The women behind Texas State University’s first fashion magazine saw a need in the industry and created a safe space for other creators to fill it.
By Cy White, Photos courtesy of Evelyn Deal
It’s not every day someone wakes up and decides, “You know what? I’m gonna create my own fashion magazine.”
Nevermind that it’ll be the first of its kind, there will be no financial support from any major organizations and it will ultimately have to be built from scratch. But that’s exactly what Gabriella Garcia did when she got the idea for Lewk Magazine, Texas State University’s first and only fashion magazine. The co-founder, co-Editor-in-Chief and recently turned senior then called up her friend, co-founder and self-professed mama of the group, Amaya Aztecatl, and they put their plan into action.
“I kind of felt like I was in this lost place,” Aztecatl reveals. “I didn’t really have anywhere to go, I didn’t have a community of people. We were both sort of lone wolves in this. I just switched my major, we didn’t know anybody in fashion and Gabby and I were basically going in as transfer students. So she was like, ‘Let’s start a magazine or a blog or something.’ She sent me this magazine from UT called Spark. I looked at it and was like, ‘Well, this is kind of badass, but we can do better.’”
You Betta Work!
From there, Garcia and Aztecatl submitted their paperwork and recruited models, photographers, any creative who needed an outlet for expression. When it was time to bring on a third executive member, Aztecatl’s choice was as easy as flipping through the pages of her beloved Vogue magazine. “Sydney [Bynes] is a model, right?” she says with enthusiasm. “We had a textiles class together, and she comes walking in like she’s Tyra, Naomi. I’m like, ‘Who is this glowing queen? I must be friends with her.’” The group erupts in laughter. Aztecatl speaks like a fashion fangirl, but this fangirl had a vision, and she wanted Bynes, managing editor and fashion coordinator of Lewk, on board.
“I guess she got the courage to talk to me,” Bynes says. “She was like, ‘I have this really big secret, [and]I want you to be a part of it.’ And I was like, ‘Okay I want new friends, and maybe this will be something worthwhile.’ So we met, and from there, it just started going crazy with the amount of ideas and the amount of inspiration that we had.”
Diversity on Our Terms
Don’t mistake their enthusiasm for precociousness. These young women are on a very grown mission to disrupt the publications dedicated to the fashion industry’s seemingly evergreen social influence. While Aztecatl proclaims her love for names like Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and, of course, Vogue (“I’m Carrie Bradshaw, always looking at Vogue. That’s literally my Bible”), she’s not your typical fan, praying at their gilded altars. “The one thing I don’t like is,” she says, “yeah, they have diversity, but they have diversity on their terms.”
Just like that, some of her adoration dims. “I remember when we were talking about applying to the magazine, and we were referring to makeup and hair artists. I literally paused the meeting and said, ‘We’re going to have a talk. If you do not submit an application with all colors of the rainbow, then we’re not even going to look at it because it’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to Sydney, it’s not fair to our models.’”
It takes some serious guts to challenge veritable giants. But these women are incredibly intentional about ensuring they put the fashion publishing industry to task for its selective inclusivity and inability to see beyond its own antiquated biases. “Looking at the industry and doing the polar opposite of that is sort of our motto,” Aztecatl says. “Let’s amplify those voices that aren’t being amplified. Let’s talk about those conversations that are being pushed under the rug. Yeah, we’re a fashion magazine, but we’re a fashion magazine that’s putting the mirror in your face.”
A Place to Belong
The young women of Lewk are well aware that their presence on campus is quite the anomaly. “Being three young girls that go to college and [are]starting the first ever [fashion]magazine at our campus, it was honestly overwhelming a little bit because all eyes are on us,” Bynes says. If you have the wherewithal to name your magazine Lewk, you must have some inclination that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Especially as the first publication of its kind on campus.
Despite their idealism, however, these young women ultimately just wanted a space where creatives could feel they belonged. Each of them attests to the fact that Texas State University felt a bit like a ghost town to those desperate for a community of kindred spirits. “I transferred in the middle of a pandemic as a second-semester sophomore,” Evelyn Deal, the Lewk creative director, reveals. “Honestly, all I saw when I came to campus was sorority, frat life,” she continues. “I was like, ‘Oh no, I just don’t fit in, I made a mistake.’ Seeing Lewk blossom into something huge has been so great for me personally, but I know there are other people who are in the same boat that I was in. I just want this to be a huge thing for creatives and collaboration. To provide students who are like-minded with opportunities.”
Garcia and Aztecatl, in particular, take their place in TSU’s history very seriously. The optics of three women of color beginning a one-of-a-kind publication at their school is not lost on them. “I’ve always wanted it to be woman-led because I just think that it’s very important, especially in today’s age, to show diversity,” Garcia says. “I didn’t want it to look like just a regular magazine you pick up at Barnes & Noble. I wanted it to show that we’re different, to show that we’re not like what people are gonna think we are like just by hearing the name.”
Garcia, Aztecatl, Bynes and Deal make a formidable unit. These young women have created something exemplary, an example to those who come after them of resilience and the determination to fearlessly follow your passion, whatever it is. “The biggest thing for me is encouraging younger women of color to go out there and trailblaze,” says Aztecatl. “Be the Kamala Harris; be who you are. Go out there and trailblaze. You don’t need to be a part of a bigger company. Make your own company. Do your own thing.”