Scarves as a travel essential, the magic of the Mediterranean and revamping Conde Nast Traveler
The first interaction we had with Yolanda Edwards was through Instagram, after a DM we sent her asking if we could use one of the so cool and vibrant pic she just posted from Il Pellicano. We were just back from a meeting with Marie-Louise Scio, the owner and ‘Chef of Magic’ of the cult South Tuscany landmark and wanted to spread the word that our scarves had made it to the Pelliclub, the tiny and highly selective boutique of the hotel.
Yolanda got back to us in the kindest way, offering to bring a selection of our 90x90cm pieces from Le Isole to her trip to Patmos where she was supposed to shoot a story for Conde Nast Traveler the next month. Next thing we know is a selection of our scarves worn by an A-game crew of women including Yolanda, Christy Turlington, Karla Otto, Maca Huneus and Carol Ann Emquies, friendly art directed by Matt Hranek--Yolanda husband--and Alexander Werz on the wooden deck of a sailing yacht.
This story, however unexpected and amazing, is so representative of the gentleness, elegance and easiness conveyed by Yolanda.
Creative Director of Conde Nast Traveler from 2013 to 2018, she’s been involved in so many cool ventures from Art + Commerce to W Magazine, Cookie Magazine, Martha Stewart Living and, most recently, Yolo Journal and WM Brown magazine along with a long list of numerous other freelance consulting jobs.
Despite the fact that she kind of saw it all already Yolanda has an intact, if not craziest than ever curiosity about all-things travel and lifestyle combined with a passion for sharing ideas, visions, people and connexions that make her a unique storyteller, content creator and curator. Look no further why she has been named--along with Matt--Curator of the Year by highly praised luxury menswear magazine The Rake in 2018.
Long story short, that’s a euphemism to say we’re glad and honored to sit with her for a chat around how she approaches what she does best.
Here it is, in full length.
LBH: Hi Yolanda, thank you very much for taking the time to sit with us, it’s a pleasure really.
YE: You are so sweet--come on it’s my pleasure to talk to you! I’m such a fan of what you do!
LBH: Means a lot thank you so much! Let’s get back to the very beginnings, that is Tacoma, Washington. What was like growing up there?
YE: Let’s say that it definitely inspired me to look for beauty! No, to be fair, there is so much beauty surrounding it. On any clear day, you see Mt Rainier so close, and there is water everywhere. Plus all the green. I think it definitely gave me an appreciation for nature, and a desire to explore other places.
LBH: How did it influence your aesthetics?
YE: It definitely gave me a voracious appetite to escape, and to find things on the outside that I connected to. I lived for magazines and music. I would listen to the radio and just wait for my favorite songs to come on, even calling in on the request lines begging for my David Bowie favorites. I was in love with W Magazine which was like a huge color newspaper--maybe it was a supplement--but it had poster size Calvin Klein ads and I would pin them up on my wall, dreaming that someday my life would look like that.
LBH: Solid colors, simple shapes, geometrical compositions, linings; those elements that we see on Italian beach umbrellas, vintage flags and signage, old promotional items as well as uniforms, work and nautical wear seem to be pivotal to your graphic vocabulary. What is it that inspires you that much in this kind of functionalist graphic design?
YE: I’m a Virgo, I like order. And I like bright colors, and I’m nostalgic. I think all of the above hits on all those notes.
LBH: More specifically, what’s your relation to color?
YE: While I don’t wear tons of color, I love to always have some element in my outfit. I love to be in the garden, around the color of the flowers and plants, and I just love being in places that celebrate color in their architecture, house painting, etc.
LBH: You spend a lot of your time in France, Italy and Greece when you’re not in the US. What do you find in those countries that is so special?
YE: I love them all for different reasons, and I think my impressions of them evolve the more I spend time in them. Greece just has the best swimming, period. And I love the simple days we have there. Italy has the best food, music, people, landscape, signage, architecture--I mean--Italy is just the best, isn’t it? But France, I love it so much. It has charm like nowhere else in the world.
LBH: Couldn't agree more really, Mediterranean vibe right ? How would you describe it?
YE: Yes--I would say that any culture that takes off all of August definitely has the Mediterranean vibe down! No but seriously, I think they just know how to enjoy life!!
LBH: You have a very personal approach to traveling. Could you describe it?
YE: Travel is so personal--I could tell exactly how to walk from one place to another, and your experience in that walk will be very different from mine. There will be plenty of similarities, for sure--but how we all move through the world is very unique to who we are. This is why I don’t like to make super definitive statements like “the best island” or the best anything. It might be the best to me...but you might think it’s too sleepy. Because I think in very personal ways, I always approached it like that in my assigning photographers--I would never give them a shot list--I would just say to go have a good time, and take pictures of what they loved. The editors didn’t love it, but the photos were much more emotionally connected, and I think that is why people responded so well.
LBH: Speaking of which, you’ve been the Creative Director of cult publication Conde Nast Traveler where you infused a very cinematic vibe between 2013 and 2018. How was the publication when you were appointed in 2013?
YE: Conde Nast Traveler was such a brilliant publication for so many years. The founders were so clever in their approach--using art and fashion photographers to shoot travel, to bring a fresh approach to a place. I actually worked there in the late 90s, and got to produce photo shoots with Helmut Newton. Over the years it had gotten a bit stale, which is normal--it just needed some new blood. It had gotten quite service oriented, and not as inspirational as we thought it should be...especially with service being better served online.
LBH: How was working with Helmut Newton ?
YE: I never got to actually meet him in person, but we had lots of land line phone calls and faxes. He seemed to really enjoy the Traveler assignments and was always in a good mood when we spoke. Of course Traveler was so lucky to have him, so they let him do whatever he wanted! Once, before my time, they had him shoot “his Berlin”, and he shot everyone topless!
LBH: What was the first thing you did when you were appointed Creative Director?
YE: I started to talk to all the people who travel in a way I really respect, and brought them into the magazine.
LBH: Who were those contributors you brought in?
YE: Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Dewey Nicks, Matt Hranek (of course!), Foster Huntington, Mimi and Oddur Thorisson, to name a few...and many different “influencers” but this was before they were called that--we used to just call them “tastemakers”!
LBH: What’s artistic direction to you?
YE: Distilling down to the essence of what a story is, and finding the best way to show it.
LBH: Is there an issue you remember more vividly than all the others you worked on?
YE: The first relaunch issue for sure! Making a cover that everyone would talk about, and would signal a new direction--that was tough! I ended up getting Inez and Vinoodh to shoot Christy Turlington--which was pretty much a miracle.
LBH: What's your most memorable souvenir from that era?
YE: Since I have a souvenir hoarding problem, that is a hard question to answer, so I will say--from the Conde Nast offices, the best souvenir I have is one of the Conde Nast “While You Were Out” notepads. It’s so old school.
LBH: You just launched Yolo Journal, a travel-focused, lifestyle curated independent magazine that has been a great success so far. How would you describe the unique place it occupies in today’s print scene?
YE: Because I curate all the content in Yolo, I’m able to create a nice mix that inspires and feels honest. Especially with the myriad ways people can get their intel and inspiration today, it’s so important to figure out what will look and feel best on paper and make people want to hold onto it.
LBH: You also contributed to the creation of WM Brown magazine, the publication of your husband Matt Hranek that launched earlier this year. How did you approach it in terms of artistic direction?
YE: It’s such different content and a different audience--and one that I’ve never actually worked with before--so it has been a treat to figure it out. In the age of too much visual noise, we wanted to make something that was a breather and brought people joy, not anxiety. So we did clean pages, large fonts, and no unnecessary design.
LBH: Speaking functionalism and travel, we come straight to scarves. Could you explain why is it so pivotal to any trip?
YE: I think we all want to have some element of surprise when we go to our suitcase, which is why so many of us end up overpacking. The brilliant thing about scarves is, they don’t add anything into the suitcase--but they give so many different look options.
LBH: More broadly, what’s your relation to scarves? How, and when, do you tend to wear it?
YE: I wear scarves all seasons--so in the colder months it would be around the neck, and then in the summer I would wear them on my head--or maybe loosely around my neck too. They are great sun protectors, especially if you’re on a boat, where a hat would most likely blow away.
LBH: We must say we love how you dress. How would you describe your style?
YE: I would say I dress a bit on the basic, tomboy end of the spectrum! With a little color and something feminine so it’s not all boy!
LBH: What are your favorite brands? Designers?
YE: Aspesi, Friulane slippers from Talea FX, an Italian brand that I discovered in Symi, at their shop. Giuliva Heritage Collection, J. Mueser, Toast, Lutz Morris, Hermes, Uniqlo, Thom Browne, Hunting Season, Muji, Eres, Levis, ...
LBH: How would you describe LBH in 3 words?
YE: Timeless, Elegant, Beautiful.
LBH: Who would you like to read on our next issue of the Style Talks?
YE: Maria Lemos!
LBH: Ok, we count on you to introduce us then; it’s been a real pleasure Yolanda, thank you so much for this.
YE: Thank you so much!!! xx
Pics by @wmbrownproject, @yolandaedwards, @gerardocavaliere, @auhasardspr