Womankind is a different kind of quarterly magazine for women, rich in ideas, with beautiful photography, original illustrations and fine writing. This week we talk to founding editor Antonia Case for some behind-the-scenes inspiration.
Womankind launched last year at the Byron Bay Writers Festival and became the biggest selling item there. What’s it like to launch a new magazine?
Womankind magazine is so different – so at the launch we held our breath. What would people think? No celebrities, no diet tips, no glossy pages of pouting women! And then… the letters arrived, and they flooded our offices. Women said, “thank you”.
Were there any particular hurdles to overcome, or did everything run smoothly? (Ha!)
Launching Womankind was a step into the unknown. It’s Australia’s first advertising free magazine and that’s a big leap for Womankind. We’re finding Womankind is introducing many new readers to magazines. There wasn’t a magazine out there that mirrored some women’s perception of the world and what mattered to them, but now they’ve found it in Womankind.
We may call these the arty, or creative types, the bookish types and the thinkers, or simply those who get bored easily. When we see Womankind at airports, supermarkets, news agencies and book stores, we’re so pleased that there’s now a magazine for them.
The current issue #3 has a Japanese theme and a wabi-sabi sensibility of valuing things that are old, worn and ephemeral rather than things that are glossy and new. How close are these aesthetics and values to your heart?
Life is not perfect - so to lead a happy life we must learn to see the beauty of imperfection. This is the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi and, yes, it’s a value close to my heart.
Radically, there is no advertising in Womankind. How did you come to that decision? How do you manage without it?
When we wander into an art gallery, we find ourselves immersed in a meditative, silent place, separate from the bustling commercial world. We have time to contemplate, and view our life from a different angle. Womankind is like that, a journey though gallery halls, free from the distractions of everyday life.
How do we manage without advertising? We rely entirely on sales and subscriptions – on the support of the people who read the magazine.
The magazine is very beautifully and carefully designed, with original artwork and illustration as well as creative photography. How important is the magazine as a visual object?
We spend as much time on the design of Womankind as on editorial. Each issue is themed according to a country and an animal/insect. For instance, France and the butterfly, the US and fish, and Japan and cats, were the first three issues. These themes also play out in the editorial in interesting ways. For instance, mix psychological concepts with cats and Japan and what do you come up with?
Words are also highly valued in Womankind, with essays by Liam Hearn and Charlotte Wood among others. How do you source your contributors and stories?
Our contributors are mostly authors and journalists with established names in Australia, such as the authors you mention. Booker Prize winner DBC Pierre wrote for issue 1 and we had rural storyteller Rachael Treasure writing in issue two. The editorial is carefully commissioned out according to key editorial and design themes each issue. If you read closely you will see a pattern.
What’s the best part of being the editor of Womankind? The worst part?
The best part is the letters and notes from readers. We receive so many heartfelt letters – it makes it all worthwhile.
The worst part, hmm, probably getting the magazine ready for print. The last part of the process where everything has to be checked and double-checked: I’m so eager by this point, I just want it on the shelves.
Can you give us a sneak peak of what’s ahead in future issues?
For the next two issues we head to the equator, and then north, far north.
Womankind seems to take a slant approach to traditional women’s magazines – for instance, there is food but it’s “cooking as meditation” and there is fashion but it’s made of paper, extraordinary dresses designed to be ripped up at the end of the show. Is this slant approach deliberate?
Traditional media has been dishing up the same stories for decades now. It’s a formula that worked in the early days but this sort of journalism risks looking tired and clichéd. We live in a much more complex world than we did even just ten years ago. Magazine publishers have to respect their readers’ need for more complex, varied and thought-provoking material.
What magazines do you subscribe to or particularly inspire you?
Our other publication New Philosopher magazine is undoubtedly the biggest inspiration for Womankind magazine.
How important are subscribers to the magazine? Why subscribe?
Given we don’t accept advertising, Womankind’s subscribers are essentially its financial backers. Suffice it to say, subscribers are very important to us.