With her active parents as role models, graphic designer Mikella Lowe launched a blog in 2013 documenting interesting people over 50 she came across while pushing her baby in a stroller on the sidewalk. Two years ago, that blog idea became a fully fledged magazine. Stories on body imperfection and powerful women starting new businesses share space with fashion editorials featuring only women over 40. Now working on her fifth issue of Renaissance, we talked to the 40-yaer-old Israeli-Australian about providing a platform for dynamic people over 50, her no-retouch policy and the importance of being age-agnostic.
You could’ve gone on producing the blog, why was starting a magazine important?
Before I turned 40 I thought I really want to challenge myself. I felt that this was, for sure, the thing I was really passionate about. Doing creative work that has a social meaning and the opportunity to change minds. My parents are my investors and my husband is my supporter.
You’ve worked at ad agencies in the U.S. and Australia, but had you ever worked on magazine projects?
I’ve never worked in magazines, I took four months to learn how to do this. I had a mentor, and I knew really clearly what my vision was. And I just dived into it and I knew I’d make mistakes, but it didn’t matter to me. I wanted to learn and to grow and do something with meaning. And that was nearly two years ago!
How’s the reaction been?
It’s very positive. We’re working on the fifth issue and the level of models we get, and the contributors is climbing, and we’ve gotten noticed in the media. But it’s still hard to get advertisers. We are still 100 percent advertising-free. I want very particular advertisers, I want to see Lancome and see Giorgio Armani in there. I want to see boutique hotels. It’s an upmarket magazine. It’s premium printing and I’m very inspired by Kinfolk. We try to invest in good writing and all those stories are without any images, and then we have five to seven fashion editorials we shoot all around the world, always working with models between 40, 50 and 60, and we have a retouch-free philosophy.
Why is that important?
Every time I saw a magazine with an older woman she was really retouched. I thought there was all this shame about aging: ‘Let’s put some Botox in our wrinkles’; ‘Don’t ask me my age because I can’t talk about it’; ‘Oh my god the future, I feel so old!’ All of this shaming I wanted to get out, I wanted to say: ‘My wrinkles are my story, and I’m proud of who I am and I don’t need to hide it with a photo shop tool.’ It’s a statement, but also hopefully a movement for advertisers to say not anti-aging, but maybe aging beautifully.
What do you hope people get from reading it?
Most important thing is inspiration. We will never have an interview with a movie star. We talk about inspiring stories, not necessarily related to age but interesting people. Where we do touch age, we talked about cancer, and staying- positive while having cancer. We talked about second and third relationships in life. We talk about the sweet and the bitter that life is offering. I don’t push age in front of me, but I make sure age has a feeling in the magazine – but it’s not controlling the content of the magazine.
And do you have a target?
I think my target group is 45 to 60. I don’t want it to be a magazine about age. I want it to be a good magazine that people in this age group see themselves in. This is about creating content that women at this age group can relate to. Instead of opening Glamour and reading about
‘my boyfriend didn’t text me’, you’ll read about keeping moving in a relationship even after two unsuccessful marriages that it’s still possible.
How has doing this magazine changed your own thinking on age?
Positive aging was something I was already thinking about 20 years ago. Like with my parents, they are so vital and I was always waiting for them to age. The stereotype of age is so strong. The image is so strong: if you see a commercial about an older woman, she will be the grumpy one who dresses really badly. In my last editorial I wrote about how you should do the things you’ve always wanted – go date a younger man, go break the rules, there are no rules anymore. That’s why web sites like AGEIST are good and if there are other magazines out there, I don’t see them as competition. It’s the power of community that will bring a change.