When discussing the ins and outs of VICE magazine, “fashion” isn’t likely to be the first thing that comes to mind. Sex, drugs and investigative journalism? Totally. But fashion… well, it’s just not at the forefront, if not seemingly counterintuitive to everything VICE means to stand for. And so, sitting down with Style Director Annette Lamothe-Ramos — she of controversial Burqa-wearing fame — to discuss her role at one of the world’s most popular and equally as controversial free publications, I was unsure of what to expect. A coked-out hipster clad in raggedy looking “thrift” look and a Cat Marnell twitch? A “fashion” girl with a chip on her shoulder? My future best friend?
And so, as Ramos walks through the door to the VICE offices, small in frame and surprisingly mild-mannered, I’m unsure of how to react. Ramos is dressed well, in a silky cream blouse, high-waisted shorts and tights. Her hair is cropped in a cute bob and she wears a simple slick of black eyeliner. She’s a pretty girl, that’s for sure. One that is equal parts girl-crush worthy and entirely approachable. Someone who would be just as at home at a rock show as second row at Milk Studios. Which is pretty much the way VICE looks at style and fashion; while VICE plays a large role in the independent world of street style (the “Do’s and Don’ts” section has been a staple forever), the magazine’s approach to fashion is pretty removed from the industry itself.
“The big thing about us is that we don’t really focus on the construction of a garment, or who makes it, or the famous people who are wearing it, ” Ramos explains. “It’s more about how we can mold it into a story that has an actual beginning, middle and end — anything that isn’t a model standing in front of a white wall and jumping in the air.”
AVE-Done, Photos by Aliya Naumoff
This approach to fashion editorials comes to fruition in corpse-filled murder scenes (fashionable corpses of course), Richard Avedon retrospectives and a space-themed fashion shoot which Ramos is excited to see featured in March 2013′s fashion issue. “It was the most intricate and expensive shoot we’ve ever done,” she boasts. One can only imagine what dark crevices of the outer world VICE plans to take us to next.
The VICE approach to fashion steers clear of the flashbulbs of New York Fashion Week. Though some might frown upon the somewhat mainstream designers that tend to be featured in the magazine (a hell of a lot of American Apparel), that’s just not where the priority stands. Fashion week is more useful for scouting the people who are actually attending the shows than watching girls walk down the runway. After all, VICE is a magazine for the people. It’s free, it’s coveted, there’s an element of exclusivity to it that differs from the abrasive and somewhat cliquey nature of the fashion world.
To read VICE is to insert your self in a community; “We’re always working with amazing contributors. A lot of them really understand our brand and understand what kind of fashion we would want to incorporate,” says Ramos. Inspiration for the many photo shoots can stem anywhere from television shows to comic books to a great outfit caught on the street.
In Broad Daylight, Photos by Bruce Gilden
Apart from the visually stimulating editorials, Ramos also recently put herself in the spotlight — perhaps unintentionally — when she decided to write about the experience of walking around her native New York clad in a full-body-covering Burqa, the garment traditionally worn by women of Islam for a story called “I Walked Around in a Burqa All Day (And I’m Not Muslim).
“I wanted to separate the garment from any religious meaning. I had to purchase one for an editorial and instead of having it go to waste, I thought it might be cool to see how it feels to wear one in 75 degree heat in Manhattan.” A way of separating church and state perhaps?
Well, things (unsurprisingly) didn’t go quite as planned, and to the genuine surprise of Ramos, the backlash was big. Everyone from the Daily Mail to Gawker picked up the story, trashing Ramos for her somewhat flippant statements; “Oh you know, just hanging out with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones [and Allah] on the subway platform,” captions a photo of Ramos in front of a movie poster. Referencing Batman and virgin brides may not have helped the controversy either.
When asked for the motivation behind this assignment, Ramos is confident and well rehearsed in her response; “I just wanted to know what it felt like to wear this piece of clothing. If I’d dressed up as a nun, people wouldn’t have cared.” Editors quickly released a statement, explaining their decision to run the article, but by no means apologizing (the response came with a spoiler alert stating “we’re not sorry.”)
“The point was to treat these articles of clothing as any other — completely secular and devoid of higher meaning.” And from the hurt expression that runs across her face at the mention of the slew of irate comments that followed the VICE article, I have to believe her. It’s unlikely we’ll be seeing Ramos running around New York in a Hijab anytime soon. Suffice it to say that she’s learned the lesson that no matter what your intention might be; you can’t walk around exploiting someone else’s traditions and expect not to ruffle a few feathers.
Stick ‘Em Up, Photos by Richard Kern
That’s not to say that there won’t be plenty more to see from the Style Director, who has been with the magazine for nearly 7 years. Once hired to model in a VICE editorial shot by Richard Kern, Ramos is now collaborating with the acclaimed photographer on next years fashion issue. Though she won’t let too much slip, Ramos does give me one tidbit to take away about what to expect from the issue; “Americana. It’s going to be focused on Americana.” And no matter where you come from, there’s a certain hankering for those star spangled banners, ten gallon hats and classic American pride. Bring it on Lamothe-Ramos. Here’s hoping the fashion team hasn’t been scared away from pushing the boundaries we’ve come to expect from the folks at America’s most balls-to-the-wall zine.
And for anyone who thinks that being Style Director of an international magazine is easy work for a gal, think again. When Ramos isn’t busy ruffling the feathers of the religious rite, this working woman is getting her hands dirty in just about every aspect of the business. From consulting on marketing strategies to wrangling talent, Ramos, who has been with the company longer than she’s been an adult, is seemingly the go-to girl for anything and everything.
When asked what’s next for her, it’s an easy answer. “I could work here for the next ten years if they’d have me.”
Adobe Fashion Shop, Photos by Ben Ritter, Styled by Ramos
Il-Sung Songs, Photos by Ben Ritter