Does anyone read anything anymore? Do you want to read? We believe you do. We launched Civilian as an online magazine in the spirit of democracy that the digital era allows. The format let us run what we liked – long-form features on travelling with the works of Proust as your companion, a short piece by Rick Owens on his love of Dorothy Squires, and a shot by shot breakdown of Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper – all without having to take into account print costs or the likes and dislikes of advertisers and distributors. We wanted to do some-thing that we hadn’t seen, or read before.
We are about journeys and the individual. We want to make you laugh as well as inspire you, because travelling should be fun. Some of our writers come from the world of travel journalism, others are artists, musicians, designers or work in literary fiction. The common link between what they write for us is that they are telling deeply personal stories.
We are as interested in the design of a chair in a Business class lounge as we are in the battered corner booth in a notorious dive bar
I discovered I had a certain story to tell after we had worked for weeks on a cover design for issue zero. We produced an homage to the 1930s Futurist publication Futurismo – it was all about typography and graphics. It was true to the spirit of the movement (but with less Mussolini). But then we decided we’d fallen into a trap – we were being pretentious. Where was the irreverence and the personal story? Instead, I remembered the vast collection of fridge magnets that my mother amassed from friends and family. Whenever anyone went anywhere, she demanded they bring her a magnet. When she died, I inherited them. They live with me in London stored in three giant jars that originally held wholesale quantities of liquorice toffees (another of her obsessions). Each magnet represents a memory. When I put them all together again, for the first time in over 10 years, it was an emotional moment. While I was photographing them, it was such a strong touch point for who she was and what her memory represents.
Civilian is about storytelling and a fresh perspective in the first person. We are as interested in the design of a chair in a Business class lounge as we are in the battered corner booth in a notorious dive bar. We are as interested in the typography as the message. We love food and art and abandoned places as much as cathedrals. You could call us a travel magazine, but we really don’t go in for “travel writing”; “off the beaten track” and “nestled” bring on waves of nausea.
We’ve always seen Civilian as a print journal in the wrong body rather than an online magazine. That’s not just about nostalgia. Digital has revolutionised retail and given us real time news-feeds to keep us in the global loop (and our anxiety levels up), but it’s also destroying intelligent writing. In this brave new world anyone with the keyboard skills to fire up a blog can be a published writer, but as one of our favourite authors, Andrew O’Hagan once told us at the Edinburgh Book Festival: “I like chairs. It doesn’t mean I’d be good at making one.”
The print edition of Civilian is informed by luxury, but we don’t believe that gold-plated yachts define luxury. Sometimes luxury is about precious time memorably spent, and about immersing yourself in culture. And there’s a certain democracy about that today. Read a book. Look at a painting. Bake some bread. The world might be on fire, but that’s no reason to disengage from it. More than ever, this is a time to do something new. Get out there, find a new story to tell, and make sure you laugh a lot while you’re doing it. C