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The fine print
In an industry so obsessed with innovation and newness, fashion is paradoxically one of the few fields where good old-fashioned print still matters. It isn’t a very popular opinion however, during the last decade we’ve witnessed many prestigious titles cutting back, resorting to digital presence-only and even folding all together because of declining interest. Still, some of us out firmly believe there’s still something special about having a printed piece of work in your hands.
The Swedish printer Göteborgstryckeriet, and its close partner, paper supplier Arctic Papers, has seen the fashion industry as one of its areas of growth the last few years. Two of their clients, Thomas Persson, editor of fashion magazine Luncheon and Max Schiller, founder and creative director of the shoe brand Eytys, both firmly believe that there still is power in print.
— People are hungry for quality and with that, I think print plays a very important role, says Max Schiller.
Max Schiller became enamoured with print in his twenties, while doing an internship at design agency Baron & Baron in New York. For three months, his job was to research images in Fabien Baron’s vast library. He remembers flipping through the pages so intensely he even developed an arm injury. Today, a decade later, the founder and creative director of cult trainer brand Eytys still works affectionately with print by producing glossy fanzines released when he feels like they’ve produced great content.
— These publications happen when we’ve done shoots and felt that the material deserves a physical product and longer lifespan that the online world can offer. It’s a way for us to motivate putting a lot of time, energy and love into something that we later can look back at. They tend to sell out fast, so I reckon the magazines have a following. People like to collect things, Max explains.
Heading a sneaker brand on an international level, Max had to carefully consider how to spend their marketing budget. As a brand that is positioned more progressive than conservative, their online presence and social media work is given. But when asked about his reasoning behind their strategy of digital versus print he explains:
— Online, everything is very fast and people don’t necessarily expect quality or even the truth. It’s about quantity; pumping out material non-stop to always be on people’s minds. It can be dangerous — look at Trump — that’s how he got elected. Not saying that everything online is shit, absolutely not, but if something gets put into print, it requires more from the reader, a bit more focus and with that comes quality. At Eytys we do both; we pump out material online but every once in a while, we do something that we think deserves a different focus, both from us and the spectator. That’s when we decide to look into print.
So why and when is print better than digital?
— For me, print and digital are two completely different things; they have little to do with each other but I wouldn't be able to live without either of them. I'm a constant user of the web for research — spending hours getting lost in the digital world. I turn to print for a more evocative experience. It's a ritual to be alone at home browsing through a beautiful book. Some content needs the full experience to come to life; a layout, design, a certain paper, even a smell. The possibilities and the spectators’ attention spans are very limited online.
In August 2005, at a time when Acne Studios was mostly known for their denim, the first issue of Acne Paper was launched with Norwegian-born Thomas Persson as editor-in-chief. While initiated as an unconventional way to communicate the Acne brand, Jonny Johansson gave Thomas Persson a carte blanche for the job — perhaps one of the main reasons why it would become a success.
— The brief was very open. As Acne didn’t advertise, it was about creating a platform where the brand could exist in a unique context. To make a magazine that could convey a creative universe, generate excitement, build a network, more so than traditional advertising, if done well. At the time, there was a genuine enthusiasm for creating things at Acne, and I think the magazine was a natural evolution of what they were already doing. In hindsight I’d say it was a very good move, Thomas says.
With its unusual format and unique mix of intelligence and glamour, it quickly became one of the most admired magazines internationally. In 2009, eight issues into its lifespan, the New York Times’ chief fashion critic Cathy Horyn wrote in her blog: — Acne Paper, under the editorship of Thomas Persson, is fast becoming one of the best little fashion magazines… the envy of mainstream glossies. As the financial crisis of 2007-2008 was wrecking havoc on the industry and media in particular, Acne Paper was an exceptional success story in publishing; having no digital presence at all and a very niche editorial profile. Did you ever fear that the direction of Acne Paper would be too niche?
— No. Being niche was part of it, to propose something different, something that wasn’t already out there. In many ways, Acne Paper was an artistic expression and because the magazine looked the way it did and felt so free editorially, people responded well to it. There was no need for us to try to cater to what we thought readers would like. On the contrary, I think by breaking the rules and allow ourselves to be niche it had the power to change the way we look at magazines, and what a magazine can be.
After 15 issues at Acne Paper, Thomas Persson moved on to launch Luncheon Magazine, a biannual publication featuring a similarly high profile covering fashion, art, and culture but told through the perspective of food.
— Luncheon isn’t really so much about food as it is about an occasion. It’s about that lovely moment in the day when there is a break and time for each other, for conversation, reflection, to be social, to share ideas, etc. We use the idea of lunch as a point of departure to discuss and look at all sorts of things. I think Luncheon is a great read and intellectually stimulating. It’s more food for thought, Thomas says. Looking to both stimulate, challenge and please the reader, Luncheon is a piece of editorial work that feels so precious that it’s more like a collector’s item or a coffee table book. A magazine for magazine lovers, featuring work from the industry’s top creatives. But given how the majority of mainstream fashion publications today struggle with their reach by with crowd-pleasing celebrity covers, Thomas has chosen a different path.
I’m curious about the business aspect of a magazine like Luncheon. To me, making this kind of luxurious publication seems a bit like haute couture — a labour of love that rarely is profitable because of how costly it is to make and how few it is available to. Could you shed some light on this matter?
— That’s a nice way of looking at it. It is definitely a labour of love. We are not in it to make a lot of money, then it would then be a completely different magazine. With Luncheon we want to propose something different than what is already out there, to showcase people whose work we love and believe in, and to express a sense of creative freedom along the way. Advertising is as important as it always was but we want to create a magazine that is of a high quality in every way, advertising portfolio included.
Thomas and Max both recognise that the physical properties of a print product are crucial for the right experience. They both work closely with Göteborgstryckeriet, a print house based on the west coast of Sweden, who lives up to their exacting standards of craft, quality, and creativity. After moving their printing production from Italy, where most high-end printing is done today, the Gothenburg-based company swayed him over with their ”completely unique attention to detail and a sincere dedication which feels genuine and reassuring”, Thomas says. When asked how he decided on the unusual format and the particular paper of the product, Thomas explains:
— The oversize format we thought was lovely because it felt generous — an antidote to those mean little magazines you can put in your purse. I tend to like an uncoated paper but if too creamy, it can have a vintage feeling which we didn’t want. Therefore, we chose a very white, crisp paper.
Martina Rosendahl, marketing manager at Arctic Paper, the supplier of the materials for both Max’ and Thomas’ print products acknowledges the meticulous attention to detail behind it.
— Our products need to stimulate the senses and print has an authentic, genuine quality to it. You experience paper with all of your senses and a sensible brand knows that the right paper is crucial to enhance the product and in the end, their perception of the brand, Martina says.
Maria Iversén, marketing director at Göteborgstryckeriet, has noted that while print is becoming rarer, it has also gained a new kind of importance for companies that need to communicate certain brand values. Today, we are often told to question the use of paper and print. What is worth being printed today?
— Our clients are environmentally conscious today, but many also assume that we live up to the standards of eco-certification – which we of course do. More and more people also consider paper to be more ‘authentic’ and it is a medium that conveys feelings, stimulates senses and in those ways, strengthens a brand. This is why print is a great complement to digital. It allows experiences you can’t really get through a screen that comes to life on paper, Maria says.
Returning to the analogy of fashion and couture, even the most beautifully made print is irrelevant if nobody is to read it. As the general tendencies of the media move towards mobile-first and video content, it increasingly becomes a choice and effort to purchase and read something printed. When asked about who they think still reads on paper; both Thomas and Max emphasise the appreciation of something long-lasting.
— I guess people who like to read something with a cover; who enjoys the feeling of turning a page; who loves their library and their bookshelves; who can pick up a magazine or a book they read a long time ago, and be transported back to that moment in time. I don’t want to imagine a world without these things. It would be pretty bleak, in my opinion, Thomas says.
— I think people value owning beautiful things. To be able to collect, be surrounded by and enjoy a nice book even years after acquiring it. Rediscovering books and magazines on the bookshelf can really make memories come to life, Max adds.
Acknowledging that even for himself, it’s hard to find time to read. As a remedy, he has developed a method.
— I always put a new book or magazine on my desk and don’t allow myself to remove it until I’ve properly flipped it through. Whenever I find a moment, I flip it through and put post-its on pages I want to scan or properly read. Then I bring it home and put it in a new pile that I turn to on Sundays on the couch after I’m done with dishes, laundry, and the dog walk. It’s a true reward.
At last, is there something special about print that never ever will be replaced by digital?
— My mother and my granddad have created a family photo album each year ever since the 1930s. I can go home to my mother to get a very good picture of what she did, how she looked and who she hung out with 50 years ago. Beautiful photo albums with lots of love and effort put into them. No one would ever put that much effort into something similar online, it’s too short term. I don’t think we will turn to the cloud in 50 years and look through the unorganised mess of smartphone pictures we put there.
Göteborgstryckeriet Founded: 1918 Specializes in: High quality printing with FM screen and Hybrid Print Technology (based on LED-UV technique) Based in: Gothenburg More info: www.gbgt.se
Arctic Paper Specializes in: High- quality graphical fine paper Flagship product: Munken, Arctic, Amber, G-Print Headquarter: Poznan (Poland) and Gothenburg (Sweden) Production in: Munkedal and Grycksbo (Sweden) and Kostrzyn (Poland) More info: www.arcticpaper.comEytys