I was thrilled to meet Sunset Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Irene Edwards, and tour their spectacular new headquarters in Oakland’s Jack London Square. It was a beautiful and clear morning by the water, and floor to ceiling windows framed the blue sky above and sailboats below. I have fond memories of driving past Sunset’s old corner location in Menlo Park, but I couldn’t help but feel that this iconic publication has now found the perfect place to plant new roots. Sunset Magazine elicits sentimental feelings in me, and for many of us. I remember going to my grandmother’s house in Lafayette and her Sunset was always within close reach. It is the quintessential magazine of the West, has 6 million readers per month, and with so much evolving in the publishing world, I wondered about its new leader: What would she be like? Not only was I in awe of Irene’s incredible career, I was impressed by her outlook on preserving touchstones of Sunset’s past while integrating a contemporary lifestyle of today. I was inspired by her candor, warmth, and humor, and also, her dedication and genuine joy for living in the East Bay. For the month of May, my Inspired, East Bay profile focuses on this amazing woman. Did I mention she has two children who are 11 months apart? Enough said. Please read on to learn more. Sunset and Irene….welcome home.
24 East: You recently moved out here from New York, have a big job, and are a mother to two young children. How do you find balance?
Irene Edwards: I don’t know if I have yet. Definitely the cross-country move has thrown us all off. I feel like my kids have adjusted almost instantaneously. I’m inspired by watching them and how relatively easily they’ve managed to assimilate and accommodate new routines. I look at that and I remember, I lived on 3 continents before I was 10. Even though I know that it probably wasn’t easy for me at that time, I had less issues or less complexities than I do now. I don’t know if I’ve really found balance yet. I think anytime I’m in nature it takes me away from the daily grind.
24E: Do you ever go to the beach in Alameda?
IE: All the time. We go early on Saturdays with the kids. We put our blankets down. We build our little driftwood structures. At 11 o’clock we go and get our food from the Off the Grid food trucks. We spend at least a couple of hours there. I wouldn’t miss it. Any day. It doesn’t even have to be sunny. Cloudy is fine too.
24E: What is a typical day like for you? Do you wake up before your kids?
IE: I do wake up before them. It’s funny, I’m about to read Arianna Huffington’s book on sleep. I’m dying to read that. I’ve met her once. She’s so inspiring and I wish I had that mentality. I think maybe after reading her book I will. Hopefully. I wake up at 6 am. My first instinct is to reach for my phone and check emails and read the paper. I read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on my phone. Even though that probably isn’t Arianna Huffington approved, that is how I start my day. It’s my little moment to myself. Then that’s when you get into the, ok, breakfast for everyone. Get yourself looking presentable-ish. Get them dressed, out the door, dropped off at school. Then you walk in here and your day begins.
24E: What is your day like when you get here?
IE: Mostly meetings. It depends. It does vary but there are a lot of the face-to-face interactions. I love people. I’m very social, but definitely at the end of the day, okay, glass of wine. The hardest part is coming home after a full day of putting out fires and solving whatever issues come up and making decisions. I get to my porch and take a deep breath and then, okay now it’s dinner, bath time, bed time. Then you get to the space where you have some time for yourself. Hopefully for my husband too.
24E: If X doesn’t happen during your day, it makes you feel like Y?
IE: If I don’t exercise, I’m less happy. I really have to remember that, I just do. It’s hard. We have a Pilates class at Sunset every Monday which is amazing. Even just a walk. I have these Bose sport headphones, that don’t fall out so I can speed walk and I can listen to music. Even just half an hour of that. Even if it’s just up and down the waterfront here.
24E: What is the best part of your day?
IE: We’re remodeling our house so we have a VRBO rental that is a hundred year-old bungalow. It came with this back yard full of old roses. They were planted right when the bungalow was built, so almost a hundred years old. After the kids are in bed, if it’s still a little bit light out, I go and I cut some roses and arrange them. It’s my favorite.
24E: What would be your dream alternate career?
IE: Let’s see, wow. I love vintage furniture. When I was working at this interior design digital publication called Lonny, I fell in love with the decorative arts. I thought to myself, maybe I should go back to school and learn about that. Just to be around objects with history and with soul and a story. Thinking about people who owned them is very inspiring. Just the way that the object has lived in the world.
24E: If you were on the Warriors, what would be your warm-up song?
IE: [laughter]. It would have to be Beyonce, right? I mean come on, who doesn’t say that? I will always be a 90’s hip-hop girl at heart. That might have been when I peaked musically. When I was listening to the radio nonstop in high school. So the Notorious B.I.G…
24E: Can you get Too $hort to come here?
IE: I know. I’m kind of obsessed with him. I almost tried to see him at the Fox but I was going to be out of town. This is why I love Oakland so much. We were driving by the Fox and Friday night was Too $hort and then Saturday night was Joanna Newsom. I was like, “Ohh.”
24E: Who do you admire that works in this community?
IE: Amanda Haas (Culinary Director of Williams-Sonoma). I really admire her. I’m so excited that she’s going to be at our Celebration Weekend (next weekend, May 14-15). She’s demoing with Ayesha Curry, who is another person I admire. I really love Mayor Libby Schaaf. She’s welcoming of businesses, huge businesses, tech businesses, but really mindful of our roots in social justice, and diversity, and trying to figure out the right way to create jobs and opportunity and progress without sacrificing too much of what made us Oakland in the first place. We’ll see. Honestly, can it be done? If it can be done, I think Oakland will do it.
24E: What is your dream for Sunset?
IE: Sunset turns 118 years old this year, which is amazing. It is such an honor to even work here. It’s an honor but it’s a huge responsibility. My dream for it would be to have it go out into the world and be beloved for the next 118 years, and reach this new audience. And have women like you and your friends reading it and devouring it. I just want to make sure it continues, and that it’s as visible and as relevant and as beloved as it has been this whole time.
24E: Sunset is a very sentimental magazine. I was very close to my grandmother and remember her reading it.
IE: I love it. I hear that a lot and I love hearing that because it really means something. How many brands can say that? At the same time, I don’t want it to just be a sentimental, or like “Oh I think my grandma used to get that.” However we are experiencing it, we’re going to experience it in the next 5 years, 10 years, 20 years even. How is it going to be read? That’s the challenge, but also an opportunity. We have to be smart about it and take chances. As much as it would’ve probably been the safe bet to just keep going in the direction that everyone knew, I don’t know how realistic that would be to survive in this day and age.
24E: You have to evolve. You have to change in times, but you can still hold onto your history.
IE: Exactly. That would be my dream. Let’s hope that keeps happening.
Don’t miss Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend in Sonoma next weekend, May 14-15. I am particularly excited to see Williams-Sonoma‘s Culinary Director and author, Amanda Haas, and her cooking demo with our East Bay First Lady of Fab, Ayesha Curry. Plus Oakland’s Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen, Erin Hiemstra of Apartment 34, and interior designer and winner of Domino Magazine’s #SoDomino Instagram Challenge, Lynn K. Leonidas.
For tickets to Celebration Weekend, go here.
To see the line-up for Celebration Weekend, go here.
To subscribe to Sunset magazine, go here.
To see Sunset online, go here.
To order Amanda Haas’ book, go here.
To pre-order Ayesha Curry’s book, go here.
All above photos courtesy of Sunset’s Tom Story.