Walking through the Barbican café clad in an ankle length black PVC coat, emblazoned with badges that read, “tory slave” and “bollocks to austerity, tax the rich”, Reba Maybury isn’t your typical ex fashion student. With her long dark hair and painted lips, it’s hard to distinguish her image from that of a pre-Raphaelite muse, but in fact, she’s more like Joan of Arc for the disenfranchised youth. Like an artist, Reba has a penchant for documentation, her intelligent and outspoken nature separate her from a generation obsessed with selfies and starbucks. Only two years out of Central Saint Martins and already editor of Sang Bleu, her latest project; a publication, encourages respect and admiration for an older generation of activists, ones we shouldn’t forget.
After being commissioned to create a newspaper, Reba took herself to a magazine shop to find points of inspiration, or is at happened, difference. Disgusted by a variety of issues these publications threw up including tokenism, a veer towards right wing politics and dangerous representation of body size, she took it upon herself to create the antithesis. “So many people in the fashion industry don’t have any taste, morals or politics and fashion is just so one dimensional, people aren’t aware of the responsibility they have when they create something” she says. “So I thought to myself if I want to make something I don’t want it to be about fashion. I want the side effect to be fashion but I don’t want to make something that’s universally enjoyed.“ Never interested in the clothes themselves so much as constantly being obsessed with subculture, Reba sought to find a way to expose the shallowness of the industry whilst creating a publication that initiated thought.
But why dedicate the paper to the apathetic and the bored? “I think now that the cult of self exists more than subculture. People create identity for themselves as opposed to collectively” she says, “everyone is just complacent, they just get what they are given. Subculture is inherently political, even if the people who start the subculture aren’t highly politicised. It’s reactionary; it’s about getting angry. But we don’t see that anymore, everyone is just obsessed with themselves and how they look on the Internet.” Fittingly, everything down to the print aesthetics of the publication can be described as anti-Internet. Hand written personal essays and accounts live beside black and white film photography sitting on newspaper, creating an aesthetic that jars against click bait culture and the constant updating of Instagram that we’re all used to.
The result is Radical People, launched initially with a teaser newspaper in February; Reba is currently gearing up to launch the expanded issue. Featuring only the fifty plus, the second issue of the first volume features reigning royalty of subcultural London Princess Julia, Christine Binnie, a founder of The Neo-Naturists, and feminist artist and journalist Caroline Coon, amongst many others. Radical People shines a torch on subcultural tastemakers who have never sold out and whose contributions have never been fully realised. Reba sought to create an object that would be reflective of a world she’d feel comfortable living in, “the fetishisation of youth in fashion is so disgusting, why don’t we just celebrate these beautiful pioneers who really actually deserve the attention?” And the result is refreshingly reflective, offering real insight in to these peoples experiences and lives, “‘I suppose what’s nice about Radical People is that its all the stories have one thing in common in that they’re all about human compassion, which is something that fashion really lacks”, Reba muses.
Growing up near Oxford, Reba’s experienced snobbery from childhood friends due to her choice to work in fashion, something her friends say means she is contributing to capitalism, an argument she strongly disagrees with, “The reason I wanted to work in fashion was a lot to do with feminism because I think it’s one of the most achievable ways you can change how women feel about themselves”. Reba throws up the interesting point that women look at fashion imagery more often than any other type of media, therefore resulting in fashion being an industry in which you can alter the perception of women and how they are ‘supposed’ to look for the better. “You know we can’t all work within charities; we can’t all work directly within journalism or different vehicles of feminism. But if you just regard fashion as being fickle and vain then that’s worse”
Passionate about the fluidity of gender and equal rights, Reba feels the conversation as to whether a woman choses to label herself as a feminist is redundant, “what women really should be doing is looking after each other because if we can’t do that then what’s the fucking point? A lot of women really fucking hate each other so that’s actually what we should be tackling.” She feels similarly surrounding the idea of Beyonce as a feminist icon, and the recent trend in culture to call out women on their ‘bad’ feminist behaviour, “who is a good feminist and who is a bad feminist is a fucking wasted conversation, as long as you care about other women that’s all that matters.”
And its obvious that Reba does care about other women, and more specifically the impact her work has on them. Consciously deciding to act against conventions of the fashion industry she works in with the intent to build a better reality for herself, her friends and the wider world in general. Political, not afraid to say what she thinks and all round fabulous, Maybury is most definitely the making of a radical woman.
Words by Ione Gamble
Portrait by Sarah Piantados, all other images courtesy of Reba Maybury