Debika Ray, Clove
We kick off the new week with Debika Ray, the British-Indian founder of Clove. This new magazine about South Asia explores this vast region’s changing environment and its evolving relationship with culture and politics. She left her job at architecture and design mag Icon to launch Clove at the end of 2017, and issue two is due this summer.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
When I’m not travelling to meetings or events, my morning commute is a few short steps to my desk at home in London. Breakfast and coffee is normally accompanied by the BBC R4 Today programme or music. Most recently, I’ve been listening to Fanoos, the album recorded by Pakistani composer Zohaib Kazi – interviewed in Clove – during his travels across the country, via the Pakistani streaming website Patari.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
I do have a desk but I prefer the view from the foldable table, which I often set up by my balcony window – particularly the territorial politics of the estate cats and, more recently, the pleasure of watching snow fall without the messy consequences of commuting through it. My table top is quite tidy, but just behind me is an ever-rising pile of magazines that’s rapidly outgrowing its space under the coffee table.
Which magazine do you first remember?
The first publication I ever subscribed to was called Newsjoy, a newspaper and magazine in India aimed specifically for children. It inspired me to publish a few homemade newspapers of my own in the 1990s (typewriter, scissors and glue), reporting on the not-so-exciting activities in my local neighbourhood in Delhi. Who knows if Clove would even exist without these formative experiences…
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
As far as South Asian magazines go I particularly enjoy The Caravan, an Indian magazine that features fantastic long-form writing, reviews and opinion about current affairs and culture.
Are you seeking to fill a gap in the Asian market, or help reshape the international understanding of the continent?
Certainly, the latter – the intention has always been to be international. I’ve been conscious throughout about the problematic questions that arise around publishing Clove from London, but I believe there is a place for us, alongside all the publications within the region, as I feel we’re doing something quite different.
First, we take a global view of South Asian culture – the people of the Subcontinent are scattered across the world in their tens of millions, and continuously travelling back and forth, which makes us unique. Second, London is one of the few places where the people and cultures of the region mingle. A lot of contributors to issue one are based in South Asia, and I eventually hope we will have editors dotted across the region as well.
The magazine looks smart and accomplished, with a hint of Asia in the headline typeface. Were you tempted to make it more self-consciously ‘Asian’ looking?
No – we were conscious about avoiding those kinds of clichés. For me, it was important to find a balance between the clean minimalism we’re used to in so much European graphic design and the colour, ornamentation and maximalism that you associate with South Asian design traditions. Interestingly, I’d always envisaged a very colourful cover – which perhaps reflected my own preconceptions about what a magazine about South Asia “should” look like. The ultimate decision to go for a black and white cover, with only the masthead in colour, seemed counterintuitive at first, but then we realised it felt fresh and surprising.
What have you learned from issue one that you hope to apply for the next issue?
I didn’t expect people within South Asia to be interested in Clove, but I’m pleased to find that’s not the case. For issue 2, I need to think about how our editorial content can appeal to people there without feeling like we are carrying coals to Newcastle.
What are you worrying about at work this week?
My perpetual worry is social media – feeding that beast feels like a full-time job!
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
We’ve recently been taken on by a distributor so I’m excited to hear how many shops we are going to be stocked in. We’ve also just gone on sale in stores in New York, San Francisco and the Netherlands, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the magazine does in those places.
What will you be doing after this chat?
Preparing for a rather more interesting Monday commute than usual – a 13-hour flight across the world to attend Singapore Design Week for one of my freelance jobs.