Don’t call them “fashionistas,” but they own mad style. April Zhang ’13 and MJ Batson ’13 are the founding Editors-in-Chief of Unhemmed, Brown’s online fashion style magazine. We had the opportunity to have a conversation with the bubbly pair and share some laughs before yesterday’s new issue and website redesign(!) launch. Unhemmed has collaborated with Blog before for Street Style, so we were thrilled to feature them this week on Pub Crawl (formerly Blog on Pubs).
Four semesters and eight issues ago, the magazine was yet unsewn, just the beginning threads of an idea. April was frustrated by the lack of activities on campus that satisfied her attention to fashion, so her friend Hannah Levy ’13 suggested she start her own to fill this need. MJ came up the name, they sent out emails and made announcements, and soon, especially because that spring also saw the exciting first Brown Fashion Week, they found plenty of interest to start the publication.
The goal of the magazine is to make fashion more accessible, helping people see and learn about it, with a focus on Brown students, personalities, and everyday trends. Its audience is “hipsters, nerds, jocks, whatever, normal people, whatever that means” — ideally “speaking to the masses” and “transcending any borders.” No specific style is endorsed. In fact, April doesn’t think she would win “best dressed,” and MJ merrily claimed that most of the time, she’s “a hobo.” (But, she exclaimed: “Are we the best people for the job? Hells yeah!”) While the two obviously work well together, they certainly make a dynamic duo, “opposites in pretty much everything.”
April is all about color, patterns, obnoxious textures, sequins, leopard print, neon, and fun clothing. She makes clothes herself and frequents thrift stores for tacky garb, organized by color the same way that her closet is, that is easy to customize to fit. Best buy: a sweatshirt from Salvation Army on a half-off Wednesday last semester displaying a nature scene that an old lady would wear in a casino (complete with “Foxwoods” emblazoned on the sleeve), an item she can’t wait to wear all the time now that it’s fall.
MJ, who doesn’t shop much, describes her style as hobochic, fauxhemian, or hippie with a girly streak, as she loves chiffon and anything flowy. But she also favors combat boots and, depending on the day, will not hesitate to use the same outfit all week and not care (Stressed April: “I would never do that!”). She is quick to challenge the initial intentions of a garment, wearing a dress and turning it into a skirt the next day with a belt. Her sewing machine is broken, and she’s never made anything for herself, excluding the first thing she ever sewed — a hot mess of a skirt.
Now that the mag is established, with new plans for timely site coverage and increased presence with plans for event sponsorship, panels, guest speakers, and street style days to increase visibility, I asked them what fashion meant to them and if it had changed. Both agreed that having a passion for fashion doesn’t necessitate stalking Vogue, being versed in industry knowledge, and having the latest season “it” item, but it’s about “expressing yourself.” While Unhemmed looks at the runway too, it highly values street style—confidence, effort, sense of individuality that stands out by being put together and causing viewers to pause or turn their heads—and generational concepts, as evidenced by their inventive, visually striking photo-shoots, whose creative themes are inspired by varying seasons and “stuff going on around in the world.”
Learning more about fashion has opened the editors’ conception of it. April sagely declared that “it’s not what you wear, but how.” MJ explained, “As I became more of a real person, I realized there was no such thing as a fashion faux pas.” The old her despised denim overalls as “hillbilly,” but now she thinks they’re great, though she doesn’t personally like it for herself. Likewise, she used to associate leopard-print leggings with old ladies, but after seeing a girl who looked “way amazing” in them, she no longer regards them as “terribly disgusting.”
MJ and April also love the fashion at Brown in particular. The concentration so far has been on women’s wear, but the mag is aggressively pushing for menswear, because as April emphasized, “the men here dress well too.” April liked the famous Paxson scarf and is a fan of the recent hair dye trend. She’s thinking of getting some blue locks herself because she likes color, though the look might be “getting a bit ubiquitous.” She also lamented that it’s hard to wear cute shoes at Brown because she feels limited to flat, comfortable shoes due to the uneven sidewalk conducive to falls. And MJ is enthusiastically determined to feature KBerge in a future issue!
Where to get it: Online
When to get it: About once a month, with more online content as the site develops
Get involved/in touch: Unhemmed’s masthead consists of 20-some staff members and department editors, who meet twice a month. They’re bursting at the seams with creativity, but they’re always looking for new contributors: writers, photographers, artists (including multimedia), and web developers. Tips, ideas, and nominations for “That Girl/That Guy” are also welcome, as well as Brown artists or musicians to feature in the entertainment section. Submit or join by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for the web division.
Accessory Unhemmed would wear: A diva sunhat with a “really bigass brim” because it has the confidence to rock it
Theme song: “I’m a Lady” by Santigold