It was a hot and bright Saturday morning in mid-January. As usual, I was mindlessly strolling through Miguel Dasso, the go-to place in Lima to have coffee, walk around, and do nothing. Dolce far niente.
I went into a clothing shop. As soon as I entered, there it was. It stared at me, almost daring me to grab it. It had bright yellow edges and a photograph of a smiling girl on its cover. The Happy Issue; it read. Skin Magazine; it headlined.
I purchased it, crossed the street, sat down on a balcony and got lost in the careful words that were laid out in front of me.
As I read on, I noticed the issue had been published with the purpose of tracing a delicate line between what happiness is, what it means for creative expression, and how it is palpable through fashion, if the motives are genuine. Pictures of smiling models were a refreshing, contrast to the usual weird poses and mannequin-esque gestures of the high-fashion world. It read:
“We dedicate this edition to happiness, to show the creative minds that transmit it through their work and vision and are focused towards a positive and spontaneous attitude. (…) We must understand that happiness is ephemeral, like fashion, like trends. It accompanies us during specific moments in our lives. It goes beyond the number of followers or likes in our social media.”
I was so deeply touched by that phrase that I decided to contact its founders: Antonio Choy-Kay, fashion editor and stylist based in Milan, and Gerardo Larrea, a fashion editor and illustrator based in Lima. A couple of weeks later, they accepted my invitation for an interview. We met digitally, with more than six thousand miles between us three.
Below, I go on to reveal the most important take-aways from the interview.
How did Skin Magazine start?
Antonio: To talk about Skin Magazine, we need to go back to where we started. We’ve been working together for 21 years. We started by creating a fashion brand, named Skin. This served as a bridge for becoming art directors and stylists. After gaining experience through different collaborations, we wanted to create something that allowed us to express ourselves freely. In the year 2013, we started Skin Magazine as a continuation of our clothing line’s creative vision.
Gerardo: We both love fashion and are actively engaged in it, so we wanted a platform that allowed us to showcase our vision. For years, editorials didn’t allow us to use monochrome portraits, but we love them. So we embedded that into the magazine. Skin was a way to build a platform for new designers, who created projects exclusively for the magazine. We value aesthetics, core themes, and harmony. The challenge, now, is to create an original angle for the new publications, without compromising our magazine’s identity.
Skin Magazine, then, became a biannual fashion publication.
In your introduction to The Happy Issue, you write: “to say that happiness is the goal that every human being must achieve to feel full is perhaps one of the greatest inaccuracies in life.” What inspired you to write this phrase?
Antonio: Pure, tangible happiness is hardly ever present in fashion magazines. Glamour, sensuality and aggressiveness are prioritized, and giddiness is escaped. Smiles are regarded as something vain and empty, but we wanted to flip that concept and justify its profoundness. We wanted to create a new perspective on happiness. We didn’t want to add to the cliché of happiness being the sole objective of life. Rather, we wanted to express that happiness visits life, every once in a while, and we should cherish it as that. Happiness is fleeting, yet warm and wholesome. We felt it was important to stress that happiness comes in moments. Part of enjoying life is living through those highs and lows and finding meaning in each of them.
In this issue, you focused on drawing a connection between simplicity, playfulness and fashion. How do you feel these concepts have impacted your life personally?
Antonio: As one grows old, one notices certain things in life as more valuable than others. Throughout our lives, we’ve grown fond of simplicity. Having a close-knit support system, enjoying your job or enjoying good health are simple things, but they’re crucial. We believe that beyond happiness lies tranquility, and that’s what we should all aim for. We should note, however, that happiness should be enjoyed by what it is: something fun and spontaneous. We have applied that philosophy over the years, both in our personal and professional lives.
Gerardo: To add on that – as you grow older, you begin to build on your priorities and interests, and what you consider important. You choose what makes you happy, as simple as it may seem. We have grown with that idea together, valuing simplicity and prioritizing our creative freedom above all. That’s what we try to embed in Skin: we want space for our concepts, we want something simple and straightforward, and something clear, concise and beautiful in itself.
I asked them about their friendship. They had been working together for 21 years.
Gerardo: It’s been 21 years of companionship. Now, we’re like twin brothers in mental sync: we have both nurtured and grown this friendship, strengthening our connection through respect and care, even during our disagreements. In the end, we’ve met half-way, and we feel good about that.
Antonio: Our partnership as Editors-in-Chief has also nurtured our friendship. We know each other as equals, and we lift each other up through mutual respect and good communication.
Finally, I would like to ask you about your new publication: The Heart Issue. What do you aim to communicate with it?
Antonio: The Heart Issue is a continuation of our previous two publications: The Happy Issue and The Interior Issue. Within this one, we aimed to explore how we have creatively progressed as editors given the new reality we’re all experiencing, and to show how the creative process always entails vulnerability and honesty. Now, more than ever, we have realized that the most important thing is to be a person who spreads good energy. We wanted to dedicate an issue to discuss that in a positive and wholesome light.
Gerardo: The Heart Issue is our tenth issue. It symbolizes our passion for high fashion, and the heart we put into it as a team of editors and contributors. It gives us great joy that we have an enthusiastic team of photographers, journalists and designers who want to collaborate. This issue is also an homage for them.
I thanked them and we left the meeting. As my pitch-black screen stared back at me, I realized I had come a long way since I purchased The Happy Issue. In the end, I had the amazing opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with the Editors-in-Chief.
To Antonio and Gerardo: my deepest gratitude. Thank you for the opportunity.
Cover: Excerpt from The Heart Issue, courtesy of Skin Magazine
Edited by: Yili Char