Stella Bugbee is the editorial director at New York Magazine’s The Cut—a site dedicated to fashion, women and lifestyle with a smart and honest take. She is also my boss. Stella hired me as the company’s first Instagram editor at the start of this summer, and I’ve learned so much about The Cut‘s—as well as my own approach—to imagery and design ever since. There were few people who I could think of that would make more sense to speak to about New York City and the creativity it fosters.
You’ve lived in New York your whole life. What do you think the main things that keep you here are?
My family is still here and we are very close—we even live in the same building! We’ve never all agreed on another place to move so we’re still here. I’m also addicted to the people and the general expectation of excellence here.
Your family is growing up in the same city you grew up. What are some things about the city that they’re experiencing that you didn’t, or vice versa?
I’m raising my kids here and I feel mostly great about that, but it’s a much different city than it used to be. It’s safer, and much much wealthier, which changes the people and the landscape. I grew up during the crack epidemic, which was intense. My kids have been spared those realities. But I love how much independence NYC kids have. And this city forces you to have your wits about you, to navigate a lot of stimuli.
How does this city incubate creativity?
Well… if exposure to a lot of ideas is what fosters your creativity then it’s a good place to be. And there’s a competitive spirit here that might push certain types to greater creativity. But creativity is a highly personal experience. I think it can be helpful to step away from the noise and have the time and space to pursue tangents. There’s not a lot of room to do that here.
How does The Cut tie in with your idea of how fashion should be covered and how women should be spoken to?
For one thing, The Cut doesn’t “speak to” women. We’re in a conversation with ourselves and our audience. So that’s a big point of difference. We don’t think there is a right way and a wrong way of dressing. Style should be very personal, not just trend-based. Even if you don’t buy every luxury item, it’s fun to follow things happening in fashion—the same way you might not play tennis but you still like watching Serena Williams kill. Fashion on The Cut is just another part of culture.
Who are some New York women you consider pioneers in their field, or that you look up to?
I look up to so many women. I greatly admire the ambitious women I have gotten to work with on The Cut—past and present. I have learned so much from my colleague Lauren Kern (executive editor of NYMag). There are many authors whose work has affected me greatly, most recently Claudia Rankine, Elena Ferrante and Maggie Nelson. Artists like Jenny Holzer and Adrian Piper, Kara Walker, Jenny Gage. Katja from High Maintenance is so smart and stylish! I admire Rachel Comey for building such a solid creative business. Joanna Coles is a media badass. I like what Leandra Medine has done for fashion.
I’m a huge fan of the women who produced Women in Clothes… I could literally go on and on. Let’s see, in no particular order off the top of my head… Inez van Lamsweerde, Ruth Reichl, Kim Gordon, Rebecca Mead, Amanda Hess, Emily Nussbaum, Cathy Horyn is the best thing to ever happen to fashion. Linda Wells is a literal goddess. And my most brilliant mom. So, so many. In fact I think I find at least one woman every day to be terribly impressive. This list feels woefully short and inadequate and random.
Where could someone find you on a given Saturday?
At home in Brooklyn, cooking and making art projects with my three kids.
For young people starting out in creative…or any industry in this city, it can be really intimidating, cut throat, or frustrating at times. Do you have any words of advice?
Always go for the people you respect when you’re trying to figure out where to work.
Best advice you could give your daughter?
Always listen to your mom ;).
You can check out The Cut on Instagram @thecut. Thanks Stella.