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Monday, 24 November 2014

GarconJon meets Ryan Fitzgibbon #HelloMr

The rise of the printed publication continues to build. There isn't a month that goes by when a new article on "Return of Traditional Media" is published - in October it was the turn The Economist to anaylise this phenomenon. Along with vinyl records, it seems to be growing at an impossible rate, connecting with an audience starved of tangibility.

One of the trailblazers in this world of print media is Mr Ryan Fitzibbon who's publication Hello Mr. has been making waves since it's launch last year. Only 4 issues in and he's already got an enviable readership, visible to all in the @HelloMr social channels. I caught up with Ryan at Ace Hotel in Shoreditch this month, while he was in town to deliver a talk on indie publishing. Check out our chat below on the challenges he faces with Hello Mr, living life as a Brooklynite and his perspective on London menswear.

Ryan Fitzgibbon, Publisher and Founder of Hello Mr.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now? I grew up in Midland, Michigan. After school I moved to San Francisco but did quite a bit of traveling with my job at IDEO during the three years I was there, including a five-month stint in Singapore. In 2012, I moved to Australia and spent a year between Melbourne and Sydney. Now I’m living in Brooklyn, NY where I feel the most settled I’ve felt in a while.

What's your star sign? Leo. I’m told that makes me loyal and easy to love, but that I need to work on my ego. I’ll buy it.

Current album on repeat? LP1 by FKA twigs.

Describe yourself in 5 words? Contemplative. Not afraid to dream.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? First a painter, then a chef. Both were my creative outlets as a kid and I’m beginning to think I should start them up again…

As an editor you have creative control over a huge amount, how would you describe your actual job? Traffic control. Being an editor, publisher, sales rep and creative director means there a countless conversations flying through my inbox each day. In order to produce an issue or plan a party, the most important role I play is making sure that no one is waiting on me for an answer. Things always have to be stay in motion. Of course, that’s a very mechanic way of looking at the business. The best thing I get to do is connect people to opportunities and share their work with the world. In less than two years, I’ve worked with hundreds of talented individuals whom I hope see Hello Mr. as a platform for growing their audience and experimenting with work they’ve always wanted to create.

As you said, Brooklyn's your most recent home. How has the city changed your point of view? It’s both caused and enabled me to step up my game. At the same time, ironically, it’s encouraged me to narrow the focus of what’s possible to what’s essential to creating an identifiable and consistent brand. It may be time to start dreaming again, and given my moving history correlated with professional achievements, it’s hard to say if staying in one place can provide the creative motivation I need to grow.

What is the best thing about Brooklyn? The separation from Manhattan.

What's the most challenging thing about living in NYC? Dating.

When we met, we got chatting about the huge international draw of New York based solely on media attention. I know so many people who's dream is to move there without ever having visited. What do you think the biggest misconception about life in the Big Apple? New York is the city that you love but doesn’t love you back. Everyone here has to work really hard to stay here, so the “off-the-clock” opportunities you get to actually enjoy all it has to offer are far and few between. Then again, I could just be doing it wrong.

Favourite place in the city for:
A dance? Friends and Lovers in Prospect Heights.
A drink? Joseph Leonard in the West Village.
A coffee? Five Leaves in Greenpoint.
A walk? The Williamsburg Bridge.

See the full interview below.

How would you describe Hello Mr? A community of men who date men who hope to rebrand their image in the eye of the media by presenting an evolved set of aspirations and interests.

Over the past 4 issues, you've built a huge dedicated readership - what do you think is the crux of your success? Well, timing was certainly a contributor factor. Nearly a decade had passed without any new gay titles appearing on shelves, yet all along, the dialogue about our equal rights in mainstream media had progressed at a rapid pace. A new generation was born and I felt there was a need for a fresh platform that reflected their experience, one that was universally relevant and not exclusive to a gay existence. Designing a brand with this accessibility in mind has made it easy for a larger audience to engage with.

Do you have a dream cover star? I have a few contenders in the back of my mind but all of my cover misters have been chosen fairly close to the print date. Of course, I have an idea of who I’d like it to be but the publication is largely submission-based, so I try not to prescribe what each issue will be by prematurely deciding who will represent the content that is inside. I also like to keep it a surprise each time, so if I told you…

I'm a huge fan print and I love the quality of Hello Mr, what drove you to print over digital? There’s a familiarity in print that made it both easy for me to design, but also for readers to interact with. The Internet is a noisy place so Hello Mr. was created to be more contemplative in nature rather than compete for traffic. It’s not trend-based and has managed to keep a timeless quality about it, deeming it worthy of something more lasting. Additionally, I felt that a physical product–something that could be owned and could adorn a coffee table–would have a better chance at becoming a badge that represents a shared mindset and a set of values.

What other print publications inspire you? Fantastic Man and Apartamento have always been pillars in my collection. I think their influence comes through pretty strongly in Hello Mr. COLORS magazine has always inspired me for its commitment to quality in everything that they produce. The resurgence of independent publishing as of late has introduced a number of new titles too, like Bad Day, The Gourmand, Kindling Quarterly, The Great Discontent, Apology…the list is endless.

As a man with a finger on the pulse of contemporary culture, what are you most excited about right now? Maybe less of an excitement and more a curiosity, but I’m intrigued by the state of social currency. Anyone can blog or curate beautiful images, but once they break a certain threshold of followers does that mean anyone can be an influencer? Consumers are in a unique position with brands, waging social status for goods and services. Apps like PopularPays make it easy for anyone to promote a product to their followers. “Effective” marketing is judged by how viral something becomes, not by the impact of the source where it originated (i.e. Eames, Dieter Rams, Steve Jobs, etc.). Brands’ leveraging self-made social influencers is the result of this evolution but I don’t think it will be long before it shifts back to the hands of the makers and the innovators and the appreciation of art over popularity.

Finish these sentences:
Sydney is... the most beautiful city I’ve ever lived.
Brooklyn is... for anyone, but mostly the young, broke, and misunderstood.
San Fran is... for those to want to live a good life.
London is... easily the most inspiring place to create art.

London's menswear scene has been having somewhat of a renaissance over the past 3 years - are there any British brands you've got your eye on? I haven’t been as plugged in as I’d like to be, but I’ve been following Hentsch Man over the last year for their clean and playful design. We also featured the London designer Bobby Abley in our latest issue. Bobby’s best known for his Disney-inspired collections, notably The Little Mermaid in his latest collection. It was fun getting inside the mind of a fairly new designer whose work quickly made its way around the Tumblr-sphere and into the consciousness of many through universally recognized symbols. Perhaps intended as the beginning to a larger dialogue about fashion and consumerism, or perhaps not, but entertaining nonetheless.

What do you think makes London a strong city for those in the creative sphere? Access to many of the best museums in the world. Good art has gravity. For hundreds of years that momentum has simply evolved into creative scene that we know London for today.

On your most recent visit to London did you discover anything new? It was brief and I kept mostly to Shoreditch but I managed to meet a lot of people who I’m sure I’ll be discovering new things from now that we’re connected. I was given the fourth issue of Article, a beautiful magazine that I haven’t fully dug into since being back but was instantly taken by the photography and production quality. I find that I discover much more after I’ve left a place. It’s always so overwhelming absorbing it all in the moment, but once I’ve gone and had time to digest it all, that’s when the dots get connected.

Are there any menswear stores you have to visit while in town? I love popping into Goodhood and similarly curated men’s shops around Shoreditch and Soho. Oh, and I’ll have one of everything from any shop on Lamb’s Conduit Street. I’ll have to pack lighter next time.

What's on the horizon for you? Our second annual Hello Love party on Valentine’s Day, issue 05 on shelves in April 2015, and even more travel in the New Year.

Leave us with some words of wisdom...Allow yourself to be vulnerable. The surest way to gain someone’s trust is by revealing your flaws to them. Don’t try to be perfect.