A Look at The Lissome

I have a friend from publishing days who could read the first and last page of any book and then pass off a fairly believable impression that he had read the whole thing. I’m happy to own that I don’t exactly know what all our magazines are about. With so many stock submissions every week I simply don’t have the time to scrutinise each one as closely as I should and it follows that every new magazine we agree to take on is something of a punt.

So I didn’t really spot The Lissome for what it was. Despite a very good submission pitch I was about to head off overseas and distractedly pinned it down as another fashion magazine with a concept of some sort bolted on (or worse, ‘a fusion’) and left. But not without ordering copies first.

I’m happy I did, because when it arrived back in February I saw straight away that The Lissome is exactly what we look for and particularly right now when the majority of fashion magazines are facing a rethink about what they are for in a changed marketplace. 

Created by Elle Germany graduate Dortë de Jesus, The Lissome appeared online in 2016 out of Berlin. The first print issue, printed as environmentally sustainably as possible and published locally, is composed by an international, predominantly female collective. It’s what be might be called a sustainable fashion magazine but more accurately it deals in solution-based mindful fashion. In common with very popular titles we’ve had through Magalleria such as Elementum Journal, Human Shift and more recently Emergence it has a determined holistic and interdisciplinary approach to content so that you’ll open it to find distinct layers of science, spirituality, opinion, agit, art, photography and artisanal creativity all baked into its core theme of ‘fashion’. 

Beyond the production credentials it’s worth mentioning how impressively designed The Lissom is. It isn’t anything innovative, but it is noticeable how seamlessly its components – text, illustration and photography – are integrated within its beautiful, creamy pages. Interestingly the publishers build on the definition of ‘lissome’ in the sense of being calm and of graceful, going further to describe it as ‘something that is fundamentally ineffable, a moment of serene awareness that you’ve experienced but never had a word for’.

The Lissome is made up of feature length articles, interviews, essays and photography, threaded with various manifestos. The magazine begins with an interview outlining a new manifesto on fashion and sustainability from The Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion (UCRF) who call for international academics to unite to drive change in the fashion industry. Interviewed by sustainable fashion designer Ania Zoltkowski, there’s lots to ponder here although the language of the discussion understandably sounds at times like the way people with postgraduate qualifications talk to each other (‘There is a tacit consensus that the phenomenon we call fashion is a Western concept and with this comes many unchallenged assumptions that tie it to a colonialist view of the world’). One of the founders of UCRF, Kate Fletcher, is quizzed in a separate interview further into the magazine. We’ve sold many copies of her short book Wild Dress over the last 12 months, and this more casual exchange feels a lot more inclusive. Further along, Zoltkowski’s longer essay ‘An Eco-Spiritual Perspective for Fashion’ might sound a tough sell to anyone not completely engaged in the subject but I found it fascinating and compelling. Making the point that the fashion industry is now of the largest contributors to global climate emissions, waste and over extraction, she brings plenty of concrete examples of practical sustainable business efficiency to cement understanding of what we must look to do. The accompanying illustrations by ink maker Nick Logan are sensational too, and superbly reproduced.

The longest piece is an interview with CHANGE Festival founder Becky Burchell and the environmentalist, writer and former Friends of the Earth Director Jonathon Porritt. Despite almost 50 years as a leading ‘green thinker’ Porritt has slipped off the radar somewhat, his views diverging from contemporary eco-luminaries such as George Monbiot. Burchell’s discovery of Porritt’s 2012 book The World We Made makes the starting point here, describing a time in the fairly distant future (2050) when the earth has navigated to a stable, successful place because world leaders have moved away from economic growth to rely instead on ‘measures of wellbeing, environmental resilience, community cohesion and global justice.’ Burchell adapted the book for theatre, and as it proves a very accessible, multiple-stranded construct for discussing positive change here. Again, there’s some exquisite artwork (drawings by Petra Börner) to go with it.

There’s a lot here, too much to mention, including a honey bee crisis-themed fashion shoot that manages, somehow, to be subtle. On the subject of subtle, there is advertising in The Lissome, or what it calls ‘holistic advertising’. Like a handful of other magazines employing Sponsors Pages in which advertisers/sponsors get block acknowledgement in a few centre pages of the magazine (check Offscreen), The Lissome shares the same generic approach but places the sponsor statements with their logos at the beginning, with each assigned page bearing a photograph of a tree planted as part of a re-naturalisation project in Berlin.

It underlines something that does emanate from The Lissome, and that is the interconnectedness of things – arguably this fits better than ‘interdisciplinary’. When it seems that we may never return to how we thought and behaved before the pandemic, it’s the thinking found in journals such as this – published just before Coronavirus – that we should turn to.