Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Monocle & Lifo vs Wallpaper* & (symbol)

August 22, 2010

The current issue of Monocle

Having been the editor a small magazine for the employees of the company I was working for, I can attest it is no easy feat. I constantly juggled with looming deadlines, unresponsive editors, self-centred creative directors and sometimes unexpected disasters. There are some editors, however, who not only have mastered this process of creating and editing magazines, but have the ability to produce some hidden gems: magazines that can be imaginative and inspiring. This post is about two of them, Tyler Brûlé and Stathis Tsagarousianos.

Before I continue, let me say that I have never met them, and besides very few e-mail exchanges with Tyler, I never had any further communication with them. I can only speak judging the finished product, the magazines that they produce.

Lifo magazine

I got to know Tyler as an editor when I bought an issue of Wallpaper*. At that time, Wallpaper* was frequently raised by most of the media, including some of the Greek magazines. Wallpaper* was different in its content from any other magazine I knew. Instead of focusing on people, Wallpaper* was focusing on design. Its editors were carefully touring the world to unearth the latest trends and identify emerging talents. It wasn’t a simple catalogue of fancy gadgets, furniture and rugs but a bible of trendsetting design.

I got to know Stathis as an editor when I bought up a copy of (symbol), a magazine published by the Saturday newspaper called “The investor” (Ependitis). I had seen an advertisement on TV that the issue was featuring an interesting article and decided to buy the newspaper. Soon I found myself buying the next issue that included an interview of a famous person. Those two issues were enough to get me hooked; every Saturday I would rush to the newspaper kiosk to buy the newspaper just to read Stathis’ inspiring editorials, Malvina’s weekly column, Marina The lady Marks’ stories and so many others. (symbol) was a magazine unlike any other at that time; it was centred around columns. Stathis had collected a bunch of talented people who always had something interesting to say. Complemented with an editorial team that was exhaustively unearthing the latest styles, trends and activities in the Athenian capital, it was not long before (symbol) gained wide acceptance and received the title of the “Best magazine of the Year” (which prompted Stathis to write one of he best editorials I have ever read in a magazine).

Wallpaper* issue 49, the last issue that Tyler edited

But Tyler’s success soon ended; Walpaper* 49 (June 2002) was the last issue he edited. In the contributors section, as a farewell gesture, Tyler praised his colleagues responsible for the magazine’s success and bid farewell by saying “As for me gentle readers, little more to say than thanks you and adieu.” It was the final straw between Tyler and Wallpaper*’s new owners, “Time Warner”, the company he sold the magazine he created in 2002. The success of (symbol) was also short-lived; with the collapse of the Greek stock market, interest for the newspaper gradually waned and the publishing house faced financial problems. Stathis’ departure from the magazine was announced abruptly in one of the summer issues. Without any explanation the readers were told that “Stathis was leaving for vacations.”

The issue of (symbol) that announces the 'Magazine of the Year' award

Since then both Tyler and Stathis were busy with different projects. For Tyler is was the creation of a branding agency and for Stathis a publishing house. But it was clear that Tyler and Stathis could not stay for long out of magazine publishing. Very few people have managed to find what they are good at, and for Tyler and Stathis I believe this to be their ability to create inspiring magazine. That’s why I was not at all surprised (well, OK maybe a little) when I heard about their new endeavours: Monocle for Tyler and Lifo for Stathis; both of them fresh, but with an aura of Wallpaper* and (symbol).

And if their success is also short-lived, I do not worry much. In time, I expect them to come back.


[images © LambdaPhage]


Glastonbury – Another Stage

July 31, 2010

Most people expect the summer with eager anticipation. The weather gets progressively better; the days grow bigger and the summer holidays are fast approaching. But the advent of summer brings something more than hot weather. It brings music festivals, those summer happenings where people cram together under the hot sun (or under rain if you end up in North countries), free from stress, preoccupations – and sometimes clothes – to hear their favourite music. Among the festivals around Europe, one has captured the interest for 40 years now for its “love, sun and mud” atmosphere: Glastonbury festival.

Incidentally, the motto “Love, sun and mud” was also chosen by Mulberry to celebrate their love for the event and to promote Venetia Dearden’s photobook “Glastonbury – Another Stage”. Her book attempts to give us a better picture of the festival goers, who flock the Worthy farm in South West England every year to listen to music. Interestingly, Venetia did not choose to focus on mud-filled pages on festival lifetime, but instead, strips her subjects from the natural surroundings and presents them in plain white background. In fact, the only hint about Glastonbury is the wellies that most subjects are wearing and traces of mud on the white floor. But it is to their personalities that Venetia wanted to focus, not their silly behaviour when camping in a mud-filled farm.

In the 322 pages of the book, we spot the familiar faces of Glasto celebrities – Lilly Allen, Amy Winehouse and Dame Shirley Bassey in Swarowski-decorated green wellies – along with common people: a couple expecting a child, a couple dressed as cows, lots of young children, a businessman with a tuxedo and a briefcase, two men dressed in Spiderman-like tights, a 30-year old man with tribal tattoos, three middle-aged housewives sporting floral dresses and leather purses, two Elvis impersonators and a complete family – to name but a few.

In her 6-year project, Venetia wishes to remind us that the biggest open-air music and performing arts festival does not appeal to a specific type of people. You can come as you are or as you wish to be perceived. As long as you have a love for music and open-air events, as long as you can spare some time from work, strip off from your businesslike attitude and relax, you can join the crowd. The book only begs the question: do all those people look and behave like that in their daily lives or are they just dress for the occasion?


P.S. Venetia Dearden’s book “Glastonbury – Another stage” is published by Kehrer. The publication was sponsored by Mulberry and Mulberry included some of Venetia’s pictures in their Bond Street store during the summer. Mulberry was selling the book in a custom made “Love, sun and mud” tote bag.

[all images © LambdaPhage]

The Londonpaper

September 18, 2009

londonpaper image

I came to London 4 years ago. One day, after getting off from work, I was approached by a man that wanted to give me a newspaper. Assuming that I would have to pay for it, I shrugged him off. The same happened the next day and the day after that. Just as I would get off from work and would turn around the corner, the same man would wait to give me the newspaper.

On the fourth day, I noticed many other people taking the guy’s newspaper without having to pay anything. This man was actually handing free newspapers! I decided to give the newspaper a try. After all, how bad could it be?

The newspaper was called The Londonpaper and it was not bad after all. In fact, I later found out that it was a successful daily, free newspaper recording interesting fact around the world but maily the daily beat, buzz, gossip and happenings in London. As far as I could tell, it was written by young, enthusiastic people and was a combination of relaxed attitude and witty language. But above all, it would inform Londoners of what was going on in town.

Londonpaper was certainly not the only weekday newspaper in London. It competed against “London Lite”, which was distributed around the same time in the afternoon and “Metro“, typically found at tube stations in the morning. But Londonpaper easily outclassed its competitors not only for its editorial flair, its variety of regular columns and features but also for its colourful appearance and exemplary editorial design. In fact, it was featured in Zappatera’s superb book “Editorial Design” as an example of a fresh approach to editorial layout.

It was such a surprise that on Thursday, 17th September, I read that the londonpaper had only another day left before closing down. At the time of writing of this post, I had not searched for the reasons for this closure. But I am willing to take a (wild?) guess: the current economic downturn led to a rapid decrease in advertising revenue, rendering the entire project of running and distributing a free newspaper financially unattainable.

From Monday 21 September, no more restaurant reviews, no more relationship talk by Andy in his column “man about town”, no more lovestruck, no more pet of the day, image of the day, no more gay man about town by Joshua and, above all, no more city girl and Em cartoons. Luckily, some of the regular columners have already hinted to us where we will find them next after we exit our offices on Monday and momentarily feel the void of the man not being there to hand us our londonpaper fix of the day.

So, so long Londonpaper. You have been a fantastic getaway from the daily sorrows of work and the perfect way to clear my thoughts after a busy day.You have been the casual read during the tube ride, a careless browse at my couch before the gym and, above all, the perfect guide to all things London.


The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

July 29, 2009

In the past, philosophers were concerned about many facets of human activity and drew inspiration from subjects relating to existence, laws, emotions, love, truth and science. It should, therefore, come as a surprise that many of them ignored work as a subject for thought and criticism. For Alain de Botton, our job is forming a large part of our identity in our modern world. His latest book, “The pleasures and sorrows of work”, published by Penguin, is a testament to the joys and perils of the modern workplace, with an emphasis on jobs that are either taken for granted and are definitely not in the minds of university graduates. Thus, while anyone knows about the typical day in the work of a doctor, positions like a logistic workers have largely been neglected.

In the 10 chapters of the book, the author embarks upon a journey to describe a snapshot in the life of an accountant, a career counsellor, a painter and an aviation expert and the equally peculiar life of a cargo ship spotter, a rocket scientist, a biscuit manufacturer and a budding entrepreneur. Through logistics, we follow the trip of tuna from the Maldives coast, where it is captured and killed, to the dinner plate of a family in the UK, and through tracing a power line, we witness the journey of the transmission of electricity from a power plant in Kent to a substation in East London. The food in our plate or the power to use our appliances results from those activities, the orchestrated work of ten or thousands of people, that know little of each other, but nevertheless commit their time to a common cause.

The book is written with the unmistakable and imaginative style of de Botton, mixing the necessary with the superfluous and using every small detail as a vehicle for explanations of people’s ulterior motives and behaviours. While we have some reservations that the book is more of a voyeuristic description to weird and unusual professions that a philosophical manifesto of how we perceive our working environment, the book is very pleasant and easy to read.


P.S.: “The pleasures and sorrows of Work” costs £11.39 at Amazon or £60 for Monocle’s limited, signed edition. You may also see an interview of the author at one of Monocle’s Video Podcasts.

(book cover © Penguin books)