Archive for March 8, 2018


International women’s Day

 

 

https://www.racked.com/2016/3/14/11173148/kinfolk-lifestyle-magazines

Unlike reading a newspaper, reading a lifestyle magazine is more an aesthetic than functional choice, a way of pursuing higher, or at least less immediate, interests like art, fashion, food, and good manners.

Lifestyle magazines are treated as light fare, but they fulfill the deeper purpose of helping us define ourselves. A publication like Godey’s Lady’s Book, founded by Louis A. Godey in Philadelphia in 1830, included fiction and poetry, as well as recipes and how-to guides outlining a “moral, maternal lifestyle —€” this is how women should be,” Haveman says. Editors published letters from loyal readers, and a consensus about how to live a particular kind of life formed over time.

What separates true lifestyle magazines from the likes of Harper’s, the New Yorker, or even N+1, which might obliquely define certain ways of life, is the sense of commodified identity that can be found in a publication like Cosmopolitan, described by founding editor Paul Schlicht as a “family magazine” when it launched in 1886.

The lifestyle magazine demonstrates what to consume as well as how to behave, and this ethos has informed how newspapers define their lifestyle content as well. In the 1950s, the New York Times summarized its women’s pages as “Food, Fashion, Family, and Furnishings.” Jacqui Shine’s comprehensive essay on The Awl shows how the women’s pages gradually evolved into a “Living Style” section that the Times launched in 1978, now known simply as Styles, with its signature “ambiguous variety of cultural reporting and criticism,” as Shine writes, a mix that continues to define lifestyle editorial today.

It’s worth noting that many popular lifestyle entities were, and continue to be, directed at women; the relationship to the domestic often means that the term itself is unfairly gendered. However, it is in fact an equal opportunity genre. GQ and Esquire became the dominant lifestyle magazines for men during the later 20th century, with “lad mags” like Maxim and FHM flaring up in the ’90s. Still more titles are unisex.

The category might be best summed up by what Adam Moss called the New York Times Magazine‘s iconic front-of-book section under his editorship in the 1990s: “The Way We Live Now.” (Though the Times Magazine isn’t a lifestyle magazine, Moss’s FOB section as well as his current domain, New York magazine, reflect an aspirational urban mode of living.) The successful lifestyle magazine is a mirror that reflects the trends of our times back at us, only a little prettier, more polished, and less complicated. It is “designed to either turn one’s life’s preferences into cliches, or turn cliches into your life preferences,” says Mental Floss executive editor Foster Kamer —€” often both at the same time.

Kinfolk’s Kin

Many independent print magazines populate Kinfolk’s wake. They often share its minimalist design, heavy stock, and serene photography, but each presents a slightly different shade of lifestyle. Here, a short list.

Alpine Modern: A Boulder, Colorado-based magazine, store, and cafe focusing on the concept of “elevated living,” both literal and figurative.

Smith Journal: An Australian quarterly that covers a quirky mix of “thinkers, adventurers, and makers.”

Four & Sons: A print and online publication “where dogs and culture collide” documenting a canine-friendly lifestyle.

Cereal: This Bristol, U.K. quarterly concerns “travel and style,” including branded accessories and city guides sold alongside the magazine.

Another Escape: “An outdoor lifestyle, creative culture, and sustainable living publication that explores the stories of passionate people.”

Drift: A New York-based title about “coffee, the people who drink it, and the cities they inhabit,” with truly insane column widths.

Les Others: A biannual French magazine and digital platform focusing on “fresh air and creativity.”

Provencial: This American quarterly’s mission is to “encourage a lifestyle of balance with a clear and intentional delineation between work and rest.”

 

By the mid-2000s, lifestyle magazines had become multi-platform lifestyle brands, moving from providing readers a sense of intangible community to creating the non-editorial products readers actually consume in order to solidify that sense of belonging. You can now buy a Monocle cardigan or croissant, or live in a pre-fab home designed by the shelter magazine Dwell. Print may have become less relevant with the advent of the internet, but businesses pushing aesthetically-conscious consumption are even more relevant as we document our every move on Snapchat and Instagram.

But it’s meant to be looked at more than read. The magazine’s large format, embossed serif logo, striking covers, and heavy stock have come to define the latest generation of lifestyle magazines. It’s now possible to find Kinfolk clones covering everything from mountain climbing to fatherhood to the joys of dog ownership. The copycats only serve to magnify the sense that Kinfolk really is everywhere.


Kinfolk itself is content with staying mysterious; it’s part of the brand. The company doesn’t release news about itself, and its websites are comically light on background information. After a month’s worth of emails, however, Nathan Williams agrees to meet for lunch near the magazine’s new headquarters in Copenhagen. (Still under renovation, the office is not yet “a comprehensive representation of the brand,” the communications director Jessica Gray warns me.) I book a flight departing a few days later and land in a wintry city, the sky flat and gray like matte paper.

Williams’s careful posture and soft voice seem of a piece with his upbringing. He often pauses to think about or check on his words. During these pauses, he purses his mouth, glances into the distance, and then soldiers on, having confirmed the proper valence of his sentence, often murmuring “yeah” in agreement with himself.

The late aughts could be considered an apogee for lifestyle blogging, a more diaristic and less nakedly monetized medium than its print equivalent, and Mormons led the charge.

 

Beyond its Mormon credo, Williams chose BYU Hawaii for its strong international business program, helped along by a scholarship offer. There, Williams studied economics in the footsteps of his father, an economics professor, “but I knew that I wasn’t really going to find something in that field I would enjoy.”

The late aughts could be considered an apogee for lifestyle blogging, a more diaristic and less nakedly monetized medium than its print equivalent, and Mormons led the charge. That was when Dooce and its proprietor Heather Armstrong, “queen of the mommy bloggers,” as the New York Times described her, hit peak popularity; Armstrong had attended Brigham Young University in Utah, but left the church before turning to blogging.

 

A spread from Kinfolk‘s winter 2016 design issue. Photo: Ouur Media

Mormon lifestyle blogging also intersected with the peak of flanneled artisanal hipsterdom that occurred around the same time. A 2012 article in Trinity College’s Religion in the News chalked this up to the recession. Without money to spend, “millennials have begun to look towards social gratification as a means of self-worth,” doubling down on close circles of friends and shopping at thrift stores for retro fashion.

The idea was to create a title that did talk about things we thought were important, a focus on community, slowing down, quality of life.”

 

 

The Copenhagen studio of Stine Gam and Enrico Fratesi was featured in the summer 2015 issue. Photo: Anders Schønnemann

 

With issue sales mounting into the tens of thousands, the team moved to Portland in September 2012, where they brought their staff up to a dozen and launched an event series that saw official Kinfolk dinner parties hosted all over the world. These were documented in easily parodied videos in which, for example, a picnic table perfectly set for 12 suddenly appears atop a picturesque cliff that the attractive diners later leap off of into the ocean.

Kinfolk hit a cultural nerve that went far beyond the print magazine. “I don’t think we created anything new, maybe it’s just collected in a certain spot and presented in a certain way,” Williams says. “How many people post and share Kinfolk on Instagram, it’s kind of bizarre. It turned into its own beast that we have no control over.” Williams doesn’t have a personal Instagram and the official magazine account only posts once or twice a week, but #kinfolk is used about once a minute.

the magazine’s oppressive neatness also seemed like a mold followers had to fit into, performing m for the sake of an Instagram photo. “Everyone feels like every little part of their life has to be perfect. Nothing looks real anymore,” he continues. “You spend 20 minutes setting up your morning coffee with a copy of Kinfolk on a marble countertop.”


 

The editor is acutely aware of his magazine’s reputation. “We have our haters. There’s definitely a misconception that Kinfolk is more of an aesthetic and less of a,” Williams pauses at length before continuing, “company, or publication with at least some substance. The idea that some folks think it’s full of editorials of girls running through daisy fields with flower crowns, which, it’s not. God, no.”

Kinfolk‘s editorial mission has morphed into a larger pursuit of what Williams calls “intentionality”: “figuring out what’s most important to us and then finding a way to actually spend our time and energy on those things.” As Doug Bischoff puts it, “It’s kind of self-help content, but done in a way that appeals to our readership, paired with interesting writing and art direction.”

A Parisian dining room shot for the design issue. Photo: Anders Schønnemann

The magazine confronts our never-ending search for authentic connection, particularly in the internet era. “We’re on our laptops, on our phones all the time, that in itself is fine,” Williams says. “But the flip side is that it does create an appetite for real life, for relationships, for genuine bonds with the people around us. Kinfolk leverages that appetite.” For the duration of our lunch, Williams’s out-of-date iPhone doesn’t emerge from his pocket once.

This notion of authenticity has resonated around the world. Sales were strong in Japan even from the initial issues, and media companies there as well as in China, Korea, and Russia eventually inked syndication deals to translate and produce their own editions of Kinfolk, with careful oversight from the Portland team. Through an agent in Japan, the company hooked up with the local brand Actus to produce a line of clothing, austere outfits that a friend of mine visiting Tokyo described as “a cross between Muji and Everlane,” as well as a series of ascetic housewares, both under the label Ouur Collection. With the name “Ouur,” “the idea is we’re bringing together likeminded designs and ideas,” Williams says. But the significance of the name “just kind of turned into bogus.”

Ouur is modeling itself on businesses like BuzzFeed, Vice, and Vox (parent company to Racked), among many other media companies subsidizing their original editorial content with creative studio branches.


 

The lifestyle was better in Denmark, too. As Kinfolk might also imagine its readers, the Danes perennially rank among the happiest people in the world. “The work-life balance, it’s definitely a good fit for that. Most Danes don’t work past 3,” Williams says. Alongside the Danish emphasis on family, which Bischoff appreciates as he and his wife raise their two small children, there’s a “borderline laziness,” he says, then stops short. “I shouldn’t say that. They know how to spend their time wisely.”

“Even their ‘Imperfect’ issue was perfect in every way, shape, and form.”

Williams changed along with his company. As recently as 2012, he identified with Mormonism, but no longer does, nor does Katie (Doug and Paige Bischoff are the only two Mormons left on staff, Williams later writes over email). When I ask him to elaborate, he declines, preferring to leave religion out of the conversation. It’s clear, however, that Kinfolk has also become more inclusive.

I ask Williams if these editorial shifts were an intentional effort to change the magazine’s early notoriety as a bastion of white hipsterdom. “The first few issues it was really just an oversight,” he says. “If 90 percent of our shoots are happening in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Portland, I know people don’t like to hear it, but they’re actually not very diverse communities. That’s no excuse. You make it work, you figure out how to properly represent your readership. That’s what we’re doing now.”

Yet there remains a sanctimoniousness to Kinfolk. It portrays a right way of doing things set against an invisible wrong, packaging anxieties over topics like family, friendship, and connection in the guise of rustic tablescapes and drapey garments. Even if its models are more diverse, the magazine still has a pervasive air of whiteness about it, in the overall aesthetic homogeneity and the quest for a self-professed “purity.” As photographer Andrew Lee notes, “even their ‘Imperfect’ issue was perfect in every way, shape, and form.”

Kinfolk still offers a one-size-fits-all-who-seek-it lifestyle solution with little tolerance for mess. The increasingly rarified image of luxurious simplicity that it projects is far from possible, desirable, or even recognizable for everyone.

 


A few days after meeting Williams, I moved from my hotel into an apartment in Nørrebro, a hip neighborhood across the river from downtown Copenhagen. An open studio with tall ceilings and expansive windows, it’s described as “Boheme New Yorker style” on Airbnb. As I wandered across Copenhagen from artisanal coffee shop to curated bookstore, I thought about why I want the things I want: an industrial loft apartment, a precisely poured cortado, intimate dinner parties —€” all things that show up in Kinfolk.

I learned these aspirations through magazines, novels, television shows, and the tastes of my friends. Lined up, they seem like the punchline of a joke at my own expense, the reduction of an identity to a few arbitrary objects, and yet I feel an unjustifiable loyalty to them as mine.

I stop in Atelier September, a cafe and furniture boutique in a stately old storefront. With soft lighting, mid-century modern designs, and marble countertops, it exudes characteristically Danish hygge, the trendy term for coziness. But my mind kept wandering back to Kinfolk, which had become a kind of scrim warping everything in its own image.

From a beatific barista I order avocado toast, a culinary trope of the magazine’s audience. It had a local twist, the avocado shellacked like fish scales on dark Danish rye bread, and tasted transcendentally good. Maybe it was the jet lag, but bathed in the mild light of the gray day falling on the marble, I momentarily felt like a better person, or at least more like myself. Then I Instagrammed my cappuccino and it shot past 30 likes, a personal hit.

A lifestyle is made up of a shared vernacular. My Instagram was so popular because my friends recognized a quiet coffee in a foreign city as a badge of the lifestyle that we aspire to. Perhaps these days we demonstrate our mutual recognition by exchanging likes rather than buying magazine subscriptions. Aspiration is mediated by digital technology rather than print. We model our lifestyle goals in Instagram photos because the medium is so accessible. We can publicly participate in our chosen lifestyles all the time, constantly signaling our belonging and getting affirmation in return, creating our own communities rather than waiting for the directions of an editor.

This is ultimately why Kinfolk worked so well. It created a lifestyle with familiar, do-it-yourself tokens —€” the unfinished wood tables and mason jars and dinner parties —€” fit for a world in recession, and subsumed them within an iconic visual style that was equally easy to participate in through social media. Kinfolk also came into existence just as we started using platforms like Instagram aspirationally, translating the aesthetics of the glossy print page onto the even glossier screen and making them our own in the process. As Williams admits, he lost control of what “Kinfolk” communicated. It means more to people as a label than as a substantive movement or even a magazine.

Photo by Anders Schønnemann for Racked

The #Kinfolk community is united less by particular ideas about how to live than a superficial visual style. It enforces monotony rather than embracing differences of identity. The same emblems of aspiration can now be found in Brooklyn or Copenhagen as easily as Tokyo, Lisbon, London, or Istanbul, and Kinfolk is always there to provide them, piggybacking on the meme it has become.

The challenge that Williams and Ouur face is how to reclaim an image of self-affirming authenticity when the perspective that once made them unique is now universal. It’s the hipster paradox: you can’t be both nonconformist and part of a massive, global group.

“Convergence is possible only at the price of shedding identity,” architect Rem Koolhaas wrote in his 1995 book, The Generic City. “Identity is like a mousetrap in which more and more mice have to share the original bait, and which, on closer inspection, may have been empty for centuries.”


There’s a kind of schadenfreude to watching the meaning drain from a lifestyle aesthetic, in the fading relevance of latte art and avocado toast. Lifestyle is like high fashion —€” you can only chase it in its wake, catching fleeting moments. I started to wonder what Williams himself was chasing, so I met him again one night at his office.

The editor doesn’t live an immaculate Kinfolk life. Williams watches Seinfeld at home after work and follows along with the latest potboiler TV: The Good Wife, The Black List. Rather than novels, he reads the usual business books on entrepreneurship, leadership, and running a creative team. But he still has to determine how Ouur will direct the Kinfolk-y aspirations of its audience, present and future. The vision of a lifestyle must constantly be refined, made to appear effortless, timely, authentic, and unaware of its own artificiality. To better explain his goals, Williams shared a moment of clarity he had experienced earlier that day.

Joni Mitchell

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/10/09/joni-mitchells-openhearted-heroism 

All she needed was her lyrics, preternaturally analytic, wry, and shrewd; her chords, largely self-invented, a kind of calligraphy of the moods; and her voice, which modulates from patter to rue to rhapsody in a single phrase. In concert, she sometimes trained her attention on a single listener in the front row, casting the stranger as the vivid “you” of a song who in real life may have been Sam Shepard, James Taylor, or Leonard Cohen. The best pop music is often preening and shamanic.

This photo of a Danish kitchen appears in The Kinfolk Home. Photo

excerpts from  https://the-shooting-star.com/2013/08/01/10-life-lessons-from-2-years-of-travelling/

We take life too seriously.Most of us have been brought up and set in such moulds of what our life should look like by the time we’re thirty, that we forget it’s okay to mess up and live a little. Meeting people both in my own backyard and halfway across the world made me realize that you don’t always have to be running and aspiring for something more. That more than a steady job, a posh apartment, a promotion, a life partner, or even a to-do list, it’s more fulfilling to have a life that you’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

Freedom is underrated.

At some point after I quit my job (Read: The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel) and gave up any semblance of a regular schedule, I started to wonder why so many people, my family included, couldn’t appreciate the sense of freedom I felt everyday. Then I met a fisherman in Mauritius who chose not to work in a factory for more money like his friends, because he loved the sea and could choose not to work on some days and still feed his family (Read: What a Fisherman Taught Me About Paradise). It was his philosophy that made me more sure of mine.

Possessions are overrated.While moving to Delhi from Singapore two years ago, I had accumulated a few suitcases worth of stuff, from six years of living there. I decided to get rid of most of it, though not without the gnawing feeling that I was going to miss it. The truth? A month from then, I didn’t even remember what stuff I had left behind. I’m in the process of instituting a big change in my life after August, and this time I’ll be more than happy to get rid of the things I certainly don’t need.

Karma can bitch-slap you.You know when you go all out to help a friend and then they brutally backstab you? That’s kind of what karma has done to me recently. I won’t go into details, but I think I’ve learnt my lesson right here in the travel industry. You can either do the right thing or be politically correct, and while both have their consequences, it’s not true that doing the right thing can’t screw you over. That’s just how life is.

Strangers are kind.I’ve trashed all those horror stories that end with the lesson, don’t talk to strangers. If I had a penny for every time I’ve been overwhelmed with the kindness of a stranger on my travels, I’d be a millionaire. Families with so little in small villages in India have shared their meals and life stories with me. People in Turkey opened up their homes and hearts to this stranger from Hindistan (Read: So Long, Turkey). The hospitality of an Aussie expat in Mauritius and a French-Mauritian couple in Rodrigues blew me over. And I haven’t yet experienced anything close to the warmth of the Bahraini people (Read: Land of a Thousand Friends). So trust your gut, but let strangers show you what a kind world we live in.

Happiness is not the goal.I always thought that the leap of faith I took two years ago, to live and travel on my own terms, would take me closer to the illusive feeling of happiness. And it has. But happiness is such a fleeting feeling. Happiness for me was a drunk man on a lonely road in Sri Lanka stopping and shining the torch in our direction, till we found our way back to our guesthouse. Happiness was walking into a bakery in Turkey to ask for directions, and having the owner pull out his truck to give me a ride. The memories of these moments last, but happiness itself doesn’t. Recently a friend told me, we’re not people who can be happy. We’re just drifters. It’s true.