Walking In Her Shoes: Ione Gamble

'I try to like myself, because trying to like myself is much more important than trying to change myself.'


by Dominique Sisley |
Published on

When Ione Gamble first founded Polyester at the age of 19, she never imagined the seismic effects it would have on the UK zine scene. The publication, which is now on its sixth issue, has shaken up the world of women’s print media, and revolutionised the way we consume culture, fashion and feminism. With Polyester, it’s never been about keeping ahead of trends – it’s just about forming, and fully embracing, your own.

The magazine has also managed to spawn its own aesthetic; bringing the kitsch, glittery world of 00’s Tumblr out of the Internet backwaters and into the mainstream. Its shoots – which have attracted alt-feminist icons like Tavi Gevinson, Pussy Riot and Cherry Glazerr – are shamelessly adorned with scribbled hearts, bright neon-lighting and smeared lipstick, and characterised by their fancy, fairy-tale-like femininity.

Despite all these voltaic visuals, though, editor-in-chief Gamble’s signature style is surprisingly understated. As it turns out, the attention-grabbing aesthetic of Polyester is in no way reflective of her own personal style.


'I love looking at awful kitschy things – John waters films, frilly, frilly chocolate boxes, and kids films – but I’ve never felt the urge to apply that to my own body,' she explains. 'Polyester is just about finding the commonalities in the differences between young women who just don’t feel like they fit in.'

And therein lies the secret to Polyester’s – and Gamble’s – success. The magazine, which is led by the tagline 'have faith in your own bad taste', encourages its readers to embrace what makes them different. Unlike other fashion magazines, it champions society’s 'uncool' outsiders – particularly those who have been left in the cold by constrictive beauty standards.

'I hope it offers a more authentic voice in print and online media,' Gamble says of the zine’s success. 'So many girls, like myself, grew up really liking fashion, really loving clothes, really loving feminism and really loving music, but nowhere had put it all together in a way we understood it. Now, you look at a magazine and there’s still no fat people in it, or there’ll be one token person of colour… It’s still very narrow, even if most print media wants to give an illusion of being otherwise.'

At first, Gamble explains, Polyester was started as a university project. The plan was to print 200 copies of the first issue, which clocked in at 30-40 pages, and fund it with her student loan. She then reached out to designers and artists she admired (namely fourth-wave feminist pioneers like Molly Soda and Arvida Bystrom) to see if they’d be interested in being involved, and – to her surprise – they responded positively. Although finances have been tough, she says, each issue has been able to fund the next.

'I’ve never been someone who’s really afraid of hard work, so all the hard bits of Polyester – like trying to get an issue out while working, or when you don’t have the money – they’ve never been a hard challenge for me, because I didn’t necessarily grow up very privileged in terms of wealth,' Gamble recalls. 'It wasn’t financially viable, (but that was) something I never expected.'

Since then, Polyester’s popularity has rocketed, with Gamble now printing 1000 copies of each issue. For readers, the zine’s fun and fresh approach to intersectional feminism – a topic which has grown stale in other publications – is unbeatable, as is its approach to socio-political issues. Each shoot featured in the publication aims to be about more than just fashion; tackling issues like mental health, body positivity, queer identity and the demonisation of women. 'Making women or queer people feel better about themselves is quite a job – there’s been centuries of unlearning,' Gamble says. 'It shouldn’t be an overtly political act to put stretch marks in a magazine.'

As someone who doesn’t fit into fashion’s conventional body standards, Gamble feels like this kind of engagement is vital. 'I’ve always felt the need to shrink,' she says. 'I’m not this girl who’s going to be snapped up by Select models anytime soon, who can go out and wear some vintage Gaultier and be loved. That’s not going to happen. Everything I do is going to be statement if I make myself about my body.'

Does she feel like the industry is changing the way it looks at larger women? 'When you have an industry that’s run by middle-upper class people who are skinny and privately educated, it breeds absolutely toxic behaviour,' Gamble explains, with an air of resignation. 'There’s no reason why you shouldn’t photograph clothes on a larger woman. There’s no reason you shouldn’t feature them, apart from your own perverse fatphobia and insecurity about yourself.'

For this reason, Gamble claims to be a 'self-conscious' dresser – sticking to vintage black dresses, thick glittery tights, and 90s platform boots, and keeping a wide berth from the high street (she lists Miu Miu, Rodarte, and Edward Meadham as her dream designers). And, while she admits that she’s not totally immune from the industry’s judgements, she is becoming more resistant to them. 'I try to like myself, because trying to like myself is much more important than trying to change myself,' she says, practically.

'I think the only way you can remain ahead of anything is by being true to yourself, and I think I realise that more the older I get. You like the things you like… As long as you aren’t too concerned with who’s cool and who’s not cool, then you’re not going to have a problem.'

*Shop Ione's tee here and her shoes here, both from adidas. *Plus, shop the full Campus range here.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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