It’s with enthusiasm and great pleasure that I welcome you to In The Archives, an online journal dedicated to writing about the arts by exploring the archives. It was with my curiosity and interest in the history of the arts that I created this website. Not only do I believe that delving into the archives is important to understand art and its divisions, I believe it’s genuinely fascinating too. For years, I’ve been collecting diverse references and resource materials and thought it was time to start using them in depth. I’m excited to share them with you!
The main objective of In The Archives is to share my understanding and passion for art, architecture, design, fashion, film, literature, music, and photography with monthly essays and supplements. I consider this website as a fusion of a traditional blog and a research journal, adding my personal touch to each essay to avoid the feeling of reading an academic paper.
Creating this website wasn’t all smooth sailing—it came with its difficulties. I must confess that I sat on the idea for this website for a couple of years. I struggled with how I wanted to approach the concept, I didn’t think I could handle producing content on just one subject. I wasn’t sure of the format: whether to make it formal or informal, a blog or a journal. I was afraid of burnout before I fully conceptualized and pursued the creation of this website; in essence, I was worried about failing before giving myself a chance to succeed. Because of the constant battle of trying to choose what I wanted to make this website into, the conception became idle for some time.
What made the engine startup again? The rediscovery of a dominant figure that was stowed away in my archive sparked the motivation—Fleur Cowles. Cowles was an absolute Renaissance Woman: a writer, editor, artist, socialite, and innovator. She worked her way up to a high place in society, making many friends among the elite in various fields. This rank in society and her talents as a journalist and artist would prove to be beneficial for her publishing endeavors.
Fleur Cowles’ most renowned work was the creation of Flair magazine (1950-51). Flair was a feat in publishing; the magazine was experimental and ahead of its time: including die-cut and embossed covers, foldouts, small booklets bound into the magazine, and a variety of paper stock, which were all interactive and invited the reader to look over its features more than once as they were extraordinary in detail. Flair was a visual feast for those who got their hands on a copy (at only 50¢ an issue) and was like no other at the time.
The magazine brought together various subjects: art, literature, fashion, travel, and interior design. Cowles had a unique prowess for seeking the best in multiple fields—introducing fine and authentic talents to Flair’s audience. The magazine included contributions by many well-known and soon to be well-known figures at the time: Salvador Dalí, Lucian Freud, Stanley Kubrick, Jean Cocteau, Simone de Beauvoir, Tennessee Williams, René Gruau, Winston Churchill, Gypsy Rose Lee, and many more. Unfortunately, because of its high production costs and low newsstand price, Flair folded after just 12 issues.
Back issues of Flair can still be found online for sale, but can be quite pricey. Luckily, the book publisher Rizzoli published The Best of Flair (1996, with multiple editions), a red coffee table book that compiles the best of the magazine edited by Cowles herself. The book introduces the same features as Flair by reproducing the original experience for those who don’t have issues of the magazine.
The rediscovery happened when I felt a strong presence in my personal library. I have had The Best of Flair for several years now. I opened it maybe twice when I first purchased it. I marveled at the features but simply skimmed through the pages. It wasn’t until the beginning of this year that the book called to me when I hit a roadblock creating this website. I looked to my book collection for inspiration; the radiant red case the book is stored in certainly attracts the eye’s attention. I picked it out and looked through it with complete immersion. I took the time to feel each piece of paper, interact with the foldouts, observe the artwork and photographs, and read the editorials. In my hands was a history—physical evidence—of the innovation that marked a shift in publication. I can feel Cowles on each page whenever I flip through the book (which is quite frequently). Her spirit is ever present in my collection now.
The energy of Flair helped everything click for me. Why not make In The Archives about multiple subjects and not limit it to just one? Why not make it a fusion of a traditional blog and a research journal? Why not bring my own spirit to the writing? I’ve decided that I will let this online journal grow organically–experimenting along the way.
I’ve always had the passion to create and the desire to learn, and I see this as my chance to bring the two together.
It’s impressive and inspiring histories like that of Flair that I want to shine a light on. If it wasn’t for the magazine, I’d still be sitting idle on the idea of this website, continuing to hold the fear of failing. Flair and the brain behind it truly showcased the type of experimentation and innovation that makes me excited to learn and write about what I love—and for that, I dedicate In The Archives to Fleur Cowles.
I hope that you will continue to visit and learn along with me.