MagCulture opened their doors in December 2015, deliberately positioning themselves next to a kebab shop and a launderette in the less bustly strip of St John’s Street in Clerkenwell. This elegantly designed shop took over from, somewhat appropriately, the former Squires newsagents and carry some 250 titles complete with an open ‘browsing’ policy. I caught up with creative director Jeremy Leslie to find out more about the new shop and what they have ‘in store’ for the future.
Gemma de Cruz: Can you tell me a bit about who and what ‘magculture’ is? Other than the shop you have now opened.
Jeremy Leslie: magCulture is a small editorial-design focused design studio and consultancy that works with publishers and other clients in the UK, the rest of Europe and the US. We design maagzines and websites, and advise and consult on broader stategies around content and publishing. A key part of the project is our online Journal, launched in 2006, which celebrates creative and innovative magazines. In response to reader requests we started selling online some of the magazines we featured, and that led via a series of pop-up shops to opening the new shop space in Clerkenwell. The other side to what we do is live events: we run an annual conference about editorial design in London and contribute to others in Munich and Singapore.
You’re located in a part of Clerkenwell that’s slightly off the beaten track, was that intentional? Likewise, what is accidental that you were opposite the local library?
We are a little off off the beaten track – we couldn’t afford a more primary location – but it means we get a larger space for our money. And the specific space we’re in was always going to be vital. I saw many run-of-the-mill shops before realising the potential of this site. It’s a great example of sixties architecture, and is located in the heart of a series of modernist 20c estates that are among the best examples of that era in the city. Plus Clerkenwell has long been linked to the print industry, and yes we’re opposite the library and next door to a university with a large journalism school.
Considering your background and interest in design, how important was the look of shop when you were planning the interior?
The look of the shop was always going to be important, partly because of my background in design but also because the magazines we’re selling are special, beautiful items and I wanted to find a space that reflected that. It’s deliberately planned as a space where people can browse, spend time, and carefully decide what they want to buy. Rather than a quick-in-and-out shop.
Your shop has attracted interest from as far afield as the New York Times, do you think this is because there is a group of likeminded people willing a return to print media who are rooting for shops like yours?
I’ve had interest ever since we first announced the project. Magazine publishing has been through the rinser in recent years, and while the big publishers struggle with the implications a new generation of publishers have given up on them and started making their own mags. They’ve grown an audience, and attracted interest from other media. Newsnight, Radio 4, the Sunday newspapers have all written about these new magazines recently. There is definitely a significant group of like-minded people out there, so while we’re honoured to be feature in so many august publications I’m not surprised by the interest. Monocle magazine recently opened a new magazine shop in west London, and we have our shop now in the east. At last London has shops that match the magazines being made here.
What, for you, makes a good magazine?
What has always attracted me about magazines is the way they combine text, image and design to tell stories in a manner that is thoroughly immersive. A good magazine has a clear agenda, takes full advantage of the print medium, and is thoroughly engaging. It should reflect its era – magazines are great records of their times. Not just in terms of stories, writing and photography, but also design and visual trends.