You guys know who Jane Pratt is, right? Because if you don’t I don’t know if we can be friends. Remember how the word “authentic” was tossed around like rice at a wedding at the Lucky FABB conference? Well Jane Pratt started that whole authentic thing back in the ’80s. She founded Sassy magazine when she was 24, started Jane in 1997, and earlier this year launched xoJane.com, her first online publication. She was writing in that irreverent (and kind of honey badger-ish come to think of it) “blogger voice” that’s all over the Internet these days before there were even blogs. But you totally already knew that. I was super lucky and privileged to meet her today at her office in Manhattan for an interview. She had just returned from the Diesel and Rodarte shows looking tres chic in a navy vintage lace dress she told me she’s had for a decade and Marc by Marc Jacobs shoes. Read on to find out how she feels about Tavi’s new publication, Rookie magazine, her transition from print to online media, and what she wrote in her diary as a teenager!
Stylenik: So you just came from Rodarte, how was it?
Jane Pratt: I really liked it and the music was beautiful. It was very dramatic. The thing that’s so different for me now being at shows is it used to be that in print I would be at the shows, getting inspiration, really taking in the clothes, and each 20 minutes or whatever that I’d be in a show was one of the more relaxed, focused 20 minutes of my day. Now, I’m sitting there with my phone going: ‘Oh I’ve got to get this thing posted up onto the site before someone else shows that shoe.’ So it’s just changed everything so much that you’re not just there. Even at Rodarte, which is one of THE shows of the season, I felt like I couldn’t really relax and take it all it. But I’m not complaining!
Sn: How’s the transition been from print to online?
Jane: I love it. I feel like it combines what I love about live radio and the live TV that I’ve done with the written word which I also love. It combines a lot of things that are very natural to me. It HAS, I think, exacerbated by ADHD tendencies. I know that ADHD is a real thing and I have not been diagnosed with it and I’m not trying to make light of it. But I feel like it’s just really rare for me to feel like I actually am where I am. I’m always thinking, ‘Oh that post should go up, or I should be tweeting this.’
Sn: That totally happens to me too! How’s it feel to be with a smaller company rather than a Conde Nast-style set up?
Jane: It’s great. I started Sassy with an Australian company that was big in Australia but Sassy was actually their first American publication. So that was actually small. And then it got bought by different people. Then Jane was started with Fairchild, which is big in trade publications but in terms of consumer only had W magazine at the time, and then got bought by Conde Nast which was a whole different thing. But I really like a small to medium sized company. I feel really comfortable when I feel like there aren’t so many layers to go through…
Sn: To get something done…
Jane: Yeah. But nothing against Conde Nast, certainly. They did a great job with Jane.
Sn: You’re very much the face of xoJane.com, as you were at Jane. How do you feel about that — did you always want to be the face of something or did that evolve?
Jane: In a journal from when I was a teenager I wrote down my goals, all the things I wanted to accomplish. Some of them still need to be checked off the list: like, I never slept with Prince. Or not yet! HAHA. There are still things to check off. But one of them was: start a magazine, and then in parentheses: either myself or with friends. So I always sort of had in mind that it would be really fun to do it with a group of friends. Being the face of it, I always wanted all the people working on Sassy to be known characters, and same with Jane. But that was never my goal to be the face of a magazine. It was to produce really good content.
Sn: I feel like you really spearheaded what a lot of the bloggers are doing today.
Jane: It could very well be coincidence. I don’t count myself responsible for it but I do see a lot of the voice that I was really adamant about maintaining at Sassy and now at xoJane. I see that now as what’s considered a blog-style voice, which is very spoken and first person.
It was crazy, by the way, starting it — the writers would come in with an article and I’d say: ‘OK, just scrap it.’ Then I’d turn on a tape recorder and say ‘just tell me the story.’ and transcribe it and all the ‘likes’ and ‘you knows’ and however they’d say it is what I’d print.
Sn: It’s been hard for me to find that voice as a blogger, having been a journalist most of my career. But I find it liberating as I use it. But I still wonder if anyone cares about what I’m writing.
Jane: Oh I still go through that! I still put up little posts and I wonder ‘does anyone but my mom care… does my mom even care?’
Sn: HAHA. What do you think about Tavi’s new project?
Jane: I think it’s great. I think it’s really good.
Sn: Are you bummed that you won’t be working together?
Jane: I actually just saw Tavi, I got to talk to her for about half an hour before the Rodarte show. We were both being grumpy about the fact that last season it was a photo op to have us sit together. This season we were on opposite sides. But we stayed together until the show started. She’s amazing. She just really is one of those rare, rare talents. I think what she’s doing is just phenomenal. I don’t feel sad. I feel like it is what it is and it’s going in the direction it should be going in. I’m really glad I got to be part of it, and I think that for me the most exciting thing was to reach out to her way back when like a year and a half ago. Just to reach out to her and say I think there should be a Sassy for this generation, I think you’re the person to do it and let me help you however I can. That was really my goal.
Sn: Is this the first time you feel like you’re working on something that’s not targeted at your own demographic?
Jane: I’d be really curious as to what you think is the target demographic of this.
Sn: Well I like reading it, and I’m 43.
Jane: Oh I thought you were younger.
Sn: THANKS. (I love you Jane! -kp) I love reading it because I think it’s really fresh and genuine — for the same reasons I loved reading Sassy and Jane. And I don’t necessarily feel like it skews younger than me. But maybe I’m not that similar to my peers because I don’t have kids yet and I am really into fashion and I might be more into that stuff than other people my age.
Jane: That’s really interesting because Sassy was very narrowly targeted to 14 to 19 year olds and I was very precise about that and Jane was 18 to 34 but very focused on single 20-something women. And with xoJane I really do feel like… I’m 48 and I feel like as you get into your 40s, your mindset does not change that much. You’re still into clothes, you’re still into sex, and even if you have a kid like I do you’re still into all that stuff.
Sn: I’m glad to hear that!
Jane: Yeah! So I think part of the thing for me was to be really inclusive about doing something that’s for women in general.
Sn: I love that idea because I think it’s smart not to make people feel like oh I’m reading this thing that’s too young for me. I think it’s better to be inclusive.
Jane: I really do feel that way too and of course the older I get the more I feel that way. I also feel like from an advertising standpoint it’s important to have a certain demographic you’re reaching, but I actually feel like the future is much less gender oriented too. I think that the same material can be of interest to men, to women, to transgendered people. I just don’t think that gender is such a defining factor anymore in terms of what peoples’ interests are. That’s one of the reasons we cover sports and tech.
Sn: That’s awesome, thank you so much!
Jane: Yeah, this was great!