Ellen Freeman, Mildew
New magazine Mildew celebrates secondhand fashion, with features including tours of flea markets and celebrations of vintage denim brands. We spoke to editor Ellen Freeman about her magazine and her week.
As well as launching Mildew, Ellen is also deputy editor of Broccoli, the cannabis culture magazine, and several of its spin-off titles. She introduces Mildew and discusses the magazine scene in her adopted home Mexico City.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
Monday is actually the only day of the week that I have a set routine: every Monday there’s a tianguis (a moveable outdoor market) in the park near my apartment with the best sourdough bread and produce, so after caffeinating I always take my dog on a run around the park and then do the week’s shopping before tethering myself to my laptop.
Where are you?
I’m at home in the Del Valle neighborhood of Mexico City, where I’ve lived with my husband for six years. (I’m originally from Portland, Oregon.) Mildew doesn’t have one home—our designer Corbin LaMont lives in London, our photo editor Jackie Russo is in LA, and our contributors are from around the world, from Nigeria to Tokyo.
What can you see from your desk/ through the window?
My desk is in our bedroom at home; hanging on the wall above my monitor is a clipping from The Changing Times, a traveling newspaper project that was the first project Corbin and I collaborated on; next to that there’s a neon pink flier from Issues, a pop-up indie magazine event Mildew did in San Francisco with Broccoli and the design studio Landscape, and a full-length mirror I covered with foam insulation and spray-painted sky blue for Mildew’s first clothing swap in Mexico City.
Which magazine do you first remember?
American Girl was my first magazine—I read every word like a book, cover to cover. Now there are a few nostalgic fan accounts on Instagram that post photos of old pages, and each one unlocks a deep brain memory for me. There were lots of opportunities for readers to write in and get featured in the magazine, and I remember that when my friend’s little sister got in I was so jealous! Maybe making my own magazines is just a long-game revenge plan for that…
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Catnip: a new magazine with 200+ pages all about cats that I just finished working on with the Broccoli and Mushroom People team that’s both silly and serious, like cats themselves. (Don’t tell my dog!)
Describe Mildew in three words.
Original, joyful, mind-changing.
You talk about second hand clothes matching the spirit of the times; is this a longterm thing, or a temporary trend?
Fashion right now is all about individual personality; every kind of denim is in style, every kind of hairstyle is in style—people want to express something original, so it feels like being “on trend” now is less about going to the mall and buying the collection that just came out, and more about wearing one-of-a-kind pieces scavenged from thrift stores and flea markets that are unique to you.
But secondhand clothing is nothing new! Actually, we have an interview in issue two with the historian Kate Sekules, who talked to us about the history of secondhand and mending, how until recently fabric was extremely valuable—and even literal currency in some cultures—so for most of human history, a textile never had just one life. We’re a part of one of the first generations to buy cheap new clothes every season and throw old ones away.
So even though there’s definitely still stigma around wearing used clothes, I see a lot of people getting wise to the environmental and social harms of the mainstream fashion industry’s overproduction (and our own overconsumption) who are looking for ways to dress themselves that feel less icky—plus, there are more and more and more vintage shops and online resellers popping up everywhere, celebrities wearing vintage on the red carpet, and even big brands getting into recycling programs. So I think we’re actually headed into a bit of a U-turn back towards our old relationship with clothes: one of taking care of them, transforming them, giving them second and third lives.
What are your tips for discovering the best used clothes?
My favorite way is to go to the flea markets in Mexico City and dig through the piles. I’m not much of an online shopper (I just have to feel and try on things) but if you are, there are so many amazing collectors and curators online now; every day on our Instagram (@mildewmag) we share treasures from our favorite resellers from around the world.
It’s helpful to set alerts for something you’re looking for on the apps: Depop, Etsy, eBay, Gem, Noihsaf, Vinted, Vestiaire, Poshmark... Be patient; when you shop secondhand, you can’t just ask the salesperson for another size or color—it takes time, but that makes it so much more special and satisfying when you find something you like. And something cool happens when you start shopping this way: you start figuring out how to dress for your style, not just what’s in style.
What’s been your favourite secondhand fashion find?
One of my favorite finds is a white blouse that’s embroidered all over with the names of different cities and states in Mexico in loopy cursive done in all different colors of embroidery floss. It looks like an autograph shirt—something that graduating seniors used to do in the 30s/40s/50s, where all your friends would sign your shirt and then you’d embroider over their names.
I found it in a flea market in Tepito (with Ce Rangel López, whose photos of Mexico City’s flea markets you can see in issue one) and I have no idea who made it or why, but last time I wore it, someone asked me if every time I visit a new city I embroider its name on my shirt, which I think is such a cute idea.
We don’t hear from many magazines in Mexico City. What’s the publishing scene like?
I think the fact that every year the opening night of the Index Art Book Fair looks like Mexico City’s hottest club, with a huge line of people down the block waiting to get in, is proof that the independent publishing scene is thriving. Temblores Publicaciones publishes art books on Latin American artists with such deep insight; I do some proofreading for them and my mind is always blown.
Can Can Press does the prettiest riso printing. Aeromoto is a library where you can read local books and zines while overlooking the huge old cathedral and main square. And Casa Bosques is a hip magazine shop with cool magazines from all over the world.
What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Corbin is getting going on the design for our second issue and I can’t wait to see the first pages! I was just staying with her in London and we did a clothing swap/free store in the middle of the street in Brixton (above), which was so lovely. Chatting with folks while they tried on clothes—a lot of whom were like ‘Wait, why are these clothes free?’—and seeing people really excited about finding something they loved filled us both with so much inspiration for the next issue!
An earlier version of this post wrongly referred to Mildew as part of the Broccoli series of magazines.