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Satirical Fashion Mag 'Mushpit' Is the Grown-Up Girl's Answer to 'J17'

We talked to co-founders Bertie Brandes and Char Roberts about how to be slick and cool in your twenties without selling out to The Man.

by Amelia Abraham
23 June 2015, 4:40pm

Delilah, Ursula and Amelia from Skinny Girl Diet, shot by James A Grant for issue seven.

If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out there are many more magazines in the world beyond VICE. This new series, "Ink Spots", is a helpful guide on which of those zines, pamphlets and publications you should be reading when you're not staring at ours.

Nepotism's great and all, but we'd tell you to read Musphit even if one of its two co-founders wasn't Bertie Brandes, former VICE UK Fashion Editor, columnist and office morale booster. Mushpit is great because it's partly a homage to the teen magazine (problem pages and flow chart quizzes feature heavily), but with a welcome addition of the kind of satire you don't find in the austere landscape of fashion magazines.

Bertie started the magazine in 2011 with best friend and stylist, Char Roberts. Back then, it was a somewhat DIY zine with lots of lo-res pictures of Britney, and liberal use of the Marker Felt font. Now in its seventh issue, Mushpit has truly come of age; Tyrone Lebon shot the cover for the sixth edition, Alice Neale shot the latest and, I mean, they've finally let me write something for it (which is clearly a key turning point in what will become the history of Mush').

The new issue – "The Sell Out Issue" – hits shelves this Friday. To celebrate that fact, we talked to Bertie and Char about how to bankroll your magazine with a club night, what we can expect from lucky #7 and how we can all avoid being lousy sell-outs in the quest for success.

VICE: Hi Bertie and Char. So, to start, how would you describe Mushpit to anyone in the dark?
Bertie and Char: We've been described as J-17 meets Private Eye, which is very flattering and probably the closest anyone's got to pinning Mushpit down – including us. It's a combination of ridiculous satire, questionable life advice and fashion and photography from our favourite up-and-comers.

If you like fashion for creativity and not for business, if you think about where stuff comes from and why, if you're interested in sex, love and beauty – but don't want to be patronised by adverts for "rad swimwear" or anti-wrinkle BB cream – then read Mushpit.


Bertie made this on inDesign, which she's getting really good at.

How did it start?
How all good things start: complaining about the status quo around the kitchen table. We were both testing the waters of working in fashion and were, frankly, bored and a bit underwhelmed. We were in awe of this amazing 90s and 2000s magazine called Cheap Date and decided to take it upon ourselves to make a version for our generation. Mushpit was born in summer of 2011, and we threw parties to fund it, along with spending large chunks of our student loan, which we're obviously never going to pay back – thanks, Dave!

Claudia Sinclair

How has it evolved from issue to issue?
It's evolved in size from the hilarious A5 zines we did until issue five. There's also the biggest amount of content ever in the new issue, which is exciting. The anti-fashion, anti-bullshit, disillusioned sentiment will forever remain the backbone, but we've definitely learned how to take it further and be cleverer about how we start conversations now.

We don't have a rigid structure to how often issues are released, so they each tend to be wildly different. Growing up from 20 to 25 is obviously a really formative time career-wise, and each Mushpit pinpoints another crisis we've had trying to figure out who we are and what we're doing. The last one was "The Confused Issue", and this is "The Sell Out Issue", which says a lot.

Have you figured out how to be slick and cool without selling out yet?
Well, we made it "The Sell Out Issue" because all around us we saw big companies ripping people off, and it was depressing. One of our entire pages once got copied word for word by an evil commercial magazine who shall not be named... yet. We felt like, career-wise, it was suddenly time to sink or swim, but swimming meant getting into bed with brands and ideas that we thought were crap. Why should we? We're over trying to look slick and cool, thank god. Being an absolute mess is much more fun.


Mac DeMarco, shot by Carolina Faruolo.

Who are some of your favourite collaborators?
Tyrone Lebon shooting our last cover story was definitely a "pinch me" moment – and being able to pull Meadham Kirchhoff for it without lying at all was very satisfying. We were definitely squealing down the phone to each other about that.

We always work with Maxwell Tomlinson, who is great, and of course Eloise Parry, who is incredible and an ultimate Mushpit icon; we shot a great story in her hometown, just by Middlesborough, for this issue. We have a pretty close-knit Mush' family, so our contributors tend to reappear. We love them all, but some of our favourites include Jonathan Baron, Oliver Hadlee Pearch, Claudia Sinclair, Lotte Andersen, Claire Barrow and Hanna Moon.

Do you still objectify boys in Mushpit? You've always championed the poster boy centrefold...
Us? Never!

READ: Bertie's gloriously funny VICE column of yesteryear – Pretty Girl Bullshit

Tell us about Big Momma Bruce and your agony aunt.
Big Momma Bruce is Mushpit's no-nonsense guardian angel [and general life-advisor], who has sadly taken a sabbatical from issue seven as she is visiting family abroad. She'll be back next time, don't worry. Harriet Verney is our in-house agony aunt. You know, the one who gave you your first drag on a cigarette behind the loos at a wedding. Don't take her advice – it's terrible!

Shot by Maxwell Tomlinson

Whose bum is on the new cover, and what else can we expect from inside the new issue?
That glorious bum belongs to Sophia Kelly, a dream goddess who we flew over from Ibiza for just one day because we knew it had to be her on the cover. She arrived from Stansted straight to the shoot, and within 10 minutes was sitting topless in our kitchen, smoking organic Ibizan cigarettes and talking about how her dad was stalking her crush on Instagram. She's perfect.

There is also a potentially very lo-fi centrefold, five fashion stories, an Instagram calculator to help you figure out your "what you are worth" and more ridiculous Mushpit content than any sensible person could ever wish for.

Mushpit's Instagram calculator. Bertie actually made this.

Is it more than just a magazine? I heard you have a club night, with vodka slushies?
Mushpit is a global phenomenon, haven't you heard? We're going to overthrow Parliament eventually – we even have our own political party called New Labia (read our full manifesto in the new issue). An anonymous VIP recently sighed into a voddy, lime and soda at his night – where Mark Ronson was DJing his own music – that our party was "way better than his". There's definitely no guest list at our parties, and no Mark Ronson, either; it's just a place to snog our mates.

Whats your favourite Mush' memory so far?
Definitely not our attempt to have a glam do for the last launch, where we swapped dresses halfway through the night because it was so stressful. Probably just every John Montoya DJ set ever, to be honest. Also shooting our first centrefolds ourselves on Char's dad's digital camera was definitely a highlight. Oh, and it did not objectify boys at all. Just to make that clear. Again.

Thanks, guys.

Mushpit launches this Thursday the 25th of June at Ditto Press – everyone is welcome and there will be Bacardi Breezers flowing (seriously). The magazine will be available from all cool newsagents you would want to be seen in and online. Follow Mushpit on Twitter and Instagram and pre-order a copy of the new issue here.

@MillyAbraham

More from the series Ink Spots:

The Editor of 'The Editorial Magazine' Showed Us Some of Their Best Editorials

'A Nice Magazine' Does What It Says On the Cover

'The Outpost' Is Trying to Bring Liberal Change to the Middle East