RAD Magazine Logo

This is not an article about Connor Garel.

Published on
Jan 24, 2024
Written by
Macy Hatcher and Ricardo Felix
Published by
Edited by
Sabrina Yussuf

In the midst of 2018, the corridors of FASHION Canada witnessed the arrival of a luminary in the making, his voice zealous and his talent undeniable. His destination? The office of Isabel Slone, then at the helm of the magazine as Fashion Features Editor. Pitching a story on André Leon Talley’s use of language in fashion media –– Garel’s words, woven with a captivating creative essence, had entranced Slone for the first time –– but certainly not the last. The story's immediate green light for publication marked the emergence of a new influential voice joining the world of arts and culture journalism

“Connor is a gifted prose writer. It’s not just that he’s talented with words, it’s that the thought that he has, the critiques of his subject, are unique and surprising and fascinating,” Sloane astutely notes on  Garel’s writing, not just as an editor but as a fan of his work.

After graduating in 2019 from Toronto Metropolitan University’s journalism program, Garel is now a Writer in Residence at The Walrus and is a Contributing Editor at Dazed Magazine, as well as writing pieces for The Cut, HuffPost, Canadian Art, i-D Magazine, Elle and more. From his early days as a student, Garel’s peers foresaw his trajectory towards becoming an accomplished writer.

Anyone who reads Garel’s work would characterize his distinctive writing style as possessing a unique flair and spirit not easily found in others' writing. 

Kaylah Wilson, freelance stylist, and brand consultant, first met Garel in a fashion class at Toronto Metropolitan University. After getting to know each other, he encouraged Wilson to apply to their school's student magazine RAD (currently known as Hues), where he was a Content Writer and later, Managing Editor. The two went on to work with each other on several editorials for the magazine and creative projects outside of school. 

“When I read his work, I know ‘this is Connor’. I feel connected to his work. When I read Connor’s writing, I feel like I’m there, and I’m seeing what’s happening”, describes Wilson with a heartfelt tone. Wilson notes that “on a personal level, he is just a sweetheart. Everything about him is lovely”, which certainly permeates his writing. 

Wilson has always loved Garel’s writing style. His observant and genuine approach checks all the right boxes for her. Reading Garel’s work, there is no disconnect. The writing builds a world that invites you to feel as though you were in the room with him and his subject as the interview is happening. 

In his writing, Garel carefully sets the scene, noting the subject’s gestures, the scents that take over the room, and the subtle nuances often overlooked by the casual observer, infusing richness into his work. His most admirable journalistic instinct lies in the consistent humanity he is able to inject into his reporting. 

Alongside the personal delicacy of his writing, Garel’s personality and drive has led to many of his successes. “I had a cheeky subject line… ‘This is not an email about pink sauce.’ I sent them [Dazed Magazine] all these writing clippings, and I was invited to have coffee with two of the editors.” Garel admits with a chuckle. This cold email about a pink sauce crisis in the United Kingdom would eventually set Garel on his journey of interviewing stars from the likes of Canadian actress Taylor Russel, British rapper Digga D, and, of course, Azealia Banks. 

(Dazed Magazine, March 13th, 2023)

“Half asleep, I woke up one day with an email, and the subject line was ‘Interview with AB,’ and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ When I woke up again, the email was still there, which confirmed that it wasn’t a dream.”

Published as the cover story for the Spring 2023 issue of Dazed Magazine, writing precisely 4734 words about Azealia Banks became his most significant writing achievement to date. “I think it would’ve been so easy to write a sensationalist profile about Azealia Banks, but he treated it with such delicacy, humanity, and understanding,” Sloane confirms.

Leaning back in his chair, Garel channels a wise and tenured professor, offering us insight - in the world of fashion, old criticisms are still new criticism. There are patterns in the fashion industry that have yet to be upended, including the lack of representation. Garel has been inspired to showcase the influence of the people he meets and the art he consumes in his writing. Growing up, Garel always found that the voices of those from the people at the back of the room were missing from fashion journalism. To address the need for this through his writing, he consciously tries to interview people who aren’t often provided fair space by highlighting Black and LGBTQ+ artists.

As significant fashion publishing platforms shrink, Garel anticipates a rise in opportunities for unconventional voices, particularly those of young individuals with informed perspectives. He envisions these unique voices taking center stage in the realm of fashion journalism, offering critical and educated insights –– if they can first conquer the speed-bumps on their road forward, namely a capitalist media that values attention and clicks more than quality and novelty.

(Dazed Magazine, August 14th 2023)

While Garel notes cautiously that “sometimes the loudest mic gets handed to the dumbest person in the room,” he most importantly notes that the democratization of fashion journalism through social media gives access to a broader range of diverse voices, which allows for significant equity within the industry but is countered with the limitations of the attention economy.

We witness this phenomenon in numerous content creators who express their opinions, share tips, review, and showcase their style through social media platforms to audiences worldwide. An illustration of this is Wisdom Kaye, a fashion enthusiast who began by sharing style videos on TikTok in early 2020. Since then, their career has rapidly advanced, from sitting in the front row at fashion shows to being featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

The landscape of fashion journalism as a career has been reshaped by the emergence of social media, presenting countless opportunities for fashion enthusiasts in recent years. This shift has not only allowed individuals to deepen their understanding of fashion through diverse media but has also facilitated the growth of who can share fashion content.

“Only certain people were given the opportunity to share how they felt about the fashion world. And that license was often partially defined by whiteness, among other things [...] The upside to social media existing as it does is that you have a buffet of opinions that you can go to,” Garel shares.

(Connor Garel, @thewalrus)

What does this all mean for Garel’s future in the writing field? Looking ahead, while navigating the intricacies of journalism in fashion and the arts, his central emphasis is self-advocacy. This involves not only articulating why he's the optimal choice for a story and negotiating fair compensation but also supporting the community in which he actively participates. In the competitive realm of journalism, mutual support and solidarity among writers is vital.

Garel's future is deeply rooted in his love for what could be seen as a thing of the past: magazines. “I love magazines really dearly. And I still think of magazines as a really vibrant, fertile space for conversations about art. I still see a lot of exciting artists that people don't interview.”

With that now familiar zeal, Garel leaves us with his aspirations for the future — to create an ode to the art and people he loves by creating his own independent magazine.