Lifestyle journalist and photographer Carol Troy is on the cutting edge of culture and fashion since the 1970s. The Vassar educated Californian was an editor at Rags, a co-author of the best-selling book” Cheap Chic”, and helped found Oui Magazine. Carol’s work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, and The New York Times.
“It was fun starting magazines,” opines Carol, who is now based in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She co-founded the international online fashion magazine Laika Style, with former Halstonette Nancy North (the subject of a previous subscriber profile). I spoke with Carol by phone last week.
Carol and Nancy launched Laika Style in January 2021. It is named after the dog that flew in the Russian Sputnik, officially the first female space explorer. “We want to have something that is cutting edge Mexican, cutting edge conceptual art, cutting edge style and sustainability,” says Carol. Their first edition featured a cover shot of a model sitting in a Tesla, photographed in Mexico City.
They plan to publish 8 issues a year and have hired Darren Floyd to help them focus on their e-commerce capabilities and create awareness of the site. Darren knows a thing or two about luxury brands, having worked with David Yurman, Tiffany, and Movado, among others. Like almost everyone else these days, David is working from the Hamptons. What else is new?
Carol is a child of the ’60s. She lived in San Francisco, frequented the Haight Ashbury district, and attended Bill Graham’s legendary concerts at the height of the “Flower Power” era. “I’m surprised we’re still alive,” Carol joked while thinking about that chaotic and creative time. Carol’s love of fashion was nurtured by her mother, who frequently took her to the designer department at I. Magnin and helped train her eye.
As a hip California girl immersed in the street fashion culture, Carol already had a good take on fashion in New York when, in the late ’60s, she began working for Francois de Menil in Manhattan’s Union Square, a stone’s throw away from Andy Warhol’s Factory. The New York-based architect is the son of the late Dominique de Menil, the distinguished art patron. The prominent de Menil family was once dubbed “The Medicis of Modern Art.” This experience would have a crucial formative influence on Carol, who graduated with a B.A. in Political Science.
From 1970 – 1971, Carol served as the New York editor of Rags, the short-lived yet revolutionary anti-establishment magazine founded by Baron Wolman, Mary Peacock, Daphne Davis, and Blair Sabol. With its focus on street fashion, it defined the counter-cultural spirit of the early 70s. Vanessa Friedman’s article, “The Magazine That Invented Street Style,” April 21, 2021, refers to Rags as “one of the most influential magazines most people have never heard of.”
“Rags was so underground, other magazines used to call us because they thought we had our fingers on the pulse. And we did” – Carol Troy.
Carol went on to write “Cheap Chic” with Caterine Milinaire, Diana Vreeland’s “junior” fashion editor in the 60’s. First published in 1975 and updated in 1978, “Cheap Chic” incorporated many of Rag’s street-chic ideas into its chapters. The Japanese magazine, POPEYE, devoted an entire issue to the book in 2013 and named all the designers who have relied on it, including Hermes’ Christophe Lemaire. Last weekend, there was a profile of Michael Kors in WSJ magazine. Michael admits the tome has been his bible since the 7th grade.
In addition to working with de Menil, Carol’s other major influence was Clive Irving, the renowned British editor. He had a long career in journalism on both sides of the Atlantic. Clive worked on Nova and Queen, was managing editor of the Sunday Times in London, and served as a consulting editor for Newsday in New York, which is where they met. “It was interesting going to work for a newspaper started up by a woman,” says Carol (Newsday was founded by Alicia Patterson and her husband Harry Guggenheim in 1940).
Unfortunately, Troy’s stint abruptly ended after she wrote an article about a Bar Mitzvah, with photos by Harry Benson. Carol explains that several images of the Bar Mitzvah boy showed his jacket opened, revealing countless checks stuffed inside his pockets. “The idea was to celebrate materialism,” says Carol. The readers from Long Island were outraged, and she was out.
Carol was subsequently lured to Chicago by Hachette Publication’s Daniel Filipacchi to start up Oui, a men’s adult entertainment magazine known for its racy images of beautiful, often naked women; many of them well-known. It was originally published in France under the name Lui. In 1972, Playboy Enterprises purchased the rights for a U.S. edition, changing the name to Oui, and the first issue was published in October of that year. Carol hired Tina Bossidy as the fashion editor and Helmut Newton was one of many photographers whose work was highlighted. Oui went through several changes through the years and ceased publication in 1994.
While living in Soho, Carol unsuccessfully tried to restart Rags with Mary Peacock in 1977- 1978. “It was an exciting time, which is how I feel about being in Mexico now,” muses Carol. “Back in the ’70s, people could just do things for fun and for free, and I really believe that’s a great way to live”. Another thing that reminds Carol of the creative possibilities in Mexico now is how artists in Moscow in the late ’80s were inspired by Europe and tried to get as much information as possible from other places. Carol was in Moscow researching an article she wrote for Conde Nast Traveler about “Puppies” (young Moscow urban professionals).
Even though there are many restrictions because of Covid, there is still a lot going on in San Miguel. Recent events include a Studio 54 party and a Cinettica Fashion and Art Festival held in a huge old converted milk factory. Carol likens it to New York or San Francisco in the ’70s. The show included an eclectic group of designers; one label that she especially loves is Pineda Covalin, pinedacovalin.com. They sterilize and recycle denim from the U.S., cut them into beautiful garments, and add an inset of Pucci-Esque silk patterns.
Other local resources of note are Black Line Crazy, blacklinecrazy.com, a line of bags and home furnishings covered with Mary van de Wiel’s black and white abstract art (I profiled her in July 2020); Sloan, bysloan.co, a core collection of chic wardrobe essentials; the creative designs of Isabelle Manhes @maisonmanhes; and Recreo San Miguel, a boutique filled with beautiful things according to Carol, recreosanmiguel.com.
Carol describes herself as a “happily” divorced, “independent” woman who loves her life in San Miguel de Allende. She has lived there for about 4 1/2 years and has no plans to move back to the U.S. The picturesque and historic town is often described as “the Hamptons of Mexico.” With its Baroque/Neoclassical colonial structures, striking street murals, and perfect year-round weather, no wonder it has gained a reputation for attracting tourists, writers, musicians, and artists from all walks of life. Carol would love to become more proficient in Spanish, see more of Mexico, eventually go back to Russia and travel to China.