If there’s one thing a morning with Charlotte Jacklin and Charlotte Melling leaves you with- it’s a feeling of complete inspiration, the feeling anything is possible, some vintage dress envy (these ladies know how to rifle through some good second-hand) and a belly filled with homemade Elderflower cordial, naturally. In an age where people are more likely to construct an Instagram-ready flat lay opposed to pick up a film camera, it’s inspiring to meet, and talk to two women who show that not everything has to be lived out online, and that hard work most certainly does pay off- just be prepared to get your hands a little dirty…
So, for those that don’t know you- how did you both meet, and where did it all begin?
Charlotte Jacklin: So, we met about four years ago on Twitter, I was working on the second issue of Betty and I put a tweet out for contributors. Charlotte replied by email and then she called me with the biggest list of ideas- and said she’d like to do a shoot for Betty.
Charlotte Melling: So we did a shoot, got on really well and I just thought ‘I could help you with the visual element of Betty!’. I had been working in magazines for about 15 years and just wanted to do something a bit different. A publishing house were interested in Betty and said they liked what we were doing, so we thought ‘we have to get this in print!’
CJ: Yeah, I think it’s so nice to have something to actually touch and hold. You know when everyone said it was the ‘death of the magazine’ when the iPad came out? I think Charlotte made a really good comment; ‘there’s always going to be farmers markets, and there’s always going to be the Tesco Express’, there’s always going to be the fast gossipy magazines of this world but there’s space for really special print magazines too’.
CM: Yeah I think the Internet was almost the rebirth of independent publishing, there’s so much content online, it’s difficult to know where to start. I think independent magazines are so niche, that there’s something there for everybody, which is so specific and isn’t regurgitated.
Is there a certain girl you have in mind when putting everything together, who is the ‘Betty’ woman?
CM:I think we do, it’s probably just us- like if we don’t like it, it doesn’t go in.
CJ: I think there is a type of girl, but I don’t think it’s about the way that she looks or what she wears but the spirit of that person.
CM: I think it’s being young at heart, with a slight romantic and nostalgic side to it. It’s that youthful state of mind that people have forever. I think Betty is about celebrating what it is to be a girl, and to be young and have fun. That’s how we kind of launched our spin off project called ‘The Girl’s Club’. It’s bringing together all the amazing things that are in Betty and trying to bring it to life over an evening of cocktails, cake and chat. I think that whole new wave of feminism is about women helping out other women, and I think that’s the motivation behind the club. We want to be that slightly mentoring voice, and just say that ‘whatever it is, do it’.
So, did you always want to go into creating a publication, or working in magazines?
CJ: For me, it was just a happy accident. It was something that happened at university; it wasn’t something that I thought I’d still be talking about in six years time.
CM: I knew that I was interested in photography, and really loved interiors, I ended up as an interior stylist and working at ELLE Decoration and various places, but through working really closely with photographers, knew I was very visually driven, so was really passionate about that. When Charlotte and I started to work together on Betty, it wasn’t a university project anymore and if we were going to make it a business we had to sit down and look at everything that was on offer, and what was on offer twenty, thirty years ago. We researched it heavily and looked at the similarities between magazines like us and Good Housekeeping, and even a cross between Good Housekeeping and seventies Jackie. Visually we love that cartoon hand drawn element to Jackie, but the longevity of Good Housekeeping. If you find it in the doctors waiting room, you’ll always find something in there that is useful.
How do you get ideas for shoots, and features? Do you have any go-to’s for inspiration?
CJ: I think both of us collect things over a long period of time, like there are definitely stories and ideas that I’ve been carrying around for years, and the same for Charlotte with shoots. I think travel and going to new places and meeting new people. All I read are autobiographies, all I watch are biopics- my boyfriend thinks I’m obsessed, but I just find people so interesting. I think both of us, in terms of the past; both draw from the same path- so it’s a bit of a melting pot really!
CM: It just comes from everywhere. We just did a styling workshop recently, and sort of touched on that a little bit- just saying it is really important to just cast your net really wide. There’s lots of crossovers, but I’m very into music and seeing gigs, and Charlotte loves to travel and go to galleries. We both have very different skillsets. I think anything can inspire the shoots- Pinterest, different eras- it’s just finding ways of making it still feel modern and relevant to what people actually want to wear. It’s referential and just how we are. I think it’s having the confidence to recognize that, rather than following the trends all of the time.
What makes Betty so special to you both? How do you around selecting the contributors and making it what it is?
CJ: I think we put our heart and soul into it. There’s a really good book on Charlotte’s side that says the three greatest addictions in this life are a monthly salary, heroine and carbs- which I really enjoy, and I think both of us have worked so hard for so long, so when we’re working together it doesn’t really feel like work. The contributors are one of the most special parts. They come to us- through email, meetings, friends of friends and slowly but surely we kind of find the right people for Betty. This issue we’ve worked with around 100 contributors, and they’re all very Betty, and have that ethos that we talked about earlier.
CM: I would agree, and for me it’s quite interesting working with young people who are just starting out. We work with lots of different photographers, so it’s when people come to us and we find a little special thing about them. Andy, one of our photographers, had never done a fashion shoot before, but I just looked at his work and loved it. Betty is very much a creative project, so for when people are working for us they’re excited about what they’re doing and then it’s not a boring job for them or us.
What is the most satisfying thing about putting a mag together and publishing it?
CJ: I feel like with Betty we can work on it for hours, which is a lot of fun. Perhaps getting it back from the printers, which is pretty exciting! Also, Instagram is a great tool these days as we can see where it’s going. Yesterday I took copies to the post office and they were going to L.A, Italy and all over the world. Today Instagram is overflowing with people taking pictures of them and Betty, so it’s quite special to see people doing that. You forget sometimes that you’re selling it and people are buying it, so to be reminded of that is lovely, as well as seeing that community and making the world a bit of a smaller place.
CM: It’s a start to finish job, so we do get to see it from beginning to end- and we don’t pass the buck to anybody else. It’s very much like a family business. For me I just love coming up with ideas for shoots and seeing those through, looking back to when you’ve done a mood board and seeing the final images and thinking ‘you do look the same!’ which is what’s meant to happen. Just bringing those things to life, I still love that.
So what does an average day look like for you both? Does it exist?!
CM: Tea- a really strong cup of tea.
CJ: Tea- and chat, lots of chat. It’s a surprise we get any work done!
CJ: I come and work at Charlotte’s house, the kettle goes on, a catch up of the weekend, and then we kind of sit down. Just talking about what we’re planning on doing with the annual, talking about what we’re going to do next, where we’re going to take the business and do with Betty as a brand- there’s lots of pie in the sky ideas that one day we’d like to realize.
CM: But saying that, I don’t think there’s an average day too. We might have days where we’re meeting people, getting out there and chatting with people which is so important too.
CJ: I think that’s what I love about this, and my job in general- is that no two days are the same.
Who are the women who inspire you, and who is your main girl crush?
CM: Mine are probably people like Stevie Nicks, Blondie- and all those big female rock stars- style wise, you can’t go wrong really.
CJ: Mine are all quite similar really, like Ronnie Spector, Viv Albertine, Patti Smith, Kim Gordon- all those women that are out there, doing it for themselves, and just doing whatever the hell they want and being the change they want to see in the world. Barbara Hulanicki is probably my number one, and Zandra Rhodes. All these women of the sixties, seventies and eighties who have allowed us to be doing what we’re doing today is awesome.
CM: Yeah, I think we can learn a lot from them. I think unfortunately, society is so much about aging and women don’t get the respect they deserve. They’re creating families and having careers and doing all these amazing things- and as you get older people just become invisible because their hair turns grey. I just think there’s so many amazing and inspiring women, in our families and in our lives and I think that we can learn a lot from past generations.
Do you have any advice for any budding creative people, or anyone wanting to start their own publication, or style their own shoots?
CM: I assisted people for a really long time, and because of things like the internet, and blogs, I’m not sure people are quite prepared to do that as much now- as people can just do it. It’s so important to learn, and get a really good work ethic. The people who assist me, or help us out, are the ones we call back and the ones we feel really lucky to have. They’re the ones who are really happy to get their hands dirty and know how to work in the environment they want to work in.
CJ: I was quite lucky at uni, everyone who was my tutor worked in the industry. Piers Atkinson, the milliner, said ‘do what you want to do, but do a day job- and earn your stripes’. So I went to work with Lulu Guinness, Topshop, Paul Smith- and being around people like Lulu and Paul, and seeing what they’ve built up over the years, was absolutely invaluable. I think we all know how hard you have to work, and I think it’s that sacrifice, and really believing in what you’re doing. There’s no point in doing something for the sake of it. I think you’ve really got to have a motivation and a belief behind you, as that really shines through your main product.
To pick up the latest Betty annual (here), find out about ‘The Girl’s Club’ check out their site here! I also have a handful (5) issues of the annual to give away too! If you fancy getting your mitts on a copy, leave a comment below and I shall pick some winners at random on Sunday 12th July!