From a nook on the ground floor of the Quad, arguably one of Barnard’s most architecturally introspective structures, a love of the sartorial has connected Columbia’s only dedicated fashion magazine not only to the rest of the campus, but to readers far beyond the 116th Street gates.
Gathered by a bay window in Brooks Hall, the Hoot magazine board meets to conceptualize photo shoots and revise pitches sent in from members of its Hooties board. Most recently, they have been preparing for the launch of their 10-year anniversary issue, set to be published next Tuesday, May 7.
Hoot has spent the past decade building a singular aesthetic. It is recognizable to any one of its thousands of Instagram followers as one of splashing neons, fabrics, and millennial pastels against a cohort of strikingly diverse faces. But the accessibility of their images and undeniable New York energy did not appear overnight.
“Throughout Hoot’s timeline, you see with each issue there’s more of an awareness, and an understanding of where we are, not only on this campus, but generally in the community, in the global community, [and] within New York City’s community,” Editor in Chief Carolina Dalia Gonzalez, BC ’19, said.
Gonzalez has led Hoot for the past year and a half with diversity and inclusivity at the publication’s forefront. The magazine has sought to connect with and document student style while serving as a platform for marginalized voices. The fashion industry, they say, is not always as inclusive, which gives Hoot an even more urgent responsibility to step up and do work that few other publications have successfully done.
“We constantly have other schools messaging us, emailing us, stealing our images sometimes,” Fashion Director Miarosa Ciallella, BC ’19, said. “They’ll ask us like, ‘We want to get this started, Hoot has inspired us, you guys are kind of doing something that no one else is doing. Can you give us some advice? Can you give us some tips?’”
Inclusivity has been built into their fundamental structure, one in which anyone from the student body is welcome to pitch a concept to direct, style, photograph, or model for the magazine.
“Because so much of it is contribution-based, we’re not trying to speak for these different groups as much as we’re trying to give them a space to speak for themselves,” Copy Chief Maddy Aubey, CC ’21, said.
Despite New York’s thriving fashion landscape, Columbia has failed to embrace the local industry. In a campus seemingly dominated by Canada Goose jackets, and with schools such as Parsons or NYU located in closer proximity to the Garment District, Columbia students are not immediately thought of as particularly style-oriented.
When asked if Columbia students care about fashion, however, the board answered unanimously: “Yes.”
“I think Columbia actually having a physical place allows us to see each other and see what we’re wearing and be inspired by that. While like at NYU or Parsons, they don’t have that campus, [they] don’t have that kind of ‘seeing each other’ in public. See and be seen,” Gonzalez said.
While the magazine is celebrating its tenth birthday, student style at Columbia has always been an expression of community values, and Hoot knows it.
Last October, the magazine’s digital blog published a story called “Student Style in the Barnard Archives,” with images dating back to the 1950s. Each photograph not only captures the fashion of its respective decade, but also grounds it in our everyday campus interactions. Two friends laughing in the Quad, a group meeting at Casa Latina, and students checking into the 1978 Celebration of Black Womanhood, are all captured for posterity in the story.
Not only has Hoot taken images from the archives for its stories, but more recently, the magazine has also taken steps in ensuring that current students captured in its pages will be remembered decades from now.
“We literally gave the Barnard archives copies of Hoot this semester, and I think that was a very intentional thing on our part. We’re forcing Hoot to be a part of the fabric of this campus,” Ciallella said.
As part of its newfound aim to use fashion to redefine the institutional archive, Hoot continues to recognize the ways in which style reflects personal evolutions. It seems that this mission is ingrained in Gonzalez herself, whose love of style is rooted in her family history.
“My abuela was a beauty queen in Cuba, and she was a seamstress when she [came] as an immigrant here. Funny enough, she actually made dresses for Jackie Kennedy… So to me, it’s hard work, it’s dedication, it’s creativity, it’s fulfillment. It’s just so important in my life because it’s literally been the bread and butter of how my grandmother made it here. And I think sometimes style and fashion can kind of veer towards showing your personality, but to me, it’s more than that, it’s the American dream in a way,” she said.
Though Gonzalez’s own roots have shone through in her dedication to Hoot, the board recognizes that the magazine is part of an ever changing magazine business.
With print products becoming increasingly less relevant, it is natural to wonder what comes next for Hoot. The board insists that its end-of-semester issues will remain in print and that their future is focused on recruiting more students from SEAS and GS as well as expanding their digital content to be more dynamic.
This digital strategy will include expanding upon the work of Holler, the magazine’s digital zine published halfway through each semester.
“We turned [Holler] to be more digital because of the landscape of digital media becoming so prevalent within fashion, and just generally publications. So kind of understanding how to curate digital magazines, how to have it be more engaging towards our audience, [and] coming up with creative ideas,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez explained that for her last issue as Editor in Chief she is especially proud to be working with more local and student brands than ever before.
“I think this issue is everything that I’ve wanted it to be. I think we’ve reached a high point for it with the content. It’s accessible, it’s inclusive, it’s diverse, it’s disruptive,” she said.
Hoot’s unrivaled decade has achieved success in allowing students to see their wardrobes reflected in the vocabulary of other high fashion publications. Despite their growth in local fashion circles, most clearly reflected in their increased number of brand partnerships, the magazine has never forgotten to credit at least one shoot per issue as coming “from students’ closets.”
Editor’s Note: Carolina Dalia Gonzalez was a Spectrum and Arts & Entertainment deputy editor for Spectator’s 140th edition. She has no personal relationship to the author.