We chat with Jyoti Matoo, Editor in Chief of Voir Fashion Magazine. We discuss Voir’s “Dare to Be Different” ethos, inspirational content, showcasing diversity in women of all shapes and sizes, and how Voir has grown from being one of the first trend fashion magazines on Issuu.
Angela @ Issuu: Thank you for joining
Jyoti Matoo: Happy to be here!
When we started the magazine, in 2013, we were one of the first trend-led fashion magazines on Issuu. From what I remember, there were a couple others, but from a fashion specific perspective, we were one of the first on Issuu and mainstream fashion magazines didn’t really go digital until recently.
I remember working with another print publication, thinking “why would I get my information from a print magazine, when we get most of our information online?” And sure, it's nice to touch and feel a magazine...being a creative myself, I understand that - I have a background in fashion styling.
When I used to have to pitch about the magazine I got really frustrated; time and time again I would get laughed out of meetings who thought that because Voir was a digital magazine, somehow we weren’t a “real” magazine. Some creatives had even been reluctant to work with us in the past because of our digital platform. As soon as people like Vogue and a few others started going online, like sheep, suddenly people started thinking of digital magazines as “real magazines”. Really it’s been a mad 7-8 years building the brand, with the greatest momentum happening within the last two years.
We had worked with a lot of local celebrities, and then in 2019 we had some major players which have helped change the game for us. We had Bebe Rexha, who has over 10M followers; Grammy nominated and is really popular in America right now. We did an amazing cover shoot with her, and got a crazy amount of press from it. We also had a shoot with Nikita Dragun.
Issuu has been great for us because I had this vision a long time ago and Issuu provided us the perfect outlet to do it. It allowed me to bring that vision to life to have that digital magazine back in 2013. Honestly you guys couldn’t have reached out at a better time, we’re always looking to showcase what we’re doing and really show what we’ve got.
We had to take a bit of a pause in early 2020, both from revamping the site, and due to Covid-19. We had a bunch of high points in 2019, as we were getting ready to work with a few celebrities in LA - and then Covid hit. But it really ended up working out for us in a weird way.
We needed to get a whole new website live and we moved into a new office. It's been a crazy time, but the site we invested in looks beautiful and we’re really owning our digital space now.
It’s been a rough road and a rollercoaster ride, but at the same time, it’s been a fantastic journey. This last Issuu we did, that was released just before the New Year, was called “The Re-Issue” both because it was part of our rebrand, taking back ownership of the brand, and breathing new life after 2020. We’ve got wonderful things happening on the business side, and the sustainability aspect of the brand that we’re taking on as well.
It's been a tough year in so many different ways for different people. If we're talking on a business side, I think 2020 allowed us to take a moment to really refine our message. After a crazy few years of “look at our magazine, look what we’ve done” and to stand out from the crowd, 2020 really gave us that opportunity to refine, rebuild, and restructure. Being completely honest, at the beginning of the pandemic, I was pretty freaked out as many businesses were. But 2019 saw so much momentum for Voir, we had had a huge increase in site views, celebrities wanting to work with us, and then 2020 was like how do we keep this momentum going?
I didn't think ‘oh wow everyone is going to suddenly go digital’. Like everyone else, the pandemic frightened the life out of me, and I just wanted to get to my family and make sure everybody was safe. At Voir, we ended up being very lucky, in so many ways, amidst the pandemic.
Looking back, we had literally just gotten the keys to the new office and then Covid-19 hit us. I thought to myself, “Oh no, is this it? Are we done?” But I got back up, knowing that I’ve been in the game way too long to get knocked out by this. Once upon a time Zoom was almost a novel concept and now look at us, everybody is on video meetings all day. I learned how to empower my team from afar. We got the chance to reset, recharge and really focus on streamlining the important things like making the site more digital friendly.
We really wanted to improve the user experience and make it very digital friendly, giving it almost that Instagram look and vibe, feeling current and with the times. We built a dashboard where you can save your favorite content, view, and purchase shoppable products. It's super interactive now!
We really streamlined the process to be beautiful and create an amazing experience for users. I feel like we really fine-tuned that message creating whole pages dedicated to articles, shopping and to all of our magazine archives.
It was really a team effort with new designers and new dedicated team members, who were found during the pandemic via Zoom. These were people who loved what we were saying, believed in what we were doing, and wanted to help us make it happen. It’s been a real year for transition and transformation. Sometimes it’s been difficult to see the silver lining in the last year, but we’ve pulled through and found really positive moments from it. It’s been tough, but it’s really propelled us forward as well. Super excited for the next chapter! We have some exciting things coming up!
We have grown over the years but we’ve always been true to our vision. It's crazy when you go through the previous Issuu publications, you can literally see Voir growing. The team has grown, and we’ve evolved.
I’m originally from a city called Leeds, outside of London and the magazine brought me to London. I started Voir in my cellar in Leeds and at the time I was a visual merchandiser/stylist - a lot has changed! Back then I wasn’t being heard in the position that I was in, I just had so much more that I had to give. My vision was greater than anyone could see. I worked for a regional magazine that kept pushing towards print rather than digital, and I wanted to see my magazine be international, and available to anyone. I had this international vision. I actually have a vision board at home that says I’m going to have the world’s biggest digital fashion magazine, and this is absolutely achievable. It’s going to happen. That’s what I tell myself everyday.
I had the vision, then it was time to make a plan. I went to a business accelerator with one of the UK’s leading banks, I think they get around 200 people applying a week for it. I managed to secure a space in this accelerator, learning a lot about the other side of the company, and how to really turn this into a business. Coming from a sales background, as well as a styling background - working in beauty cosmetics Saint Laurent and Chanel - I got a lot of intense training in sales, and I just knew, “I need to get real with this”, I need to partner with the right people, and really push myself to do what I know I can do and become.” I started finding amazing mentors and team members, it’s impossible to build a brand without a team! No team, no dream.
Yeah, I do honestly do. At one point I worked on a commission basis where if I didn’t make sales, I didn’t get paid. I've done beauty cosmetic sales, package sales, and have worked at the counters selling makeup. It’s given me a lot of insight speaking with so many women of color when I worked at Yves Saint Laurent to help them with skin concerns that many makeup companies just don’t understand. I worked at Nichol’s (similar to Macy’s) with their YSL counter, their Chanel counter, etc. I was working there part time and studying law once upon a time.
Exactly! I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I knew I was gonna do it. I also had to learn how to separate the creative within me and the businesswoman to make it happen. I come from a family of business owners, but that still didn't mean I automatically had a manual on how to run a business, because I don't, and this is a completely different type of business that I'm trying to do here. There was nothing within the industry at that time.
Everything I’ve done has prepared me for all of this, I’ve really learned a lot. Certainly there have been some tough roads, I’ve hit walls, but I’ve always known that I just wasn't going to give up. After I finished the accelerator I mentioned, we were really fortunate to get our new base in London.
We still have some fashion styling clients, but at the moment we’re going full force into the magazine. We have daily content on our website too. I’m working on the advertorial and sustainability side of the business aggressively this last year. Covid has put so many people in the digital mindset more than ever.
Our long term vision and mission is to make fashion accessible to women everywhere, regardless of race size, shape or budget. Before I set up the magazine I was a fashion stylist in the industry and would get frustrated as hell because I am, first off, a woman of color, and I’m curvaceous - I just don’t have that skinny model look. As much as I loved the pages of Vogue back then, I couldn't relate to a single woman in those pages.
My frustration was so many things, I was like ‘wow, are you really going to take on this challenge? You're going to set up a digital magazine, you don't have the funds, the finances, and you want to shout about diversity when nobody's really doing that right now.’ But I was so adamant, and the more I started to find my niche of people that felt the same way, the more adamant I became. And it's crazy that now it's like everyone has started going that way.
To me, diversity is not a trend or style and never has been, it is our way of living. When we speak of “Diversity”, we aren’t just talking about people of color. We’re talking about all different kinds of people, trans, non-binary, size inclusivity and so much more. Mental health, let’s talk about it, how do we deal with it?
Think of Voir Fashion Magazine as your empowering fashion-forward friend, we want our content to empower you to be the best version of yourself.
With diversity in our DNA and a persistent belief in female power, we celebrate the diversity, showcase creativity and break moulds that present people in ways that they have never seen before.
We guide relevant conversations for the next generation of women who Dare to be Different.
Wow, that's really great feedback, thank you because that's so important to us. You don’t have to spend millions of pounds to look amazing. I cannot tell you how many responses we’ve gotten from women, especially young women of our next generation writing to us about the pressures of Instagram and some of the ways that they've been made to feel. That they found Voir was an escape from those pressures, and how they look forward to every issue. So many have written to us saying how uplifting and empowering and inclusive Voir is, and it’s just been phenomenal getting that feedback that we’re changing lives for the better.
We have just released our latest issue, Issue 27: Level Up featuring Y2K phenomenon Cassie Ventura as our beautiful cover star. . We have used so many of the features on Issuu, having really cool BTS videos, various links, and we’re really ecstatic about how it’s come together.
Issuu has been amazing. It’s allowed us to have this platform to inspire. We have touched so many people’s lives.
Thank you for having me!