TALK TO ME: Nathalie Atkinson, part I

Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

Nathalie Atkinson is the style columnist for the National Post, and writes about arts, culture and fashion for many magazines, including ELLE Canada. She’s smart, tough, opinionated, and can always be counted on to elevate the dialogue in an industry that is too easily dismissed as being silly or frivolous. (She’s fun on Twitter too.) Put simply, Nathalie is one of the best we have. Recently, she answered The Style Notebook’s weekly “Talk to Me” questionnaire.

What are some of your favourite words?

“To speak or to write? In conversation I often seem to find a way to work in the words candor, dessert, sycophant, delicious, trundle, formidable, absurd, inquisitive, astonishing…My pal Shinan [Govani] would probably say it’s dowager. I do love that word. It’s so perfectly evocative.”

What are your pre-writing rituals?

“I’m always doing it so there’s no pre or post. There’s always just…writing. Researching, thinking, reading, it’s all writing. I guess I read a lot. Wait—does dancing around singing into a hairbrush to Taylor Swift every morning before I wake my iMac up count? (Just kidding. Mostly.)”

How do you handle writer’s block?

“Write more. There is no waiting for a muse to come down from Mount Olympus, at least not for me. I’m not writing a novel, I write several columns and features a week. It’s like going to the gym—it has to be done and so you just do it.”

Which fashion writer do you most admire?

“Depends on the day and what I’m in the mood for. Colin McDowell, Cathy Horyn, Maeve Brennan, Justine Picardie, Kennedy Fraser, Cintra Wilson, Hadley Freeman, Amy Spindler…and a few years ago a friend turned me on to the incredible Lois Long, who I’m almost ashamed to say I’d never heard of. On the whole, I relate most to Alexandra Shulman’s no bullshit attitude about fashion. From all I’ve read she’s clever, down to earth and smart. I mean, the woman is on the Orange Prize jury!”

What inspires you, in the fashion world and beyond?

“Doing things completely unrelated to fashion. Reading, which takes me out of my own head. Hobbies like baking and crafting, because I find that meditative and relaxing. And making something with your hands can often be more satisfying than column inches!”

What was the first magazine you ever had a subscription to?

“As a tween, someone—probably my grandmother—got me a subscription to Penny Power, the children’s version of Consumer Reports. I had that subscription for years! I kid you not; it was designed to teach kids how to be skeptical shoppers, how to budget your weekly allowance, how to save up for a bicycle…it was like the Buckley’s Mixture of magazines, but I read it cover-to-cover and the approach clearly stuck. Around the same time I also got Young Miss (before Bonnie Fuller turned it into YM), and there was my beloved Sassy, eagerly awaited in the mail (because Penny Power had taught me that subscriptions are better value than newsstand purchases!). With cover lines like ‘Do you need armpit hair to be a feminist?’, Sassy totally owned my heart.”

Check back tomorrow for part II with Nathalie.

In the meantime, remember Sassy!

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