In a time where journalistic publications are folding, merging or being purchased by online shipping magnates, it is unusual that a city's premier arts and culture print magazine would be available for, well, free. But since its launch in 2001, that's exactly what Tribeza has been: a free, beautifully designed, hyper-local magazine chronicling some of Austin's creative superstars (and their superstar moments).
If you're not picking it up to peruse the eclectic party pics (Your neighbor! The bartender from last night! A multi-millionaire philanthropist!), you're flipping through Tribeza for the beautiful photos of Austin's finest designers, hottest parties, freshest artists and best restaurants. But on December 16, the magazine announced it would be looking for new editor in chief, after current editor and creative director Lauren Smith Ford announced that she would be leaving her almost eight year post at the helm of Tribeza for a job at CamilleStyles.com.
For many readers, Lauren Smith Ford is Tribeza. Her name not only appears at the top of the masthead, but she serves an integral part in the creative and editorial direction of the magazine, with her styling credits and bylines often appearing numerous times in each issue.
As the magazine begins the search for someone to fill Smith Ford's very fashionable shoes, we chatted with the cultural beacon about her near decade long run with Tribeza, her future with CamilleStyles and the town she loves.
CultureMap: You've been at Tribeza for a long time, can you tell me about what initially brought you to the magazine?
Lauren Smith Ford: Almost eight years ago, I was freelance writing for a few publications, including Tribeza. I had never met the Tribeza founder and publisher at the time, Zarghun Dean, so he invited me to lunch. He hired me that day over tacos at Cantina Laredo, giving me an opportunity beyond what I ever thought possible in Austin.
[I was given] incredible amount of creative freedom, and these last few years here have been the most exciting. I just felt like it was time for me to move on to the next challenge.
CM: You have played an integral part in making Tribeza the brand it is today. Can you talk a little bit about what it means to leave it behind.
LSF: The decision to move on was such a difficult one. I have stayed at Tribeza for so long because there are only a few jobs in Austin like it. When George Elliman took over as the magazine’s sole owner in May of 2009, he gave me an incredible amount of creative freedom, and these last few years here have been the most exciting. I just felt like it was time for me to move on to the next challenge.
CM: Who do you imagine in the role going forward? What qualities do you hope they will have?
LSF: I hope my successor has a deep love and excitement for Austin and its people and that they bring a new energy and perspective to editing the magazine. My hope is the new editor will seek diversity in the types of story he or she chooses to cover and that they will find these stories all over the city. The right person should have a vision for expanding the brand. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Tribeza.
CM: Can you talk a little bit about your decision to join the team at Camille Styles?
LSF: Camille and I have been good friends for several years, and I have always admired the smart, driven, and kind person she is. CamilleStyles.com has experienced phenomenal growth over the past three years, and I hope to help take the site to the next level with my new role as editor in chief. We will be expanding content to new areas like parenting and wellness and featuring more high-profile creative people around the globe in interviews and home tours. I know Camille can do anything she sets her mind to, and I look forward to being a part of [it].
CM: What were some of your favorite stories, people, experiences over the past eight years?
LSF: The best thing about my job has been the opportunity to meet so many smart, inspiring people. Spending some one-on-one time in an interview with Willie Nelson the night before ACL Live opened was a truly magical moment. I love the 16-page black and white fashion spread I did with photographer Dan Winters, as well as the Norman Rockwell-inspired shoot I worked on with Randal Ford. I also made many life-long friends who I only would have met through this work. Of all the events I attended, the one that stands out most is the Look for Love fashion show that St. Thomas Boutique threw in 2006. It was under a tent in a yet to be developed parking lot of downtown, and Zac Posen came in town to show his latest collection. Everyone sat in these glamorous lounges, and Mick Jagger showed up for the after party.
CM: What are you most proud of accomplishing at Tribeza?
LSF: I am most proud of all the original creative work Tribeza has produced and that we have done it with a small, resourceful team. When I took over as editor, my hope was to focus on Austin’s up-and-comers and to make the magazine a place of discovery. This can be a real challenge since Austin is so small, but I think we did achieve that over time. It was a true honor to have this job and to be able to capture a small slice of the city. Because of my time at Tribeza, I have come to know Austin and its dynamic characters in a way I never could have without this opportunity.
CM: Any regrets?
LSF: I learned from every mistake along the way, and will always look back at my time at the magazine fondly.