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New web magazine challenges fashion, feminist norms

Hanna Nicholls, Dina Lobo and Marielle Nicol have started an online magazine called GirlCove. RYAN TAPLIN • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Hanna Nicholls, Dina Lobo and Marielle Nicol have started an online magazine called GirlCove. RYAN TAPLIN • THE CHRONICLE HERALD - The Chronicle Herald

Before posting a personal essay on pooping her pants, Hanna Nicholls hesitated out of nerves.

She wanted to share something personal — it doesn’t get more intimate than talking about how an intestinal infection called giardia led to her pooping herself — but she was unsure how it would go over. Nicholls and two friends had just launched Girl-Cove, a feminist fashion website magazine, and she wanted to be brave.

“So many people have reached out to me and were like ‘that’s so relatable,’” she said.

“You’re just putting yourself out on this platform for people to be super critical about you, but it was also important because I’m not the only person who feels that way.”

The three founders — Nicholls, a 25-year-old Saint Mary’s University grad who works at The Chronicle Herald, Marielle Nicol, a 22-year-old University of King’s College grad who just finished a degree in classics and religious studies and Dina Lobo a 23-year-old King’s journalism grad — launched GirlCove (www.girlcove.ca) on April 30.

It was sparked out of dissatisfaction they all felt of mainstream fashion magazines.

“I didn’t really realize until I got to grad school the magazines and publications I was feeding into were very patriarchal even though they operated under the guise of female empowerment,” Nicholls said.

“There was a lack of realness that was missingand I think they have a false persona of what it feels like to be a woman.”

Lobo said fashion magazines cater more to the male gaze even though they claim to stand for topics for women.

“We wanted something new and I feel that women would say this is something we deal with that we don’t talk about,” she said.

“Like periods or Hanna s***ing her pants.”

While that particular personal essay is a highlight, they also write stories on self-love, feminspendingism, planning outfits and personal style.

Just don’t call it a blog.

Lobo said aside from the personal essays, they want to be recognized for the effort going into the articles and for them to be taken seriously which the blog label diminishes.

“With a blog because it’s only about you, you can’t really represent too many people.”

It’s early days right now and the women are focusing on building the site and a following before attracting advertisement. They have around 1,000 page views through social media shares and many of them are coming from outside the region. Analytics shows they’re getting hits in Peru, India, Germany, France and Iran which they find very surprising.

Sitting around a cafeteria table drinking coffee one morning, it would be hard to tell these three women are running a fashion site. They each have their own style of dress but nothing that would stand out on a runway. They’re wearing minimal or no make up, with little jewelry outside of a beaded bracelet and a nose ring.

But fashion doesn’t mean lot of money on particular brands, they’re quick to say.

“I see (fashion) as a beautiful, high art that inspires me every time I see it,” said Nichol who is the quietest of the three.

“My experience, I felt a little bit embarrassed about my love of fashion and felt it’s something that’s another part of me as opposed to the big, important stuff of life. I’m excited to play with that and break down that wall and speak about fashion in an interesting and intellectual way.”

There’s no one way of understanding fashion, said Lobo, and it’s different for everyone.

“I don’t think fashion is synonymous with being materialistic, stupid. It is an intelligent way to express yourself.”

Style for Lobo has always been a defence mechanism.

“I always feel like if it’s a bad day, it’s the one thing I have control over and it’s the way I feel I can express myself without putting too much effort into representing myself in a certain way,” she said.

“We’re breaking down the stereotype of what it means to be fashionable or stylish.”

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