Zady Ambassador: Laura Brown
Interview by Soraya Darabi / Photography by Jessica Scott
Laura Brown has styled Scorsese, Tim Burton, Karl Lagerfeld and Kim Kardashian - she lives a life of glamour. Still, her favorite possession is a photo of her father dressed as Farmer Brown. As the Executive Editor at Harper’s Bazaar, and the host of the sensational video show The Look on Hearst’s YouTube channel, Laura Brown always knows what to wear and what to say. Her unique approach and willingness to take risks, to be different and to step outside the norms of fashion made her a natural choice to kick-off the Zady Ambassadors Series. Over the next few months we will be speaking with other pioneers of industry about their stories, and their unique vision.
Photography by Jessica Scott
SD: Laura, tell us how this all began: your grand career as Executive Editor of a very fancy American fashion magazine. Did it start with a childhood fascination of fashion?
LB: I had delusions of grandeur at a young age. I always loved fashion magazines. Partially being from Australia, you’re so far away, I was obsessed with what was new and what was next and just the idea of glamour. Glamour, to me, was art, movies, making things and being creative. Everything was shiny, I guess, so I never wanted to do anything else but magazines.
SD: When you moved to New York from Sydney, what magazine hired you?
LB: The first one was W Magazine. I freelanced for about a year, and then W gave this little immigrant her first visa, so I’m forever grateful to them for that. I was with them for a year and a half. I was senior editor at W, and then Details magazine came knocking. And then Bazaar had been knocking a little bit. They had a really brilliant deputy editor who had just moved over from the UK. So she came knocking, and then…nine years later.
SD: The way I view your role at Harper Bazaar is - here you have this traditional, iconic brand, a magazine that had been around for…
LB: …a hundred and forty seven years I think.
SD: …a hundred and forty seven years. Now, there is a huge burst of light and energy in Laura Brown. You’re bringing a tremendous amount of innovation to the magazine with The Look and your social media prowess. What does it feel like to take charge of that heritage brand and reinvigorate it for a new, digitized, generation?
I think the longer you’re in fashion, the less you think about trends.
LB: As a journalist, just as a rule, you have to be curious and you have to be about what’s next. At our magazine, we take that idea very seriously. We like to take somebody who’s seen in a certain way and reconfigure them to have them seen in another way. That’s what I do on my show, that’s what we do in the magazine. “I never thought that person could be like that, look like that, say something like that” and that’s why we’re so known for doing the arts and fashion collaborations. I find a lot of people in fashion just want to be fashion.
SD: At Zady, we talk about work-life integration….
LB: I don’t have work-life balance but I do have integration. I remember once a few years ago, someone asked me if I had any hobbies and I don’t. It’s not like l have this job, and then I go home and I knit or something. I don’t. My whole life is my hobby. I think that journalists don’t have that many hobbies because you have a breadth of experience that you can engage in at work. You can dip your toe into different people’s lives and talents. I’ll read a fashion magazine or I’ll sit at home and read The New Yorker and I’ll come up with an idea. I have no separation.
SD: What inspires you?
LB: Creativity – seeing how people get ideas. For example, I know I’m stuck on the balls, but I went to see Karl last season before the show, which is amazing, you go into his atelier and it’s like a Roman court, everyone’s kind of peacocking around and he’s just in the middle. And he was showing me this necklace he’d made and it’s two giant pearls and like a silver thing around the neck, but he’s like, “it’s modeled on headphones, no?” You know, it inspires me when people take modern references and make them fashionable. I love just seeing how people’s minds work and how they metabolize their inspirations.
SD: Lets discuss how you picked out your Object With Meaning?
LB: My late father Richard, who died four years ago, was literally ‘Farmer Brown’ … and he was a bit of a legend. My father could walk into a gas station or the Oscars and become best friends with everyone. When he was really sick, I went to his place and started picking up some pictures, and I happened upon this hysterical photo of him at the Royal Easter Show, which is a big agricultural show in Sydney. He’s sitting there, with two dudes who - I don’t know what the name of their job is - who shoot themselves out of cannons. Cannon jumpers?
LB: Acrobats. Two acrobats. And these guys have lightning bolts on their little silver suits and dad’s standing there with his Brown’s cows t-shirt that he designed himself, to much acclaim. It symbolized everything that he did, but also the sort of person he was. He was a dairy farmer that befriended everyone.
LB: He was very gregarious and I certainly inherited that from him. My other sister got his love of animals and I got the jazz hands.
As a journalist, just as a rule, you have to be curious and you have to be about what’s next. At our magazine, we like to take somebody who’s seen in a certain way and reconfigure them to have them seen in another way.
SD: What makes a piece of clothing timeless to you?
LB: Fit. For example, the fit of a shirt. A loose shirt with a great shoulder and the button just opens at the right place. I think that’s an absolute classic and that will always- you know those women that just wear those shirts just perfect. There’s an old picture of Charlotte Rampling from years ago, and it just falls, and it’s just sexy. More than whether you bought this season’s Prada coat with the faces on it.
SD: Have you ever been absolutely wrong about a trend? Just like putting your mark on something and saying this is going to be around for a while?
LB: I don’t think in those terms anymore. I think the longer you’re in fashion, the less you think about trends. There are some things from last season that instantly date themselves, and the minute people are wearing them, you’re like, “oh, that.“ We’ll present items to women to say wear them in your own way. When women wear those top-to-toe designer outfits, I’m like, “What are you doing? You don’t look like anything.” I haven’t bought into a trend for a long time. A dress might be a piece of couture, and you can appreciate the workmanship of it, but when it’s been boxed up to go to a shoot, you don’t tend to mythologize it as much as I used to when I was younger or as people might do who don’t work in the industry.
Fashion is like any business when you’re immersed in it. If you look at the relationship between Hollywood and fashion… each one thinks the other one is so much more exciting, which is a funny little currency. There’s a lot of curiosity there. So yeah, love fashion, but don’t live for it.
Shop Laura’s Picks on Zady
Mariniere Long Sleeve - I have so many striped shirts a friend calls me Kurt Cobain. You can never ever have too many.
Yucca Screen Printed Handwoven Scarf - I love a big loose scarf. A great neutral and a scarf is all you really need.
Oversized Stand Collar Shirt] - I’m a mega sucker for a boy style shirt. A good collar shirt, you can never have too many of them. Ever.
Mon Bateau Pullover - I put the boat in bateau. And, I like anything French or pseudo-French.
The Lucy Indigo - The team behind imogene + willie are fantastic. I met them in Nashville years ago. These jeans are like heaven and they wear so beautifully year after year.
Reversible Crewneck Sweatshirt - I wear more sweatshirts than is appropriate. They’re great with shorts and heels.