Interview: Music & Magazines in New York City

Scott Shapiro is a young, talented New Yorker who not only had a growing career at established industry magazines like V and V Man, but also has ambitiously been running his own magazine Phosphenes, which local Parisians can pick grab that latest issue featuring rapper Azealia Banks at WHSmith on Rue de Rivoli. Read below for some insight on the industry from one of fashion’s rising stars.

What were some of your preconceived notions of the industry before you officially entered it? I kind of thought it would always be a very serious, cutthroat environment where everyone was always on edge. I also thought everyone would be super bitchy. And I’ll admit at a certain point I thought it was a super glamorous industry.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned to be true and false of the industry? In certain cases, all of my preconceived notions proved to be true; there are so many people who treat fashion as life or death (which, spoiler alert: it’s not), there are tons of bitchy people, and yes at times, there are some really glamorous perks… But I was surprised at how much work really goes into all of this, and the extent to which people bust their asses to make things happen.

What made you start Phosphenes? I was literally just bored one night in college, procrastinating writing a paper or something, and my friend encouraged me to start a fashion blog… It was all just me writing about my thoughts on things in fashion, then it evolved into shoots and longer articles and other projects. Then in 2016, I noticed a pattern amongst the projects I was working on, sort of a theme that was forming, and I decided to just go for it and start printing Phosphenes as a biannual magazine.

How do you fund the magazine? Funding has been a bit tough I must admit, as we’re still working on getting advertisers. I try to just be smart about the funds that go into producing these shoots and other features and work with reasonable printers so I can make something off of the sales. I’m really happy to say that our stockists keep expanding and sales have been going really well lately, especially for our fourth and current issue. But I’ve definitely had to save up a lot over the years and often end up paying out of pocket for a lot of things.

I know you got Azealia (still dying) for the cover of your latest issue of Phosphenes, how did you get her and what was it like working with her? Big shoutout to Israel Mejia, one of the members of the team working on Phosphenes. He helps me bring a lot of ideas to fruition, and he did a lot of the coordinating behind the scenes that got us our feature on Azealia. It’s our first celebrity feature and the biggest feature we’ve ever done, and I’m honestly so proud of it. She’s been one of my favorite artists for the past almost 6 years, and I still can’t believe we’ve had this opportunity to work with her in this capacity and give her the respect she deserves. She’s so funny and outspoken in person, and her sense of humor is SO New York: intense and kind of vulgar. But she’s really involved in the creative process (at times she was almost directing the shoot herself). She’s just a very real person who doesn’t put on some sort of contrived image like most people in the public eye tend to do, and I really hope to work with her more often.

How important is Fashion Week for you? Ugh, I honestly hate Fashion Week sometimes. I get its purpose of showing the clothes for the upcoming season and everything, but I think it needs a major overhaul because it seems like it’s all just about spectacle these days.

Who’s in your dream team to work with on a fashion project? I would love to do a shoot with Alek Wek by Alexander Saladrigas with a really major stylist (unsure of who that would be off the top of my head). Would also love to do anything with Rihanna, like if I were able to work on that shoot with her by Harley Weir and Robbie Spencer for Dazed I’d lose my mind. There are just so many people that would be a dream come true to work with.

What’s the worst thing you’ve seen happen in the industry? I think the worst thing, which sadly still goes on in the industry, is the insane issue with diversity. I genuinely don’t understand how in 2018 we still can’t do a better job at representing a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, ages, body types, and other different types of people without it being a gimmick or a statement. It’s frustrating that people can’t commit to inherently focusing on diversity and showcasing it as a natural part of the world without trying to prove a point or get a pat on the back, and it’s even more frustrating that people get so defensive and combative when the conversation is brought up. We need to do better. I also think that the amount of abuse people allow models to go through is unacceptable, and the same goes for the mistreatment, underpaying, and other unfair situations that assistants, interns, and anyone else lower on the totem pole is expected to tolerate.

Best advice for someone trying to break into the fashion world? There’s sooooo much bullshit you’ll have to put up with almost all the time, but it’s all about just having a good attitude about things and being really respectful of the people you’re working with. At the same time, it’s important to stand up for yourself and let your voice be heard; obviously don’t complain about every little thing, but definitely speak up if you’re feeling abused and taken advantage of. I’ve learned that as long as you voice your thoughts respectfully, people tend to respond well.

Author: Vince Calvi

MBA Candidate, Global Fashion Media at IFA Paris

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