Meet Penny—one of the coolest 17-year-olds on the east coast. She began her work in fashion and culture journalism editing and writing for Things Mag, a Boston-based indie mag “dedicated to giving underrepresented East Coast artists a space to thrive.” Now, she’s a junior in high school and a co editor-in-chief of her own publication, Nether Magazine, a fashion magazine run by teens, for teens that “aims to take back fashion from top-tier corporate magazines” and embodies “the rebellious spirit of those underage, underground, and underestimated.” As our #moderngirlcrush of the week, she answered our questions about her personal style, Nether, and how to find yourself in fashion.
Name: Penny Mack
City: Boston, MA
Sign: Virgo (and proud)
Occupation: Editor-in-chief of Nether Magazine, Contributing Writer/Editor for Things Mag, and High School Student
When did your relationship with fashion begin?
I did not care about fashion at all throughout elementary school—except for in the way that I knew everyone had to be wearing Abercrombie. It took me until about the 7th grade to start caring about what my outfits looked like and they definitely weren’t good yet. It was all salmon colored pants until a close friend of mine got really into fashion in the 8th grade and I found myself picking up most of my fashion tips from her. So, it definitely kind of started unoriginally but it’s been evolving in so many different ways since then.
Could you speak to this evolution of your personal style and how you began to find yourself within it?
I really don’t know how to define my personal style and that is just because it changes so often. It’s literally all based on my phases and my love for TV and film and just, culture. For example, in the 8th grade when I was really into Vampire Weekend I had a preppy phase—I went to thrift stores and bought like fifty Lacoste polo shirts. It was all Lacoste and jeans and I thought Ralph Lauren was the absolute height of fashion. After that, I got really into the movie Heathers which really sparked my passion for 80s style that has really helped me grow into my own. In my freshman year of high school I was watching a Morrissey video and fell in love with a random girl’s outfit in the background and I recreated it exactly. Those are the kinds of things I do. My fashion is so completely influenced by what my current faves are that it changes so frequently but I think the common thread has always been the 80s in the back of my head. In terms of evolution, my style is so interesting because it has matched my tastes over the years and it’s always fun to look back on who I used to be.
Biggest fashion inspirations?
Heathers definitely, like it’s always my go to movie—I’ve seen that movie like over 60 times. I actually have a blog (heathersfashion.tumblr.com) dedicated to Heathers fashion I love it so much. I love the shoulder pads…I’m literally always in a blazers phase.
I like a lot of the late 70s post-punk looks, Debbie Harry in crazy t-shirts with no-bra in high-waisted black pants. That’s definitely a look. I had a phase with Miu Miu—I don’t own any Miu Miu because I’m 17 without a job but I like how it’s very playful and very teenage (even though like no teenagers are wearing Miu Miu). And honestly just Winona Ryder in the 90s, outside of Heathers. There’s this one photo of her in mom jeans, some t-shirt, and an oversized leather jacket and just—that.
Favorite current trends?
I’m really happy about the 70s revival going on right now, I just bought bell bottoms. I love the button down skirts, I need to stock up on those and all the leather going around. Also, mom jeans, which I’ve always been kind of embarrassed about liking but they’re happening so I’m going to go for it.
What (or who) inspired you to start Nether?
I’ve always amassed collections of magazines—I love going through magazines, my room is full of them. But what has always made me really mad is that going through them I’d read about a designer or there’d be a photo of some outfit and I’d go look into the details and it would be like this skirt is $400. And, I’d be like well that’s not happening. And even more so, magazines are half-filled with ads and usually managed or owned by super wealthy old white men. So a lot of it was just my frustration with magazines and their commercial approach to fashion and asking myself why can I not enjoy fashion without having tons of money spend on it.
I wanted to make a magazine that was less about selling clothes and more about thinking about clothes and what they mean. That’s why it was so important to me to fill Nether with essays about the fashions we were showing off and making it more about thinking about what you’re seeing in some real way rather than saying look at this, here’s where you can buy it. It was also very important to me to put it all in print, as even when magazines do include fashion essays they’re usually online. The main inspiration behind Nether was always to look at fashion in a different way than its usually looked at.
How do you see Nether growing in the future?
We have a lot to do; at this point we don’t even have a website or anything. It’s entirely print based—I kind of like that it’s almost like a 90s zine in that way. I’d like to have a website in the future, not sure how far we’d go with it online whether it would feature articles or just be a way to access. Even in print there’s way more we could do, since this was our first issue we only got about 3 photoshoots in there and we were just finding our bearings. I see Nether becoming way more expansive, working with more photographers and stylists, especially because it’s essential that a magazine that is attempting to explore different aspects of fashion should include a ton of different perspectives.
Since you’re already an Editor-in-Chief at the age of 17, what do you see yourself doing in the future?
I don’t know! This is the first time in my life that I don’t know what’s going to happen. Up until this point I just knew that I just knew going to be in school; it was always get through middle school, get through freshman year, get through high school and I’m thinking now, where am I going to go? So I’m not sure really.
I definitely want to keep up Nether—I mean it’s like my baby so I have to keep it alive. And I’ve been working with so many different magazines and stuff doing so many different jobs that I’ve enjoyed so at this point, I really don’t know.
What advice would you give to girls your age with unconventional interests?
Talk to your mom. While my mom and I share a lot of the same interests, she has always been the one to be open-minded about learning about the things she doesn’t, which is endlessly comforting. Honestly, I’ve spent so much of my time in high school being upset that I couldn’t find anyone who likes the same things that I do. But I’m realizing now that even though it can be incredibly frustrating, it’s important to have some things for yourself. Like, I’ve been so into The Smiths for so long and you’d think after like 3 years I’d find someone, somewhere, who liked The Smiths as much as I did but to no avail. It’s become kind of reassuring to me to know that I’m the biggest Smiths fan I know and the band have become a kind of personal safe haven for me. So, even if you can’t share it with other people, it becomes something that you can cling to and you know its yours. Don’t stop yourself from loving stuff just because you can’t share it with other people (even though sharing stuff with people is exciting) and just be proud of it.
Current music faves?
I just discovered Pulp, so 90s Britpop. I’ve been listening to the same song by them on repeat for like a week. Since I was just in Japan, I looked into some Japanese music and discovered the Pizzicato 5 who make cinematic 60s/70s orchestral goodness. And always, The Smiths.
What does being a “modern girl” mean to you?
Being open-minded and being aware that your perspectives and your experience are not the only ones out there. I don’t think you can consider yourself ‘modern’ unless you’re keeping up with issues in the world around you and actively fighting them. It’s about both awareness of what’s going on around you and self-awareness, asking how much am I seeing and how much more do I need to broaden my own perspective.
Buy Issue 001 of Nether here
For more of Penny, follow her on instagram @penelopemacks
Interview by Chaia / Pictures provided by Penny