sort of creative work and then Inez Daily is a new way of looking at my own creative portfolio and showing, “this is my aesthetic, this is what I do, these are the teams that I work with, these are my thoughts.” And it’s sort of interesting to see what’s come out of that just by putting it out there and just being true to what I feel is my aesthetic. Like, for example, I get jobs now for doing fashion writing. I didn’t even know that was a-- it’s just a by-product of what I was doing. People are going “I love what you are doing, I love your aesthetic and I love your voice - can you write?” And I was going, “okay? Sure!” You know? And I love that! I’ve kind of never done it before but I’ll give it a go [laughs]. I got approached once to do a short film based on the fact that I was a stylist and they said, “could you put a short film together for International Women’s Day,” I’m like, “never done it before, okay, sure, I’ll give it a go” and it was, it was a tortured process because I had to learn from zero to one hundred and it ended up know you? They screened it at the Dendy on International Women’s Day and it was fantastic but I just kind of go….. but it was good!

Yeah, again it was kind of going “I love this photographer, I love his style, I love his approach, I’m going to approach him and say hey do you want to do a film with me?” and then finding these women and interviewing these women and working out how we are going to shoot them, and where we are going to shoot them, and how they are going to come together, and what’s the music going to be in the background, what font we are going to use. So you know? All that sort of stuff... that was… yeah.

So how does Inez Daily work into all of that? Just part of the big picture I guess [laughs].

"Breaking the idea of what fashion editorial meant."
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

What’s next for you Inez and what’s next for fashion?

I kind of-- I’m really sort of keen to keep growing Inez Daily as a brand and build that as a fashion voice and a fashion authority, and it’s sort of really interesting, sort of slowly, slowly seeing how it resonates with people and you know, I get feedback from people and I-- I’m building a stream of income based on people that relate to the site and see it as you know-- important. So I’m really keen to sort of see that keep growing and evolving and building the audience and the brand and taking that as far as we can.

Fashion? It’s sort of an interesting one. I still find it curious, like, the us and the them. There is a lot of really sort of well established talented people that are, completely like, “no way, no how, this is not the way I do it.” And they’re sticking you know their head in the sand going, “this is not happening, this is not happening.” They are getting lost and all these other people are coming in and doing behind-the-scene videos and sort of like you know? Doing Instagram really well and that sort of stuff and they go, “I hate all that stuff.” And then you’re going “well, you can hate but then everyone just leaves you” and they move on and it is, it’s heartbreaking and sort of-- so it’s a weird sort of dichotomy that, some of the most talented photographers that I know, are rubbish on Instagram because it’s not their thing and kind of interesting to see how-- how that will grow and evolve and affect them as a whole, and even the way people are using content now for me is really interesting as fashion brands. Before it was like a season campaign and they put a team together and spent x amount of money on a location and everything. Whereas now they split their marketing budget over on-line and social-media and sort of videos and all that sort of stuff and they’re planting it everywhere instead of having this--

So what used to be a great job for a traditional photo you know, doesn’t exist anymore. So where fashion goes? Again, it’s-- we’re somewhere in the middle of that snow globe right now sort of trying to find our feet, work out where it’s going to go. You know, even the demise of the Australian fashion industry, such a well talked about subject, but the loss of people like Collette Dinnigan and Lisa Ho, just recently Josh Goot and like really well respected talented people and you’re going “if you can’t make it work, that-- there’s really something major going on right now.”

Whereas people like COS and Zara and Uniqlo and all those guys, you kind of go, “Isn’t it terrible?” but they’re obviously answering to what people want!

Retail in Australia in general has been struggling across the board, but in fashion it seems to be mainly around good medium cost products which anyone who has shopped overseas knew about and started accessing online.

Yeah, it was so telling, a couple of years prior, people were like, “people just aren’t buying clothes, the industry is going down” and then Zara opened and it was like-- there was like a queue all the way down-- well you were probably still working at Westfield at the time, [I was a designer on Westfield’s online properties at the time with Inez’s husband Dave, whom I interviewed in Volume 4]. “People want to spend money, you’re not giving them what they want.” That to me was really fascinating, a sort of cross section of society going on there-- look at you know-- what’s going to be lost? I don’t know, when you lose people like Josh Goot out of the industry, you kind of go, “what are we losing?” But as with so many talented people that I worked with over the years in magazines that are no longer working in magazines, I kind of try and be positive about it and go, “but their innate talent and creativity is not going to disappear, it’s going to go away and it’s going to bubble up somewhere else.

Lorenzo: Right, the printing press died, not typography...

Exactly, right.

Lorenzo: That’s probably where the challenge is…

It’s uncomfortable and it’s unsettling but that true creative-- you know? It’s innate, it’s within you and I think the exciting thing, you know, it’s obviously hard for people that are going through it but the exciting thing is to see where it ends up. Once all the snowflakes settle, what comes out of that, what new, wonderful creative things, we are going to look back and study it-- our children are going to study it and so, you know, the evolution of modern day media and how we ended up there… yeah…

"The exciting thing is to see where it ends up. Once all the snowflakes settle, what comes out of that, what new, wonderful creative things."
Caffeine & Concrete Vol. 11

Follow Inez at Inez Daily

Proofreading by Cinzia Forby & Luke Yates.