You wouldn’t necessarily think a woman who owns her own company—especially an in-demand design studio that works with some of the brightest young fashion and beauty brands today—would need to look far for a creative outlet, but when Roanne Adams, founder of RoAndCo, started working on Romance Journal over eight months ago, she was “feeling pretty desperate.” Her business was booming, but emotionally she was struggling, quietly questioning her career and her future path.

For as many beautifully constructed digital personas (and resulting Instagram feeds) she’s helped her clients create, Adams admits that there’s something that feels emotionally “dismissed or suppressed” about this form of visual communication. I’d add distorted and neutered to that. The false art of the feed has been deconstructed before (see: the excellent recent expose by The New Yorker’s Rachel Monroe that reveals the depressing reality behind the bohemian #vanlife movement), but less has been said about the deeper effects it’s had on our collective mental health. For designers and other people who work digitally, the so-called “internet effect” goes particularly deep, but just how deep, and what that might mean for our waking life is hard to tell at this point.

For her part, Adams doesn’t shy away from talking about how she got lost in a digital life, or from discussing her own existential crisis, which she experienced as a growing cloud of “negative thought patterns” and “a constant chatter of questions, complaints, and worries.” The demands of a growing business on the eve of its 10-year anniversary, plus family stressors and all the other factors of life as a busy boss lady in New York City became too much too bear.

My emotional stress had gone into overdrive and physically made me feel sick. I couldn’t comprehend why I felt this way when I seemingly had it all. I couldn’t put my finger on why I wasn’t feeling creatively fulfilled.

She wanted to know whether she was alone in feeling this way, or if other creative women who seemed to have it all, too, felt overwhelmed, sidetracked, or confused by the shape their lives were taking. “I wanted to understand if they were doing what they were meant to be doing—in other words, living in line with their truth,” Adams says. So she contacted a list of 10 creative and ambitious women—a chef, a musician, a filmmaker, a gallerist, and several fashion designers and entrepreneurs—the resulting conversations became Romance Journal.

After spending half a year speaking to one inspiring woman after another, Adams doesn’t necessarily have an answer to why she lost touch with her emotional life, but Romance Journal is a kind of antidote—for herself, and for the reader, too. “As this project took shape,” she says, “I looked back to why I started RoAndCo in the first place: to experience a sense of wonder and possibility when you get together to make something with the people who inspire you most… It sounds corny, but I feel deeply connected to this project; it’s a true reflection of what I care about.”

A magazine comprised of interviews with smart, talented, of-the-moment women is not a new concept, of course, but that hardly matters when the quality—of the interviews, the interviewees, the photography, and the design—is of this level. The whole RoAndCo studio came together to create this large-format beauty, full of gorgeous photos by Robin Stein.

In each biannual issue, Adams promises open and honest conversations that aren’t afraid to go deep or get sentimental. In between issues, readers can expect more inspiration online and IRL with events, and eventually workshops and retreats. Till then, here are our favorite moments from issue one.

“I’ll wake up very often and feel like life has dared me to do something—maybe something a little bit scary. Sometimes it becomes almost an oppressive feeling… Sometimes I feel like I’m being dared to respond, being dared to work within that conversation and at that level. Anyone who works in a self-ruled job, it’s really between you and yourself. I don’t feel like I’m being dared by anybody else, it’s really coming from me. In a way that’s the scariest, because that’s who I want to let down the least.”

—Caroline Polacheck, singer, songwriter, producer

“I think everybody chooses the life they want… There’s no right or wrong choice; you need to ask yourself, ‘who am I intrinsically and what do I want from this life?’”

—Norma Kamali, fashion designer, founder of Normal Kamali

I don’t think that I’m always on [but] I get confidence from a continuation of my own work, where I can look back and see a thread happening—there is a direction that I’m coming from and a direction that I’m continuing to go. That makes me feel like I’m walking the right path, even on those days when I’m not feeling it.

—Jessica Koslow, chef and owner of Sqirl

“I’m a big fan of psychics… I think that when you’re in those mysterious places in your life, information is available to you, it’s just a matter of taking a moment and receiving it. I think it’s about trying to be as honest as I can with myself with what is making me happy and what is feeding me on a deeper level. It’s not about prediction, it’s more about looking for signs in a time when I might need answers, guidance, or a more acute sense of intuition. We each have those secret levers that we can lean on to guide us to the next moment.”
—Christene Barberich, global editor-in-chief and co-founder of Refinery 29

I avoid complacency because complacency is going to be the death of my brand. I really enjoy spontaneity. I have a hard time when people ask me what my five-year goals are. I want to be present and I want to feel what’s going to feel exciting to me now, and ride that energy wave.

—Rachel Comey, fashion designer and founder of Rachel Comey

“As funny as it sounds, pregnancy made me picture everyone as a baby, so that they subsequently became sweet to me—even people crammed on the subway. It was profound and nuts! A New York commuters schlep went from a heinous chore to this something sentimental experience.”

—Georgie Greville, co-founder and creative director of Milk Makeup

“Lately I’ve been getting up extremely early, while it’s still dark, and trying to take an hour or so to myself to think about—it sounds so cheesy—but to remind myself what I want to do and what’s important to me, and calmly get into the frame of mind of what I want to do that day.”
—Lisa Overduin, gallerist and founder of Overduin & Co.

I think doing less sometimes is more. It’s about knowing the things you want and bypassing the things that might cause extra noise.

—Sophie Buhai, jewelry designer and founder of Sophie Buhai

I’m trying, as I get older, to actually enjoy the accomplishments. Looking back, I can see myself reflecting on a lot of what I didn’t do and should have done, but I should have really been thinking about how I arrived at it.

—Janicza Bravo, filmmaker, playwright

“You only appreciate feeling normal once you haven’t been feeling normal. If we start to appreciate where we are at this moment, we’ll be living every day at an 8 [out of 10] instead of a 5. If you’re in you’re in a situation where you’re in your house reading this magazine, you’re probably well qualified to be an 8. This is your 8. You just haven’t realized that it’s an 9 because you’re fixated at your 5 thinking it’s a 1.”
—Aurora James, creative director and founder of Brother Vellies 

Created + designed by RoAndCo Studio
Photography by Robin Stein
Floral design by Britta Walsworth 
Contributing editor, Eviana Hartman