Magazine founder, social media influencer and global fashion mogul Gili Biegun is an international force with her roots tied to Florence. She’s been featured in publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle, and founded JOYS magazine in 2012 where she has so far created 12 print editions that are sold worldwide. Between her travels for major cultural events, such as Cannes Film Festival and Paris Fashion Week, she took the time to chat with us about her career, relationship with Florence and her thoughts on the future.
What’s your Florentine story?
I’m originally from Israel and when I was in high school I studied art and art history. One of my professors, who adored Florence and the Renaissance, organized a class trip here and I completely fell in love with it. A few years later, I was doing general studies in Israel and decided I wanted to focus on structural engineering. I remembered my love for this city and decided to come back and study at the University of Florence. Coming from Israel, the bureaucratic process took a long time, but I finally made Florence my home. That was 12 years ago now.
What keeps you in Florence?
Every so often I ask myself the same question. I travel a lot for work and moving to a bigger city like Milan, Paris or London is always a possibility, but there’s something about the Florentine lifestyle that I love. I’m well connected to the rest of Europe while being surrounded by fashion, culture and art. Florence is a great home base to ground myself in the middle of all of the traveling and I love my downtime here. It’s nice to relax, clear my mind and refocus. Also, my magazine is based in Florence and we carry out all of our production here. Fashion houses from across Europe will send samples to be shot specifically here and it brings a spotlight to Florence. Most magazines are based in Paris or Milan, where it’s easy to gain traction, but everything ends up looking similar. In Florence, there’s room for originality. Though I’m not originally from Florence, I’m really proud to be based here and I’m proud to represent the city when I travel.
Being in a small city, how do you keep the content for your magazine and your own platform fresh?
Florence has always had an international flair. I didn’t bring anything new to the concept of people from other places bringing parts of their cultures here and making it work in the Florentine setting. For me, traveling to different places, experiencing different lifestyles and bringing a piece of them back here really works. I love it here, but to stay for a long time without experiencing anything else would be a bit boring. Always bringing something new to the city keeps things fresh and exciting.
What is it about Florence that inspires you?
While I don’t spend all of my time here, my personality is 100% Florentine. There’s a calmness here that I’m inspired by and I like to put a chic spin on it when incorporating it into my work. I live in San Niccolò and the pandemic was actually a great time for me to be inspired because the only people I saw were my neighbors. I’m very inspired by the stylish residents of San Niccolò. The ones who get dressed up in perfectly ironed shirts and trousers with matching belts and shoes just to get coffee in the morning with their friends.
Do you think Florence has any distinctive fashion traits like other fashion capitals? E.g. New York as sporty, London as punk…
Florence is very traditional in the way that it presents fashion. However, things are starting to change and I hope that change continues. For example, this summer edition of Pitti Uomo featured a lot of diverse shows in terms of gender and I think this the right direction to go in for future editions. The traditional way of executing fashion in Florence really suited older generations, which is what made it such a force in the past, but we need to move forward in order to continue. It’s a beautiful little fashion capital with so many big houses coming to present their collections during the off season. Overall, it’s important to move with the times and adapt.
What direction would you like to see Florence go in?
I respect and believe in the tradition of Pitti Uomo, but I think dropping the “uomo” part and just calling it Pitti would better suit our current day. Having a second title like uomo is great for business, but I don’t think it has a place in our current times. It creates limits instead of opportunities. With all due respect to Milan as the Italian fashion capital, Florence also has a lot to offer. Why not start with the Pitti platforms?
Favorite getaway spot?
Now that the weather is warm, I like taking my dog for walks around piazzale Michelangelo. There’s a nursery there that sells plants and has a nice grassy area to run around in. We also go for walks around the Basilica di San Miniato.
Favorite date spot?
Every morning my husband and I grab a coffee somewhere around the San Niccolò area, like Rifrullo or one of the Ditta locations.
Favorite place in Tuscany?
I like going to Chianti for a nice wine tasting.
Favorite Florentine neighborhood?