What is Back Row?

Back Row is a fashion and culture newsletter by me, Amy Odell. I have more than 15 years of experience covering fashion and culture, beginning at New York magazine. I am the author of two books: ANNA: The Biography, the New York Times bestselling biography about fashion’s most powerful person, Anna Wintour; and Tales From the Back Row: An Outsider’s View from Inside the Fashion Industry, a collection of humor essays. My writing regularly includes insights drawn from my extensive reporting for ANNA: The Biography, for which I interviewed more than 250 people, including some of fashion’s biggest names, like Tom Ford, Grace Coddington, André Leon Talley, and many more.

Fashion journalism, particularly in corporate media entities, is greatly influenced by outside pressures — from brands who advertise, from celebrities who need to appear on covers, from tech giants like Facebook and Google that control the click economy online. Back Row is constrained by none of those influences. I am not doing this for access to anyone, gifts, or front-row fashion seats. I am beholden to YOU and you alone, without interference from those too-powerful influences. This signature outsider, reader-supported perspective remains more crucial than ever in today’s fashion coverage, which often feels overrun by Kardashian-Jenner clickbait.

Paid subscribers can expect two posts by me each week, including commentary, Q&As, reported features, humor pieces, and more. Paid subscribers will also enjoy complete access to the entire Back Row archive and access to commenting. Free subscribers will receive occasional free posts.

Why Should You Pay to Read Back Row?

Since internet media began, content has been devalued. This is painfully apparent in many fashion websites monetized by advertising, which is driven by audience scale. These publications have to have such large audiences to compete with social platforms and Google that they resort to clickbait to drive up numbers. You know those social media posts that tease half of a celebrity headshot and ask you to click to see her entire haircut? This is what the media industry has evolved to do to survive in the 2020s. Fortunately, Substack has enabled writers like me to offer a sorely needed alternative.

By being monetized entirely by readers, Back Row doesn’t have to run any clickbait at all, and can focus entirely on delivering only high-quality stories to your inbox. Paid membership begins at $50 a year or $5 a month (the amount you might spend on one coffee drink in a city). The funds not only compensate me for the time it takes to write this newsletter, they also will enable me to grow and expand the scope and ambition of this publication.

I hope you will join me in the effort to reinvent fashion media for the modern era.

Thank you so much for your support. I can’t wait to see what we do with this community, as one of the first fully reader-supported fashion media outlets.

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and TikTok for more fashion and culture coverage.

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The ad-free fashion and culture newsletter that publishes what legacy media can't.


Amy Odell 
Fashion journalist. Front row topics, back row perspective.