Saturday, 24 December 2011

A festive weekend with b Magazine


"The b family is not just fashion people and the store is not just for fashion people, it has a wider ranging reach than that" affirms Dal Chodha whilst tucking in to a Cinnamon bun in Soho's Nordic Bakery. "With all of the labels that it sells and has sold, none of them are pure fashion brands and that is precisely why the magazine isn't pure fashion, it just wouldn't make any sense if it were. It is a snapshot on how the b store customer lives. It is a mood board of their interests as much as it is ours" he smiles.  We've met to discuss the fifth issue of b magazine and toast the tenth anniversary of b Store.

Now, as readers of this blog you should all know that London’s b store has long been a mecca for contemporary design. Whilst nurturing some of the best design talent in the capital and beyond, b store have been merging art, fashion and design seamlessly for ten years now. When Jason and Dal talked to b's very own Matthew Murphy and Kirk Beatie about the store as they first mooted the idea of a magazine it soon became clear that it contrary to its name, the b store is more than just four walls of retail.  They described it as a world, the b store world and the eponymous publication explores this ever evolving and fascinating realm. As b store celebrates its tenth anniversary and moves in to its new home on Kingly Street, the fifth issue of b magazine reflects but also looks forward and, as seemingly with anything b related, excites.

"It is going out amongst a sea of titles. I used to love buying bi-annuals and I still do to some extent but I do feel that many are saying the same things to me" reveals Chodha with a discernible air of disappointment before defiantly declaring, "for Jason and I, it just makes us work harder. We want to make something that isn't like the other titles out there in what we cover." As with each visit to the institution of retail that is b Store, there is the chance to discover a new designer, an exhibition, a magazine or even just a moment when you talk to them and leave with something new. You can always expect to be surprised and the magazine echoes this spirit wonderfully. Just as the store has always been more than just a physical space, b magazine is more than a bi-annual.

From the first moment I picked up the debut issue of the store's publication back in September, it was clear that is was not your average fashion magazine. Created by long term collaborator and collection stylist Jason Highes and editor Dal Chodha, the title exposes the wider b Store ethos; passion in design and integrity in individuality with a knowing nod to more sartorial affairs. It sells ideas and it sells information. Editorially driven, b magazine looks at creatives from a wonderfully unique angle. It is a title to immerse yourself in and always is a pleasure to thumb.

From Chodha's interview with designer Martino Gamper.

Highlights of the issue include the Observer’s Eleanor Morgan highlighting the restaurateurs and meeting chefs behind some of London’s most exciting eating experiences from noodles made by foot in Soho to pigs heads in Shoreditch and Dal Chodha talking to the affable furniture designer Martino Gamper in his Hackney studio about his crusade for good mass-market design, while also stealing a look at Nancy Rohde’s chamomile lawn and Ally Capellino’s grape vines. However, the real gem is Ben Purdue's look at the origins of and continued evolution of the store.

A snapshot of b Store included in 'A Decade Under The Influence'

"It was really difficult at first to think about how we could cover the tenth anniversary. We never want the issue to feel like an advert for b store and thankfully people haven't see it like that. It has never been that and we didn't want to start on the fifth issue. It was difficult to dedicate such a big portion of the features to this subject without it being 'Oh, how amazing is the b store!?', immediately we knew it couldn't be something that I could write so we brought the lovely Ben Purdue in. Also, the people that we quoted had to people that we had never spoken to previously, we could very easily get a quote from Peter or from Christophe, but it was important to hear from the likes of Roksanda Ilinic, Mandi Lennard and Maureen Paley."

Christophe Lemaire gives thanks and celebrates the anniversary

Ben Perdue's reflective piece on a decade under the influence of b is packed full of choice quotes from friends and family of the store but there is one in particular line that is still bouncing around in my brain. Designer Roksanda Ilinic uttered, "They were and still are a laboratory for creative design and spirit." This simple line rings true and cuts to the very core of what makes b so special. PR legend and former neighbour of the store agrees by adding, "The b store customer was a real person, and it was about a respect for good design - particularly the new wave of designers coming through." b have always been ambassadors for and facilitators of young talent. Much in the same way as the boys have championed emerging talent on the rails of each incarnation of the store, Hughes and Chodha showcase this same spirit within the pages of b magazine. By shooting the likes of (deep breath) Casely-Hayford, Agi&Sam, Matthew Miller, Mohsin Ali, One Nine Zero Six, Satyenkumar and Christophe Lemaire to name but a small selection, the editorials are unlike any other title.

A Casely-Hayford blazer, top by Kye and shorts by Champion from 'The Luxury Gap' editorial shot by Laurence Ellis and with fashion by Jason Hughes.

"Our stockists pages is incredible because it really is so different from every other stockist page. It is about new-ness. We love looking for new things but not new fangled things that are short-lived. We'd never do a trends page for example. Casely-Hayford, Stephan Schneider, Christophe Lemaire are all labels that the store either sells or will never sell but nevertheless like. We purposely feature brands that you won't see in every other title. Jason has a brilliant way of pulling in these labels that you never think of, or would see them in that way. Designers that lend to us really enjoy seeing the results of what we do. Raimund for example, whose profile is building, is stunned when Jason styles his designs because he always shoots them in a way that surprises him and the Japanese socks by Ayame that grace the cover, certain people in fashion wear them but its about seeing them in a different light, its a case of reinvention. Alot of the pieces in that shoot were made for it and at times, that might be frustrating because we are a consumer title and it might leave them wanting things that they can't have, but with a biannual, you should be pushing the boundaries. We can be creative in that way."

Jacket and trousers by Agi&Sam and poloneck by John Smedley. From the 'Dubbing in the backyard' editorial, shot by Willem Jaspart and with fashion by Jason Hughes.

"We were an incubator. We never intended to be a luxury brand store and if a label gets above a certain point, it isn't for us anymore. If their brand evolves and they become something else then, of course, they should go on to do other things. Some have fallen by the wayside but some are extremely successful, and it's been great seeing that" Matthew Murphy.

Suit custom made for story by Satyenkumar and t shirt by Topman Design. From the 'Dubbing in the backyard' editorial, shot by Willem Jaspart and with fashion by Jason Hughes.

"It's about the same size as the last issue but it feels heavier. In terms of the balance between copy and images, there might be more imagery than previous issues and the fashion stories themselves require more attention than ever before. They require more time to take them in, Willem's cover story for example. This being our fifth issue, we decided to move them more than ever. We wanted to surprise the readers. You can't rest on just being a good magazine, it is never enough and you always have to do more, something different."

Part of London's most exciting dining experiences, Koya's John Devitt pictured with his favourite dish.

Much in the same way as there's a definite sense of b store maturing with the unveiling of the beautiful and custom furnished new Kingly Street space and numerous projects, b magazine grows with each issue. "With this issue more than ever, we've highlighted the idea of getting real experts in their field, Eleanor writes about food for the Observer, Teal who did the piece on Fanzines has written two books on the subject and is also a professor and course director at the London College of Communication" Chodha proudly states. The focus on building the already impressive list of contributors with respected individuals who have a real specialism in what they discuss, is something that is surprisingly quite unique. "There are a number of other titles who use wonderful writers but few have a real specialism."

Cathy Lomax's Arty magazine

"We haven't ever done anything that feels contrived or forced, It has to be natural and getting someone like Eleanor Morgan onboard, for me was really exciting because we want people with authority. As a consumer, after five issues of a magazine you do start wondering, am I going to continue buying it? You have to justify why people should continue to buy the title. We're working towards this. Firstly by guaranteeing that none of the information we print will be available anywhere else in any way, shape or form and secondly, it is important for people to feel like they are getting specialist advice or information. The title has definitely grown up, it helps to have people like Teal and Eleanor with their expertise and reputation on board. I feel proud that they like what we are doing and that they want to be involved in it as much as we want them to be involved in it."

Patrick Fry's No Zine

Given the anniversary, it came as little surprise that Chodha had moments of endearing reflection; "As the magazine is so much of what Jason and I and the boys are about at the b store, it would have to be something very different in a further ten years time and maybe, it might not be as relevant as it is now. It is important for us that we see it as something that is 'very now.' I'd much rather it have impact than for it to run out of steam or become stale."

At this moment in time, I cannot fathom b magazine ever becoming stale. The world b magazine weaves through and explores means that it is a publication that is nigh on impossible to put down. From the gardens of creatives to bodies of lesser known work, it concerns itself with the unexpected, uncharted or undocumented. It deals in everything with reassuring familiarity rather than the fantasy or purely aspirational that we have all grown accustomed to in the sea of fashion titles. One thing is for certain, this fifth issue, despite being well thumbed already will provide a welcome haven from the over indulgences of this festive period.

1 comment:

Fashion Philosopher said...

I wish you all the best for the coming New Year. Have a lovely and exciting time and thanks for all your independent thoughts and your great feel for style during last year. Kind regards, Raj, The Fashion Philosopher


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