Keeping Print Alive: BWOB Magazine | MISSBISH Sarah Kim
DateFebruary 4, 2015
Side projects and hobbies, everyone has them, but very few act on them. By Way of Brooklyn (BWOB) is Sarah Kim’s side project. With extreme dedication, meaning late nights, early mornings, lunch meetings, productive weekends, and support from friends and family, BWOB gradually came to fruition, all while Sarah maintained her full time job working for Nike and Soho House. BWOB was initially presented in a digital format, highlighting women hustling in New York. Digital was a good start, but her passion lies in print. Sarah wanted to create something tangible and much more permanent. The pages are filled with photographs and stories that are timeless and can be revisited. With guidance, trial and error, and crowdsourced help, Sarah utilized her resources and network which lead to the inaugural issue of BWOB. Gratification was written all over her face when she proudly handed us her first issue during our meeting. This girl is rad and we want you to know what makes her a MISSBISH.
Do you remember the first magazine you ever purchased? What was it that made you want to buy it?
I remember seeing BOP at the library with the JTT and Devon Sawa covers and my mom saying no to even loaning them from the public library. So it was all books growing up. I honestly can’t remember the first magazine I purchased. I want to say it was probably Vogue because Vogue… Then from there Nylon, when Nylon was just starting out and cool and more my pace.
How do you compare the reading experience between digital and print magazines?
VERY DIFFERENT. My head starts to hurt when I read things that are longer than just an email or text on my phone or computer. The Internet is more forgiving. The quality of photos do not have to be as strong to be online. People who are semi good Instagram photographers are seen in the same light as real photographers who have been shooting for years. When you’re going on press and printing on paper, photos can’t suck, typos can’t be changed. It’s much more permanent.
I’m a slow reader. When I’m reading a book, I like to see how much I’ve read or how much is left of a story that I hope will never end. Physical pages over an endless scroll. I love a beginning and end, the weight of paper, the smell of it. You can’t smell or feel the weight of the words on a screen.
“I like to see how much I’ve read or how much is left of a story that I hope will never end. Physical pages over an endless scroll. I love a beginning and end, the weight of paper, the smell of it.”
Why have you chosen print? What makes you passionate about it?
I used to work at a men’s lifestyle magazine called ANTENNA that covered what the staff wanted to cover, that took us on press trips around the world, was printed on really good paper with contributors who I now call friends.
This isn’t my first go at working on a print venture but my first as Editor in Chief. There’s an actual cost, time taken and a physical construction to print pages. A hierarchy, big feature, small one pager. Physical stores and places that decide to carry it. It’s nice to have something you can hold in your hands and page through, that can sit on your coffee table.
When people relate, resonate with a story, feel like they could do their own thing and feel empowered to do so because they read the magazine, that’s what makes me passionate and keeps me excited. I’ve had women who I’ve featured meet each other and tell me they had to tell her that a part of the other women’s feature made her want to move to NY or stuck with her before she jumped into her own business. Those moments are what matter to me.
What are your thoughts whenever someone brings up “print is dying”? Was this ever concern for you before creating your own magazine?
It wasn’t a concern when we thought of making BWOB001 as bringing a passion project brought to life versus trying to make money or grow a business.
If print is dying, it should’ve already been dead. But it’s obviously not. You have people like Alldayeveryday opening up The Newsstand in Williamsburg. You have the NY Art Book Fair. You have Mass Appeal comebacks. You have books and bookstores and people who love them.
What was it that made you decide there and then that you could create your own publication? What was the main motivation behind that?
It was two fold. I think we were fed up with the Internet and the way in which online makes everything the same. There is no hierarchy. We were spending hours on laying out bywayofbrooklyn.com, going back and forth about where to cut words, and we’d post once or twice a month because the content was so rich, hoping people would savor it. But instead, it looked stagnant because the Internet teaches you that long form means time consuming, read it later. Online, words are used as captions, not stories. If it’s up for too long, it’s old news. If there’s too little content, it means a site isn’t up to date. Those things are all untrue. So we did this, to put the content we were making in the place it belonged.
Additionally, we love print. And know print. Our creative director has been in publishing for almost 20 years. Going to the printer without him would’ve been impossible. We aren’t some twentynothing year olds figuring this out. We don’t know the Internet the way we know print. And we don’t want to have to fake that. It’s not about numbers for us. It’s also not about throwing stories about people with a lot of followers on pages. It’s about content, beautiful photos, tightly edited words. We’re picky. The stories on those pages are good stories, of a time but not trend pieces. Old soul mentality, graciousness that is honest and real, nativity but an edge that only happens after living in New York.
“It’s about content, beautiful photos, tightly edited words. We’re picky. The stories on those pages are good stories, of a time but not trend pieces. Old soul mentality, graciousness that is honest and real…”
What was the process was like creating your first magazine? What were some of the major challenges you faced?
It was so hard. The process was so hard mostly because no one, from feature to collaborator to contributor, got paid. Which is the beauty and curse of our first issue. When you’re working with friends and acquaintances who are working on love and they turn in work that doesn’t align with your vision, it can get tricky. Going back and forth with edits, learning where to compromise and where to push was tough for me.
Asking for help was hard for me too as someone who is a control freak, which I didn’t realize until after we printed this. Also working on a timeline that I wasn’t entirely in control of was a lesson. I had to learn to let go of deadlines I had made up in my head and clung so tightly to. Had to trust that it would come out when it was supposed to come out. And the timing was perfect.
Did you have a mentor to help guide you through the process, or did you have a pretty steep learning curve?
Evan Gubernick is our BWOB creative director. He is my mentor for more than BWOB, life mentor really. For someone who is as experienced in the industry, who has a family that supports him, who is willing to invest and school people coming up. All of those things are the reasons why I respect and look up to him. When I get frustrated or competitive he’s told me, If I’m concerned with other people, I’m not busy enough, that I need to put my head down and work harder.
As wonderful as the people who say yes, who praise you and cheer you on, the people who say no, the ones who challenge you, out of care and concern are as, if not more, important. To be able to learn so much about how to make a magazine that is cohesive and beautiful, but also learn so much about life in every conversation is a rare. Evan asked me before we started, when big sites I loved weren’t willing to pay for what was my first BWOB pitch, when I wanted to be a part of something bigger versus starting my own thing, Evan asked me, “do you think you can do it better?” and I said “yea, I do.” And he said, “then you need to do it better.”
By Way Of Brooklyn (BWOB), the publication you’re currently producing, seems to have a strong focus on New York City. Do you see the mag extending beyond the five boroughs?
100%. By Way of LA, By Way of Paris, By Way of Busan. There are so many women, doing their entrepreneurial thing in these cities around the world. I can’t wait to have coffee and talk about mistakes we’ve made, advice we’ve heard that we’ve passed on and how geographically those things will differ or be similar in various cities.
“If I’m concerned with other people, I’m not busy enough, I need to put my head down and work harder.”
There’s an element of streetwear in your first issue of BWOB. What is your connection with streetwear and menswear in general?
My first job was with CFDA nominee and all around awesome human, Carlos Campos. From there I worked at ANTENNA. The team was made up of mostly very cute, outgoing women who owned Tom Boy as a look and I can’t help but think all of the men’s samples we got helped play into that.
When I think of my own personality and the women I hang out with, we’d choose a trip upstate or an unpopular beach before we chose Vegas or South Beach. And when you think of dress in that respect, as fitting function and location, a bandage dress or very serious heels isn’t gonna work. My Chucks have seen miles in walks and conversation. I have a go to, favorite cozy sweater for cold mornings. Simplicity and classics are confident and understated but ultimately much cooler. And most girls can pull of heels and a good fitting dress. It’s a bit tougher to pull of menswear cause you’re less dependent on your body as a tell all. Your style, then, is an added on bonus. Oddly approachable but in the same breath, more intimidating because how does she kill it in an oversized sweater and baggy denim? You know what I mean?
You also touch on the “unisex generation” where women are looking outside of womenswear for fashion inspiration, and where you claim women are “doing menswear better than men.” Do you think this is a trend? or do you think fashion is gradually becoming genderless?
I think it’s a trend, because I think fashion is recycled. But I think people are taking more risks or as I’m getting older, I realize people are just more comfortable in their own skin. That could translate in less structured stigmas or styles, where women are more willing to take on a baggier, cozier look and men are more comfortable in wearing clothes that fit well. Trend or a movement, I’m all for people being more confident and comfortable in who they are.
Where do you personally fit in this? How would you describe your own style?
I’m a fan of an all the way buttoned up shirt, plaid or denim, stolen from my mom’s closet. Layers. Neutrals. Kicks. Tom boy would be a fitting description. I love a dress and a good lip color though also. Although I figure much of the time I can wear pair those with a pair of kicks also. I’ll change a zillion times before I leave the house. It’s not so much about exactly what I’m wearing, but how I feel in it. If I feel good, I look good. I guess it goes hand in hand.
Your first issue of BWOB was a tribute to coffee shops which you describe as “our daily sanctuary/office/second home.” Which coffee shops did you spend most of your time at when creating BWOB?
These days, Think Coffee in Meatpacking because they are open late for work after work. Soho House’s Americanos are perfect for morning meetings. Milk & Honey in Midwood/Ditmas Park is one of my favorites along with Lark in Prospect Park South and Cafe Madeline on Cortelyou.
“As wonderful as the people who say yes, who praise you and cheer you on, the people who say no, the ones who challenge you, out of care and concern are as, if not more, important.”
What is your second issue going to focus on?
Loosely bikes, and founders and makers. Sooo Brooklyn, almost a cliche at this point. But like our Creative Director says sometimes the obvious thing is the right thing.
What are you doing when you’re not working on BWOB?
A very full time job. Flying back and forth from LA. Texting puppy photos and dance videos with my sister. Reading Joan Didion or C.S. Lewis or Calvin and Hobbes. Getting breakfast ramen at Talde. Frequent coffee dates with women I respect and I admire.
What are your three hidden gems in Brooklyn?
1) There’s a single bench in Prospect Park that overlooks a hill. I call it my prayer bench and have found myself there often.
2) Greenwood Cemetery for contemplative walks and greater perspective. As dark or deep as that may sound, it’s insane beautiful in there especially in the fall.
3) The bike path down Ocean Parkway. I live in deep Brooklyn and it’s the same distance to the city as it is to Coney Island from where I live. This bike path takes you all the way down to the beach, changing neighborhoods and faces as you go.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
A woman, not a girl, who is unapologetic, confident. cool.
Photography: Anna Sian