Printed Matters #3: BLEND
Where do you see yourself in 7 years? I bet JOFF wouldn’t have been able to answer this question correctly even taking the wildest guess possible back in 2005. I takes courage and a plethora of multiplex talents to be the editor in chief and creative director of BLEND magazine. Some say it takes a village to put an amazing publication together, however it goes without saying that even the most skilled teams of designers and sales reps won’t succeed without a gifted curatorial mind behind them.
JOFF (Amsterdam, 1976) graduated as fashion designer from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in 2001, followed by his masters degree at the Fashion Institute Arnhem in 2002. Though tutored as fashion designer, JOFF started experimenting within the field of performance and installation art. This experimentation granted him an encouragement prize of the Amsterdam Funds of The Art in 2004 with which he created the collection “Ofoffjoff” ~ which he then presented during the New York Fashion week in 2005. The work of JOFF specifies itself in the creation of a visual language that exists through a research in fashion and its associated disciplines. The intersection between fashion, graphic design, performance, photography, music and installation art is a signifier in the creating of this language. With this specific multidisciplinary approach JOFF has developed himself as fashion director and curator of several projects – including BLEND magazine. One of his latest projects was the 4th edition of the renowned Arnhem Mode Biennial, where he took care of the artistic direction of the entire event.
Right after publishing the 7th anniversary issue of BLEND Joff took time to have a chat with me about nostalgia, the future of printed matter and re-invention.
BLEND in a single sentence:
Ever so transitional
Why did you start publishing BLEND magazine?
I wasn’t actually there from the beginning; Jurriaan Bakker is the founder and publisher of BLEND. The magazine was initiated to create a platform for a generation of emerging artists in the Netherlands. Even though there were predecessors like Dutch and BLVD, in 2004 both of these magazines didn’t really exist anymore – and it was time to give face to a very exciting and talented world. What started out as a small Dutch magazine distributed in the Netherlands, is now an International magazine distributed world wide. I started in 2007 as fashion director, these days I am editor in chief and creative director of the magazine. Things change.
The best part of working on a print product?
The best part in creating a magazine is the collaborative aspect. It is great to meet creative minds, share ideas and views to eventually translate into visual or textual narratives. No matter how cliché it might sound, the fact that you can create fiction, the storytelling aspect of it all – is super attractive to me. We’re all little kids in a way, I think. Who doesn’t like a good story?
What makes BLEND distinguishable from the other magazines?
I wouldn’t want to say that Blend Magazine is highly unique – the editorial structure is quite common, as what one would expect from a magazine. I think there are quite some magazines covering similar topics, like fashion, art, music, etc… In the abundance of magazines these days it’s quite a task to be completely autonomous. Still I believe you can distinguish yourself in how you cover certain topics, the approach – or concept in how to visualize the content. What’s important is that you’re able to be honest in what you do. It is a bit boring to constantly define yourself in reflection to what others do around you. It’s not so interesting or productive. There are some damn good magazines out there, which I love seeing. In my opinion BLEND Magazine has always tried to push the borders and give space to a lot of freedom and not let the advertising side take over too much. We obviously have had our highs and lows ~ but that just simply comes with the territory. Especially when a magazine becomes bigger, the demands also rise. The last two years I have been very focused on keeping the balance and introduce more freedom of creativity. I have been collaborating for example with artist creating 50 page editorials for the last 7 issues’ – completely free of advertisers. For issue #5 we did a shoot with Jill Sander Spring/Summer 2011 collection ~ due to popular demand I could only arrange three looks for these 50 pages. But it ignited something in me; I was interested in the idea of repetition page after page. Almost like a never ending fashion editorial. I collaborated with photographer Tomas Nasstrom to shoot a model simply in a studio 50 times in the same 3 outfits. With minimal changes it almost looked as if we just used the same image over and over again. When in fact each image was unique, with minimal changes. Later on I worked with art director and graphic designer Laurenz Brunner on the editing and layout of this particular series. It was interesting and quite brutal – as in most fashion magazines we are overloaded by imagery, having the minimalist Jil Sander in mind I wondered what would happen if we would give these creations really some space through repetition. Giving more voice to a pleat, fabric a look in the models eyes, etc… In the latest issue of Blend Magazine #7, artist Amie Dicke cut the entire series up with an axe, unraveling all these layers of repetition – which then ended up again on our cover. I found it refreshing, and I think it is these type approaches that have brought Blend Magazine where it is today. Allowing change and constant transition in order to naturally grow with the world around us.
What has changed in the way you curate BLEND for the past 7 years?
I think I have been able to give more and more emphasis to collaboration with artists than when I started back in 2007. We used to sometimes publish work that was already created – but I was never fan of that. I think it is important when generating content it all is exclusive of course but also ties in with each other one way or the other. Lately I have also been more attracted to working with fine art photographers rather than fashion photographers.
How did you choose the curator for the 7 years anniversary issue?
One of my favorite magazines has been Dutch, which unfortunately folded years ago. Matthias Vriens-McGrath was the creative director back then. So I am a big admirer of his work. For our 7-year anniversary it felt appropriate to ask him to make a selection out of our archive. A creative mind that would be neutral – and let his vision transpire through the selection. Next to that Matthias is in fact also Dutch, so in that way it also made a lot of sense.
What newspapers or magazines are you subscribed to?
The New Yorker
What are three things printed matter can’t live without?
One, Two, Time
What projects have you planned in the near future?
We are currently re-creating the magazine. You could call it a re-design, but that always sounds so cosmetic to me. We are completely restructuring the entire magazine and it’s approach from the inside out. Despite the success of BLEND Magazine, I’m not really comfortable with the satisfaction in that. It’s a bit like leaving the party on its finest moment – you leave it before things get darker. Next to that I believe that a magazine these days should be able to constantly re-invent itself. Everything around us is moving up-tempo, and the medium of the magazine itself is already quite slow these days. Which in fact I really like, I’m not so much into the disposability of the Internet. People say it will be stronger – but I really love turning a page in reality. Feel of the paper, the reflection of light on a glossy cover, having to actually be an active player in the experience. Don’t want to be strapped to my computer and slide through the pages of a digital magazine. There is a magic to visiting the bookstore, fetching your magazine and taking it home with you. Maybe I am bit nostalgic in this sense – but there is a lot of love and hard work that goes into creating a magazine which I think deserves to be printed.
What will BLEND look like in the next 7 years?
I don’t want know, otherwise I have no reason to create it.
Find excerpts of the 7th anniversary issue of BLEND including the full-length interview with the curator of the issue Matthias Vriens-McGrath:
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