It’s the tagline of RUSSH that says it all – Australian at heart, international in mindset. As a mission statement, it perfectly encapsulates just why this publication has captured the hearts and minds of the fashion-obsessed for the past eight years, both at home and overseas.
With the explosion of independent magazines, it’s easy to forget just how fresh RUSSH felt when it launched in 2004. It’s a sensibility that hasn’t lessened over the years, and under the tenure of current editor-in-chief Jess Blanch, has expanded greatly into the digital world.
When Blanch arrived at RUSSH, she was already under the publication’s spell. “The role at RUSSH was the kind of role I’d been looking for,” she says. “Like many people, I was madly in love with the magazine at first sight. It all came about really quickly and when I had a moment to myself to take it all in, I knew it would be quite a ride.”
In the two years since she took over as editor-in-chief, RUSSH’s digital presence has grown immensely. Late last year they also launched a companion iPad app, which has had a strong response. For Blanch, the app was an opportunity to offer something beyond a digital edition. “It’s very video-led,” she comments. “It’s not a digital edition, but continues the sentiment of what’s in the issue.”
This combination of print and digital has only boosted the influence of RUSSH on the industry. In many ways, it’s a publication that punches above its weight. From its Sydney base, the magazine has managed to collect legions of admirers worldwide. “I think RUSSH is recognised because it’s very authentic and true to itself,” notes Blanch. “We’re a true fashion magazine, but we’re not a prescriptive title. For us it’s about being unique and not just how things make you look, but what things make you feel.”
Blanch is in town for a sold out private viewing event at Topshop tonight, talking to guests about the latest trends over champagne and cupcakes. For her, Topshop has added all kinds of value to the Australian fashion landscape. “To begin with it’s a very cool brand,” she says. “It’s also incredible the way they have built relationships with fashion insiders through collections with people like Kate Moss and Christopher Kane and bringing on Kate Phelan, ex-fashion director of UK Vogue, now Topshop creative director.”
Although Blanch calls RUSSH “a true fashion magazine”, it is often more than this. Avoiding the celebrity-driven content of so many, the magazine features people who are living out their dream “or at least giving it their best shot,” she says. “It’s not really about having made it, but about the dream. It’s very inspirational.”
It certainly seems that Blanch herself is living the dream. Talking about last week’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, she gushes about sitting next to style.com’s Tim Blanks at the Ellery runway show. “For me, sitting next to him is like sitting next to Elvis. He’s like an encyclopaedia of fashion.” The international presence of bloggers and journalists like Blanks leant the week an exciting feel for Blanch. “Although there was some media attention about the schedule not being as strong, we have a lot of things working in our favour and it felt like an international event.”
And, like any international fashion event for the past few years, street style photographers were out in force at MBFWA, snapping shots of not only notable attendees, but editors, stylists and journalists themselves. Blanch has mixed feelings about the newly found celebrity status of editors like Taylor Tomasi Hill and Anna Dello Russo. “It’s really nice that the industry now recognises people who were traditionally behind the scenes,” she says. “But it can be a double-edged sword. When it works and it’s great for the magazine it’s a good thing, but it does increase the pressure of an already pressure-filled job.
“Some days I wake up and put on my specs and feel more like Woody Allen than a chic editor,” she laughs.