If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the span of 30 days. While we provide you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out VICE isn't the only magazine in the world. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide to which of those zines, pamphlets, and publications you should be reading when you're not reading ours.
There aren't many people these days committed to making 350-page glossy independent magazines—you know, the kind that give you arm-ache when you lift them. But Danish powerhouse team Simon Rasmussen, Zenia Jaeger, and Jesper Lund are an exception to the publishing world's aversion to those expensive, profit-losing passion projects of yesteryear. Their biannual Office magazine is about to drop a fifth issue with a line up featuring Harmony Korine on the cover, a shoot with the insanely beautiful musician Maxine Ashley, and interviews with designer and Kanye-collaborator Virgil Abloh, the musician Peaches, and artist Jason P. Grisell.
Office magazine is about arts and culture, sure, but with its profile pieces and "in conversation" features, it feels more like a beautiful collection of chic New Yorkers' lives at best, and a smart exploration of individuality and creativity at worst. Not bad for a small team of people with other jobs on the side, especially when you consider that the mag is stocked in 20 countries around the world.
We caught up with Simon, Zenia, and Jesper to find out more about how Office came into being, what some of the toughest moments have been for the publication, and what to expect from the team's latest issue.
VICE: So first up, how do you guys know each other?
Simon Rasmussen: We're all from Denmark, but live and work in NYC.
Zenia Jaeger: I was buying my drugs from Simon back in the early 2000s.
Simon: Yeah, Zenia and I were raving together in Copenhagen since we were in our early 20s, and then we met Jesper after moving to NYC through mutual friends here.
What are your "day jobs"?
Jesper Lund: Besides working on Office, I do creative direction and photography, Zenia works as a makeup artist, and Simon does styling and consultancy.
Where was the idea for Office born?
Jesper: On a hot August afternoon in 2014, Simon sent me an email about an idea he had for a magazine—Zenia and him had been discussing it for a while. We all met up the next day for a walk and talk in Central Park and we were generally feeling uninspired with most of the fashion magazines in New York and decided wanted to start our own publication.
What was the editorial directive? Besides featuring the fashion, music, and culture you were into, what would make the cut?
Jesper: Anything with integrity, wit, irreverence, and honesty.
Simon: We are always looking for a point of view. The content—whether written or visual—has to have an opinion.
Zenia: Yeah, I think it needs to get reaction. It doesn't matter whether you like it or not, just as long as you can't help having an opinion about it... That's Office.
Were there ever any qualms over name? How did you come to it?
Zenia: Not really, once we had it pinned down that that was it. We like how dry it is and like the many title options that can start with office.... Office Slut, Out Of Office, Office Trash. We have an Office people Q&A section where all the portraits are shot in people's offices.
What did issue one look like?
Jesper: From the beginning, we decided to do three covers per issue: a male, a female, and an alternative, whether that be art, set design, or still life. Issue one's covers featured Wiz Khalifa, Camille Rowe, and an empty office space in the outskirts of Paris. In terms of design, it was important for me that the magazine didn't feel too art directed. Some of our editorials are visually very overwhelming and I didn't want the design elements to compete with the images.
How do you approach someone like Wiz Khalifa or Camille Rowe and get them on board for a mag that doesn't exist yet?
Simon: We have been working with Camille Rowe's model agency for a long time, and they know us individually, so there weren't any trust issues. I guess they also understand that sometimes you have to take risks, which also goes for the people behind Wiz Khalifa. We all had many years of experience in the business before starting up the magazine, and I don't think it would have been possible without our pre-existing network.
And what about the Harmony Korine conversation with James Franco in the latest issue—how did that come up?
Jesper: I have always been a huge fan of Harmony, so we hit his agent up. We knew that he had been spending more and more time in Miami after Spring Breakers and were curious about what he was up to. Initially, we wanted James to interview someone else for the issue, but that didn't work out so we thought it would be interesting to have the two of them talk. They cover a wide range of issue from the difficulties with Harmony's latest movie The Trap and his fascination with Florida, to the process of filmmaking, violence in movies, and Gucci Mane.
Issue five also has an insanely beautiful photo story on strippers in Atlanta. Simon, you styled it—where did the idea come from, how was the experience, and who was the photographer?
Simon: Since I was a kid growing up in Denmark, I've been intrigued by American culture from Hollywood to hip-hop music to fashion and food. When I moved here, I wanted to explore that more. I found that strip clubs are a big thing here, and that strippers are not looked down upon as they are in Denmark. In the US, they have power, they have money, and they provide for their families. I wanted to see it with my own eyes and meet some of them. We did some research, and Caitlan, from our Office team, got through to Katrina, a manager at Magic City. We flew down to Atlanta, stayed for a couple of nights, and shot around ten different dancers in their home court. They were being themselves, fooling around naked.
The idea was to shoot them in their element, but style them with some high-end designer clothes, something that didn't seem too far from something they would want to wear. The Magic City dancers did their own make up, styled their own hair, and came up with ideas for styling. It was a super fun shoot—probably one of my best work experiences ever. Not only were the Magic City dancers the sweetest and most fun girls you'll ever meet, but they could also pull some tricks out of the hat, like giving you a head-stand lap dance while doing a split. (I'm still in love with the dancer White Russian.) I shot the story with a very cool female photographer named Steff Mitchell . She's used some of the images in a recent photo exhibition and we are working on turning the whole project into a book.
That sounds like a definite high point. What have your biggest lows?
Simon: That it takes time, effort, persistency, a lot of emails, a lot of rejections, broken relationships (Jesper lost his girlfriend), divorces (I was divorced after issue two), couples therapy (Zenia is trying), maxed out credit cards...
Zenia: There have been a lot of tough moments. When our last printer refused to print a beautiful image of a blowjob, I was really sad, surprised, and naively never thought that it was going to be a problem.
Jesper: And it often happens that we have to cut pages or editorials that either don't fit, or, for some reason, don't live up to our expectations. This is really tough and something I will never get used to.
From your own personal experience, what would your advice be to someone who wants to have their name on a masthead?
Jesper: Start your own magazine
Simon: Please don't, honestly.
Zenia: Come intern for us—we are always looking: email@example.com
And finally, what does the future (near and distant) hold for office?
Simon: We recently launched our web shop, and in the beginning of November we are opening a coffee shop and newsstand at Canal Street Market . We are also planning on doing a sports supplement for issue six, focusing on the intersections among sport, design, and fashion.
Jesper: We are also expanding our web presence and starting to do daily content later this fall... stay tuned.
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