Reba Maybury, Editor, Sang Bleu


"I grew up in a little town called Woodstock in Oxford which was very provincial. I was always into clothes but I was never into fashion… It’s funny, you can read interviews with people in the industry who remember the first time they bought a copy of Vogue and they talk about what an amazing experience that was, but I never had that. I was into music, art, and film and that’s where my interest in the fashion world stemmed from.

Both of my parents were jewelry designers and my dad collected vintage leather and denim. When I was very small, he would dress me in incredible clothes—I was wearing 1930's denim dungarees when I was five years old! For me, fashion wasn’t about trends—it was about creating an identity that could be subversive, and expressing yourself in a different way. Then, as I got a bit older, I started to love magazines like i-D and The Face, but there weren’t many places to buy them in Oxford! Reading those magazines made me realize there was a world outside of my little town and made me want to move to London where there were exciting people doing interesting things. So, I did.

I went to Central Saint Martins to study fashion history and theory. Part of the curriculum is going out and getting some work experience in the industry and I thought, 'Where do I want to work?' I knew about Sang Bleu already—the reason I loved it is because it was essentially a fashion magazine that didn’t look at fashion. It’s more about style and individuals and identity and sexuality…things that, in a way, are the essences of subculture. Extreme body modification, not conforming to certain kinds of gender, having unusual ideas of sexuality. So, I emailed the editor who was looking for an assistant at the time, and that’s how I started there.

I want to work on things at Sang Bleu with a bigger message, things that aren’t just one-dimensional but that can help people open their minds. I’m lucky—I only review shows at Fashion Week if I think that the designer has created an interesting body image that speaks to a subculture. So, if the person they're designing for isn’t a typical model and is maybe a curvy girl, or a gay man, or someone trans or a drag queen—or someone is doing something very performative on the catwalk—then I’m interested. But if not that...well, I don’t want to pay it any attention.

There are loads of women who look great, but I can never put my finger on one style influence. I'm inspired by strong women who are successful for being themselves and not compromising their ideals, and I think a lot of how I dress and do my makeup is informed by elements of that.

I think that Hood By Air is the most important thing happening in fashion at the moment. They create something that’s genuinely genderless—not just an androgynous model girl with her hair scraped back and bleached eyebrows. I feel like I’ve only just started to learn how to wear makeup, but I’m incredibly lucky because one of my best friends and neighbors is the makeup artist Daniel Sallstrom—he actually does all the makeup for Hood By Air. He has this amazing ability to make women look very strong and confident, which is really what it should be about. I feel that I want my life exactly how I have it—with plenty of men in it who wear makeup better than I do. I have a lot of male friends who know how to do themselves up for a night.

I went to an all-girls school where everyone would be wearing makeup only to impress boys, and I just didn’t understand it. If I wanted to impress a boy, I wanted to talk about things that I was interested in, and maybe we’d have mutual interests and that’d be attractive—and then I’d fall in love! So, I very quickly developed this relationship with makeup where I felt like it was something that repressed women. But now I wear it as something stylistic. My style icons are Man Ray portraits with elements of classical beauty pulled from Greek sculpture; Catherine Deneuve in films of the '60s; the cover of Aretha Franklin’s album, I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You. Strength of character—that’s something that links together everyone that I love.

I use a Liz Earle Tinted Moisturizer because it’s delicate on the skin and feels very natural and light. I don't like the feeling of having heavy layers of makeup on my skin, but I’ll use Bobbi Brown Foundation if I need extra coverage. I always wear the same MAC lipstick, Diva, because it fits perfectly between brown and red. It’s bold, but it isn’t too in-your-face because it's matte. It’s quite elegant. I use Illamasqua Eyebrow Cake in Thunder because I like creating a bit of definition to create a strong, classic shape, but I resent going through any pain for beauty so I don’t get them done as much as I maybe should.

That’s all I wear—I don’t like mascara because it makes my eyes tired and I really hate taking it off. Things like blusher and eyeshadow are too much hassle, and I never understood trying to emulate something artificial in that way.

At the end of the day, I use Liz Earle’s Hot Cloth Cleanser and a muslin cloth to clean my face—it makes my face feel cleaner than any other face wash known to mankind. Nothing takes makeup off better!

I wash my hair every other day using Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Conditioner, which I find comfortably nostalgic, both in packaging and smell. Before I go to bed, I use almond oil in my hair. Because I’m a quarter Pakistani, I quite like Indian beauty routines—almond oil, rose water, and all that.

I wear Molecule01 perfume because it smells different on everyone, so it’s very personal. And people react very strongly to it—I’ve been chased off the bus and asked what I’m wearing, and I have friends who say they can smell me before they see me!

I always have a gel manicure, which I get done every two or three weeks down in Dalston at a salon right by where I live called Nails 4 U. I adore going to get my nails done because there are so many different women that you might not usually speak to all in the same place; women of all different ages and backgrounds coming together. I love being in that environment.

I’ve realized that you can use makeup and fashion to express something of yourself—it’s not just about conforming to an impossible idea of femininity. And it’s all about understanding the pressures that continue to confront women. That’s why I want to work in fashion—not because I’m interested in the glamour, but because I think that fashion is the most conceivable way to make a change in how women feel about themselves. You can read all the Simone de Beauvoir that you want, but at the end of the day more women look at Kim Kardashian than read The Second Sex, so it’s about finding a middle ground. Fashion is one of the biggest industries in the world—people look at it more than they do art, more than they read books, so it’s about using that power with responsibility."

—as told to ITG

Reba Maybury photographed by Olivia Richardson. Interview by Olivia J. Singer.

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  • Emma Hager

    Such an amazing Top Shelf. I love her perspective on fashion, as I, too, was introduced to that world by things other than magazines. It leaves and breathes in other places and media, it's not as concentrated as we are compelled to think is.

    I am also madly in love with the photographs of her home: the wonderful, vintage dresses and books and images.

  • lucinda veen

    I want to give this Top Shelf a standing ovation.

  • Emma Hager

    P.S. Vive Deneuve circa Belle de Jour :)

  • Sara

    This is the best interview ITG has had maybe ever. More Reba please!

  • Chiara

    Cool cool cool! I've loved reading this Reba's Top shelf, I really like getting some references to things I didn't know, and hearing her perspective on fashion and the responsibility she feels was super refreshing.

  • Gabriela Magaña

    She is seriously cool

  • ihavenobones

    More of Reba, please. Her fashion philosophy is where we should all be headed. Gotta start reading Sang Bleu...

  • Adrienne Angelos

    I am literally swooning over this girl and her philosophies on the industry.

    "For me, fashion wasn’t about trends—it was about creating an identity that could be subversive, and expressing yourself in a different way."

    "You can read all the Simone de Beauvoir that you want, but at the end of the day more women look at Kim Kardashian than read The Second Sex, so it's about finding a middle ground. Fashion is one of the biggest industries in the world - people look at it more than they do art, more than they read books, so it's all about using that power with responsibility."

    I am girl-crushing pretty hard for not having known about her until now.

  • damngoodcoffee

    This was really wonderful. I love her perspective on things- particularly on fashion as it relates to subcultures, and how things like makeup and salons can really be empowering and connect women to other women.

  • adochka

    absolute perfection.

  • Raquel

    I LOVED this Top Shelf and her "alternative" views on beauty. It's nice to read about someone who's not using makeup to feel beautiful.

  • YY

    I never thought this day would come. Love and admiration towards what this woman does and the way she is.

  • katie

    I love the far eastern/punk/workwear mix! And I always love seeing beautifully packaged foreign products thrown in there. I think I need that "Tibet Pumpkin Perfume Hair" for my dressing table (maybe not for my actual hair so much). Inspiring!

  • Lindsey

    Woah! Seriously impressed. I imagine this holds a lot of the ideals that ITG held for top shelves when the site first started: a powerful story into the world of beauty that makes readers question why we portray ourselves like we do, but simultaneously feel more empowered about it in the process. A nice dual critique/applaud - the perfect mix for getting people to feel like they can go out and do something.

  • katie

    P.S. Any info on the tank top she's wearing? I love the rainbow trim.

    • Jenny

      *****fashion is the most conceivable way to make a change in how women feel about themselves****

      Beg to disagree here. The overarching thing that can make a 'conceivable' difference to how women feel about themselves is ... definitely not fashion. SOME women may derive their sense of self-worth based on how they look or dress, but there are scores of other women who place primacy on their intellectuality, kindness, humour, wit, compassion and so forth; things you know, which matter more than fashion or looks in the larger scheme of things. Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong at all about wanting to look good or sexy, or to gain self-confidence and self-esteem from the way one looks and dresses, but these things are ephemeral, and subject to the vagaries of trends, and is something that requires a lot more effort in the long run, and not to mention the time and money.

      • Poppy

        It sounded to me that she is fully aware of those being the most important and desirable aspects that a woman should want, but understands that so many women sadly don't think about that, but by using the vehicle of fashion you present new ways for women to think about themselves? the pressure on women to look a certain way is so large, that if she can have an influence to change that - isn't that a good thing? especially as women look / compare themselves through images of other women in the context of fashion more than they do any other area of culture, am i right?

      • Cinamaron

        I agree that personality, intellect, etc are more important in the larger scheme of things, but I also really agree that fashion is an immediate, positive way to feel better about yourself. Not by following the latest trends, but by dressing in a way that is flattering and makes you feel good. I was a jeans and tshirt kind of girl until the end of college. When I started making more of an effort in how I dressed and wearing clothes that I felt better represented myself it gave me a definite boost in confidence.

    • Kimmy

      Looks like old Gaultier to me but could be wrong

  • Nae

    Ah, I noticed the Hindi-language poster! Very cool Top Shelf. I love how she draws her lip shape, too.

  • Lx2

    She is my soulmate.

  • marcella

    this. is. awesome. more like her please!

  • Denisse

    I didn't really think about reading this post until today - at work - and I'm glad I did. I love her philosophy on fashion, and I'm glad to say I have read more Simone de Beauvoir than watch Kim Kardashian.

  • Sophia

    It's great she sees make-up like that! I've heard a lot of women say make-up is something that represses you as a woman, and it always made me feel kind of bad for wearing make-up. The same goes with shaving. It's really nice to hear a woman like her say you can also wear make-up as a style-choice, and/or just for fun

  • soo

    so refreshing. i wish i could reprogram my brain to have more of her world views.

  • Amanda Meowmix

    I'm so in love with this person from the bottom of my stomach. This is entirely perfect, and I think our souls are doppelgangers.

  • BirdieBowie

    This woman is brilliant and one of the only profiles on here that doesn't make me want to vomit. Cheers to her for even mentioning De Beauvoir.