In 2011, Kara Eschbach, a private equity investor, and Janet Sahm, a former intern at Elle magazine, gathered with friends for brunch in their New York City apartment. The conversation turned to women’s magazines and how many of them fail to recognize the dignity of women. Sahm’s experience in the fashion industry had been “toxic” and disillusioning, she said, and she mentioned her idea to create an alternative that would be high quality and good for women.
“Why don’t we start it now?” asked Eschbach.
Three years later, Verily, the duo’s lifestyle and fashion publication, is starting to catch on. After only 18 months, its Facebook page has 23,000 likes. Most staff members come from a Christian background, but co-founders Eschbach and Sahm hope to reach women from all backgrounds and avoid labeling the magazine as Christian. Their goal is to engage the culture in a way that’s grounded in something true.
That applies even to Verily’s images—it’s the first fashion magazine with a policy that forbids touching up models’ photos.
The fashion industry as a matter of course adjusts models’ waists and “corrects” freckles, but Verily refuses to alter models’ bodies or facial structures. “Photographers, models, and stylists don’t think it can be done and don’t know what to do with us,” said Sahm, the magazine’s style editor.
Studies suggest that 70 percent of women feel worse about themselves after going through a women’s magazine. “Images are almost more powerful and affect us unconsciously in the way we see ourselves and process information,” Sahm said.
Besides fashion, Verily addresses topics similar to other women’s publications—workplace success, finance, health, family life, food, relationships—but in a way that promotes a healthy and realistic approach, with a focus on the importance of community and holistic health. Recent articles included “Have I Married My In-Laws?” and “Special Report: Egypt Under Assault.” An essay on the movie Her sets out to explain “Why We Can’t Really Love Our Robots Back.”
Washington-based journalist Grace Olmstead said she had given up on women’s magazines until Verily came along.
“It felt as if women’s magazines upheld a vision of womanhood that was harmful—not necessarily because it was secular, but because it was, at root, disordered,” she said. “They offer a sort of ‘natural law’ ethic, in which they support ideas of marriage, friendship, and selflessness that align with Christian thought. But that lack of labeling enables them to share these ideas with an audience that truly needs them—an audience that is gasping for fresh air, for truth.”
Starting a magazine from scratch was tough. Eschbach quit her job to run it and find investors, and they soon recruited three more staff, most of whom kept full-time jobs. After a few years of research and trial and error, they’ve recently decided Verily will be a web-only publication. “Women’s magazines are actually on the rise, but it’s been difficult to convince others and raise the funds to have a print media,” Sahm said. “We realized the importance of digital and having a strong digital presence.”
Krizia Liquido, Verily’s lifestyle editor, said the magazine promotes values such as personal and professional growth, service to others, unity, and balance. “We believe that what a woman does in her day-to-day life contributes deeply to her sense of who she is, whether she realizes it or not,” she said.
Verily’s fun, thoughtful articles hope to “inspire the woman who desires to set her own agenda for personal success without shunning her uniquely feminine gifts in order to get there,” Liquido said.
Chloe Rice, a student at Patrick Henry College, in Purcellville, Va., appreciates how Verily uses the internet and fashion to connect instead of compare. “While still looking cool, Verily goes deeper than that to show reasons why you would engage in social media or in fashion,” she said. “It’s not for appearance or comparison with others. It can actually be about community and appreciating yourself and others.”