‘Hard ears won’t hear, own way will feel,’ photographer Ronan Mckenzie’s used to hear her Bajan-born mum say over and over while she was growing up. When Ronan was looking for a name for her new magazine last year, the old and familiar saying immediately sprung to mind.
Ronan created fashion title Hard Ears as a reaction to other magazines– so many of the industry’s titles made her feel like an outsider due to their sensibility, the cultures depicted and the people represented. The name Hard Ears felt right because it’s obscure, personal and unrecognisable to the fashion industry Ronan is offering an antidote to – the 304-page hardback tome is physically different to other publications and the content diverse and deliberate, concerned with showcasing voices and ideas usually under-represented or entirely ignored. It’s part of the same scene of magazines as new London-based Nii Journal, which is also published by an art director and aims to address diversity in the world of fashion editorial.
Ronan teamed up with close friend and Central St Martins graphic design student Ruby Boddington to create her vision for a platform devoid of corporate interests.
As Hard Ears contains only a few written pieces (Ronan says she always just flicks through magazines for the photos), the experience is a visual one – with long, languorous stories that feel uncensored, honest and far from moneyed backers. 10% of the proceeds of the £30 mag go to homeless charity Crisis, and another portion to Alzheimer’s Society: Ronan’s project is a deliberate statement against the kind of fashion titles that are 60% advertisement.
What makes Hard Ears our magazine of the week this week is two-fold. First, we’re celebrating it’s commitment to diversity across the board: as well as involving a strong community of black creative and stylists, it aims to connect with as many underrepresented people as possible. As Ronan said in an interview with Dazed Digital: ‘Thing is, people talk about black people a lot, but people who are Asian get even more side-lined. There are actually quite a few Asian artists who have contributed to the mag. So it’s about blackness and me making sure there is a good-sized space for black people, but it’s also about other races and diversity in general.’ One of Mckenzie’s own shoots for the mag is of LGMTQI couples. It’s a publication that offers the kind of representation that magazines should and could be aiming for.
Secondly, Hard Ears questions the fashion industry’s long-standing and often problematic obsession with youth culture. Issue one is proudly themed ‘Old’, a response for the desperate desire for new things and new people to obsess over. Ronan and Ruby are asking all the right questions, and they’re are going on to find all the right answers for them too.