UK Esquire relaunch

Mainstream magazines are increasingly adopting the qualities of the independent magazines: a slower publication schedule and better production values, for instance. The latest iteration of UK Esquire is a particularly overt example of this shift.

The new magazine is bigger, calmer – check the cover design with its framed portrait of Mahershala Ali and a notbaly reduced logo – and will appear six times a year, down from twelve.

Overseen by editor of eight years Alex Bilmes and creative director Nick Millington, and taking 18 months to complete, this latest move is the most distinctive that the title has made in its 28-year history.

Launched in 1991, the UK edition of Esquire has never quite found a definitive position in the men’s market, despite outlasting titles that flew higher in their time, such as Arena, FHM and Loaded. This relaunch sees the magazine turning its sights more towards the likes of Man About Town and Port.

‘We are huge fans of many of the indies,’ Nick told me, ‘We feel we have married the high production values for which they are rightly celebrated, plus a clean, modern design aesthetic, with the rigorous journalism and the great writing with which Esquire has always been associated.’ That marriage is evident in these images, which present an austere simplicity of design: text pages are heavy with words, images occupy full spreads (such as this exclusive shoot by Martin Parr, above).

As well as visual references to today’s indie mags, the design also nods towards the early days of Esquire itself, launched in the US in 1933. That era is a common reference for indie mags too, a time when a more basic technology limited the layout options. The inclusion of extra elements to break up the columns of text (like this poem, above) emphasises the reference.

The new Esquire also mixes paper stocks like an indie, a back section appearing on an uncoated stock. This section includes a piece of fiction by John Lanchester, printed salmon pink to give the appearance of a coloured paper stock; again, very indie and very sixties Esquire. Perhaps most importantly, the changes establish very obvious clear space between Esquire and GQ, the two remaining non-specialist mainstream men’s titles in the UK.

It remains to be seen whether the direction works, but the team are rightly proud of the bold new direction. Esquire now feels like a celebration of print, a magazine to be coveted and collected.  ‘We think it’s a best of both worlds situation,’ adds Nick.

magCulture Meets Creative Review

The new season of magCulture Meets continues with an evening featuring Creative Review on Thursday 28 February.

Since 1980, Creative Review has been nurturing the creative community, first as a print magazine and now across multiple platforms. Combining opinion pieces, analysis and advice on navigating the creative industries, the global title champions the thinkers, makers, leaders and doers creating work that matters.

Having previously held the title of Managing editor at the magazine, we’ll be joined by newly appointed Editor Eliza Williams who takes the reins from Patrick Burgoyne as he steps down after 20 years as editor of the magazine.

Join us to hear Eliza’s plans for Creative Review, and for a closer look at the brand new, money-themed issue exploring creativity, cash and starting and successfully growing a business.

Eliza is a writer, critic and broadcaster on advertising, design, art and music, and host of the Creative Review podcast. She has published two books via Laurence King, ‘This Is Advertising’ and ‘How 30 Great Ads Were Made’, and has contributed texts to several books published by Phaidon, including ‘The 21 st Century Art Book’ and ‘The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design’

The evening will see an illustrated talk followed by an audience Q&A.

Thursday 28 February
Doors opens at 6.30pm and the talk will kick off at 7pm

Book your ticket via Eventbrite

magCulture Shop
270 St John Street

We’re grateful to Park Communications and the Five Points Brewing Company for their support of magCulture Meets.

magCulture Meets is a monthly series of talks intended to give insight into the process of magazine making. The evenings offer the opportunity to share a beer with fellow magCulturalists and hear a magazine-maker discuss their project in an informal, relaxed atmosphere.

We are unable to provide refunds or transfer tickets.

Kennedy #9

Launched after photographer turned Editor-in-chief Chris Kontos lost his job due to the Greek financial crisis, Kennedy has developed into a biannual publication with global reach. We take a look at the recent ninth issue.

ONE: The contents-list cover harks back to the earliest magazines — think National Geographic a century ago. This works well for a magazine that doesn’t want to be defined itself by an image from one single piece. Here, the design is reversed and the pastel lemon background becomes the stand-out colour on the front, as the border and title are stripped back to white. It’s interesting that, at the moment, a plethora of magazines are turning to white for their front covers – is this a larger trend or perhaps a ‘beginning of the year’ feeling?

TWO: Kennedy defines itself as a Journal of Curiosities – an open term allowing it to play around with subject matter. It delves into travel, fashion, interiors, culture, and is interested in a craftsmanlike approach. The ‘curiosities’ remit brings up interesting hidden places like London’s first members-only nightclub, Annabel’s, but I get the feeling that Kennedy could go just a little deeper into these esoteric finds. I was glad to see that this issue didn’t contain any of the slightly ‘lads mag’ photoshoots that didn’t quite work with this theme in the past — it’s good for a magazine aimed at a male readership to celebrate women for who they are and what they do rather than what they look like.

THREE: The writing in the magazine often takes quite a conversational style, which works well to bring in an air of casual acquaintanceship with the reader. In previous issues, Kontos had a large presence, authoring several pieces, but he’s managed to get more contributors involved, resulting in a richer diversity of content and viewpoints for this issue, like this sideways-designed interview with American artist Chase Hall by Paige Silveria.

FOUR: Kennedy has built itself on the power of the interview and Kontos’s presence is most keenly felt in the sprawling feature interview with London-based photographer Polly Brown. Running to nearly 60 pages, it’s as big as many other magazines in their entirety. The plethora of images of Brown doing normal stuff are engaging, but perhaps in this instance the verbatim style of interview could have been edited down a little.

FIVE: Being based in Athens gives the magazine an interesting jumping off point — there are plenty of references to Greece but, like the economic crisis, it is influenced by global people and happenings. Even when abroad, the focus is always to find out about the locality and the texture of everyday life. In this issue, an essay by Haydée Touitou, co-founder of The Skirt Chronicles, about a stormy day in Palermo makes reference to a John Kennedy street that was driven down – a reminder that ‘Kennedy’ as a name has traveled across the globe.

Editor-in-chief: Chris Kontos
Design: Athina Delyannnis after Angelo Pandelis

Rachel Signer, Pipette

After developing an interest in wine working in Brooklyn restaurants and wine shops, Rachel Signer established herself as a wine writer before launching the magazine Terre with friends. When work commitments led to that team disbanding, she relaunched the publication from Australia as Pipette, specialising in natural wines. We meet Rachel as her second goes on sale across the world.

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I now live on a polycultural farm in rural South Australia, which is a huge change for me after living in New York and Paris, but that’s what happens when you fall in love with a very sweet winemaker. The nearest coffee shop is a twenty minute drive past eucalyptus forests, a small river, some large white cows, and a tiny post office.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office?
The desk has a long history. Originally it’s from Germany, and then it made its way to South Africa with my fiancé’s mother. Their family emigrated to Australia in the 80’s and the desk came along.

It’s very sturdy but the drawer on top has little metal handles that clank annoyingly when I type fast. My partner’s daughter did an art project on the desk’s surface and we have yet to try removing the paint. But it’s such a unique desk, I don’t mind these little things.

The view is incredible — the office looks eastward out into a green valley where sheep and goats roam. Usually our dogs hang out in the office when I’m working; they sprawl on the floor making their strange yawns as if they’ve had the hardest day ever.

Which magazines do you first remember?
I still dream of having an essay or short story published there in The Sun, a Southern American literary monthly that my mother introduced me to.

When I was eight, I created Girls Life, my own zine for girls at my school. It had crossword puzzles, fashion editorials, cultural commentary, and entertaining advice. I wrote it on my dad’s electric typewriter, made collages for the imagery, and had my mom photocopy it at her office. I think I sold it in the hallways at school for $.50 per copy.

We had years’ worth of National Geographic stacked in the basement. I blame it for my personal wanderlust.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Over the past year I’ve been trading magazines with other indie publishers around the world to see what they’re up to. Lately I’ve enjoyed Above Sea Level, Fare, Glou Glou and Whetstone.

I’d have to say that Apartamento is a really important magazine in that it’s crossed boundaries between topics and disciplines, has great aesthetics and marketing, and has survived for years.

Being old school at heart, I’ll always love literary periodicals like the Paris Review and Granta.

Can you describe your magazine in three words?
International, approachable, community

You write extensively about wine for other publications, why start your own magazine? 
A few years ago, when living in New York, I was writing extensively for various print and online magazines. But I wanted to write about natural wines, and unfortunately most mainstream magazines found this topic rather niche and either rejected most of my pitches or had me find an angle that was more suited to their audience. The result was that I never got to profile winemakers who truly excited me. I also grew frustrated with the use of stock photography that many publications used.

There was one winemaker based in Oregon, named Chad Stock, who I thought was totally brilliant. Everything he was doing was a well-considered experiment designed to prove a point about winemaking. No publication would accept my pitch on Chad Stock. So, when I finally Kickstarted my first magazine, Terre, I found an Oregon based writer to do the profile on Chad, and he brought along a fantastic photographer — it turned out really well, and now this writer-photographer duo covers Oregon’s natural winemaking scene for Pipette.

I love finding and promoting remarkable, often hidden talent, who wouldn’t otherwise have a publication where they could share their work. For Pipette I’ve worked with a Bristol-based graphic designer and artist named Emma Dragovic and I’ve learned a lot from her about colour and form.

Pipette deals exclusively with natural wines; what is the definition of natural and what are the advantages of this?
It doesn’t have an official definition but it’s made by a global movement of small-batch winemakers. It’s made from organically or bio-dynamically farmed grapes, by an independent producer (not a corporation — then it would lose the ethos), using wild yeasts rather than artificial yeasts, and no additives other than minimal doses of sulphur.

Most people find natural wine enticing because it has ethics behind it — environmentalism, good labor practices, personal health — and is also attractive in a way that classical wine isn’t. You don’t need to rhapsodise about what a great vintage it was, or how famous the chateau is that produced the wine. It’s a lower alcohol style of wine that tastes absolutely fantastic once you get used to the slightly wilder flavors, but it can be enjoyed without relying on specialised knowledge.

How does this Monday differ from your working environment whilst on research trips, such as your trip to France a fortnight ago?
Visiting winemakers and attending tastings or fairs is important for any wine writer or editor. Last week I was at La Dive Bouteille, an epic multi-day tasting that takes place in limestone caves in Northern France. It was the 20th anniversary of the event, and has grown enormously in scale in that time. I made sure to get some good quality photos for Instagram, so worked with Brighton-based photographer, Ania Smelskaya.

Social media is a big part of running such an international magazine — it’s the only way to maintain a sense of community amongst our globally dispersed stockists, readers, and contributors.

Do you align the wines you feature in your magazine with the seasons?
Since I travel between both hemispheres and we have readership all over the globe, I’ve basically eradicated seasonality in the magazine, which is quite interesting and uncommon. I like the idea of bringing people into the mindset that, wherever they are, someone on the opposite end of the world is experiencing a complete contrast in weather.

Living in Australia and working with a designer and printer in Europe can lead to some interesting moments. I had to send in my final edits for issue two of Pipette while finishing dinner with some friends who were in town and flying out the next day. I was on my phone between bites, reading line by line, in order to get my feedback in on time.

Pipette’s been a dream and it’s amazing to me that it’s enjoying global support. In some ways, I don’t want it to get too professional as I worry it would lose the indie aspect. For now it’s a lot of fun in addition to being an incredible amount of work, but even when I feel like throwing the laptop at the wall, I’m so happy that Pipette exists and gives people something to look forward to every four months.

What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
Starting a wheel thrown ceramics course at the JamFactory, a fantastic arts center in Adelaide, the nearest city. I’ve wanted to learn ceramics for years!

What are you doing after this chat?
Today I have a bunch of orders to process. Issue two just came out and there’s a lot of interest. I am so happy that this issue held up the high standards we set with Issue 1. I’ve got a first draft from a writer in my inbox for the next issue! So I’ll dive into editing that.


Our favourite new podcast: Tricky, ‘A Podcast About the Thorniest Problems in Journalism

Amsterdam, 27 February: Join Yuca for the launch of their third issue with our friends The Athenaeum.

London, 4 March: BSME event ‘How to launch your own magazine’ features our own Jeremy Leslie alongside Rob Orchard from Delayed Gratification, Alex Mead from Rugby Journal and Vivien Jones from Kookie.

US Esquire criticised for leading with the troubles of a young white guy during Black History Month.

We love New York’s Casa Magazines shop, so enjoyed Courier’s interview with the man behind it, Mohammed Ahmed.

More or Less #2

Now on its second issue, More or Less, founded by ex-Vogue Art director Jaime Perlman, holds up to its mission statement ‘to provoke thought about the decisions we make when we buy clothes – factoring in the realities of cost and consumption’.

Originally, each outfit featured in the magazine had to be styled to cost no more than £500, but this was upped to £1000 to account for the fact that ‘good value’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘cheap’ when it comes to sustainability. Of course, £1000 is a huge amount for most people, but that’s a maximum, and there are lots of features about hand me downs, upcycling, or how one might incorporate rented clothing for quotidian sartorial style.

There’s a journalistic element to it too – six photographers were commissioned to document the problems of landfill and plastic waste to really bring the message home. Contributions (above) from, left, Bibi Cornejo Borthwick and, right, Michael James Fox.

Cover star Amber Valetta (above) speaks about taking time out from her modelling/acting career to launch a business based on sustainable fashion. She tackles what it means to continue working within the fashion industry whilst trying to take a stand against waste – only the oil industry pollutes more than fashion. The interview amplifies her voice and we can feel her rage spilling forth. It makes for a memorable read, which is important if the magazine intends to influence its readers’ ethical buying decisions long after they put it down.

Charlie Porter’s essay, My Favourite Thing, spills the beans on the lazy language of fashion journalism – noting that most writers will never have even touched the item in question, and have almost no concept of how it feels to actually wear, relying on cliché and hype to whip up interest. Arguing for the mundaneties that are associated with writing about clothing after the point of production is part of the difficulty: the language is less glamorous, less cultivated, even when woven through with love and appreciation. ‘It still has not unravelled’. It’s a compelling piece that, incidentally, aligns itself with the new trend for ‘Marie Kondo-ing’ your wardrobe that’s sweeping the world after her Netflix show.

The oversized format of the magazine lends itself to giving attention to colours, patterns and textures that are layered on top of each other, and to full-bleed photographs that command attention. It’s tempting to think that a magazine toting its eco-credentials ought to be smaller, easier to transport and take up less paper and ink, but in the crowded fashion magazine space, more seems to work better than less — at least in this case.

A shoot styled from vintage pieces sourced at London’s Portobello Road market reminds me of the outlandish ballet costumes by German Bauhaus artist Oskar Schlemmer – not least because the shoot is styled onto scarecrows (above), and their rigid bodies have a surrealness bordering on the post-apocalyptic.

Overall, the mix of vintage, upcycled, unisex and reclaimed outfits give the magazine an air of timelessness – it’s less grounded in what went down the catwalks last fashion week – and an ethical edge over its counterparts. It’s good to come across a high-end fashion mag that doesn’t focus on just new new, but what you can create out of the old or pre-loved.

It features a diverse range of models and doesn’t focus on using the notion of celebrity to represent coolness. As we said about It’s Freezing in LA! last week, it feels timely and urgent to have magazines looking for alternatives to the way we in the West have become used to being.

Editor and creative director: Jaime Perlman
Art director: Sandra Leko