INTERVIEW: Joanna & Monique Kawecki, Ala Champfest Magazine
In today’s print landscape, few publications offer such a focused and relevant cross-section of contemporary art and culture as Ala Champfest. Six issues in, with number seven due for release next week, the bi-annual graphic and image-based journal continues to travel forward in a smooth upwards trajectory, documenting prominent figures and impactful events from across the art, design and style worlds with each issue. Founded and edited by twin sisters Joanna and Monique Kawecki (based in Tokyo and London, respectively), the publication’s unique geographical setting reflects its thoroughly international outlook – reaffirmed by its team of respected global contributors and echoed once again by their choice to publish in both English and French texts.
Ahead of Issue No.7’s launch in Paris tonight (Saturday, 28 September), we caught up with Joanna and Monique, who elaborated on the concepts behind the publication, the challenges faced in publishing today and their outlook on print culture in general, amongst other topics. Ala Champfest Issue No. 7 is available to order online now, and will reach select global stockists next week.
SLAMXHYPE: Can you talk about the specific vision you had in mind when you first conceived of Ala Champfest?
Joanna & Monique Kawecki: We started Champ from a passion of print and magazines! It’s a brilliant form of communication through a certain curation. If you resonate with it, it’s a great go-to source of information and inspiration. We wanted beautiful photography, elegant text, and of course to provide a platform to showcase remarkable and thought-provoking people and works from all around the world. The world is so small, and new cultures and countries are so accessible to visit and personally experience – so this is something we like to portray through our print.
SXH: How has this vision or motive developed?
J&MK: Our vision has strengthened and maybe tightened in consistency of features and direction. Although, we only really have one main goal – and that’s to have fun. Both for us, and for those involved – the Champ Fam of contributors and correspondents, and those featured! To take each of our works seriously and in dedicated ambition, but most importantly to enjoy it, above all!
SXH: Seven issues in, what are the challenges you have faced in establishing the magazine since its foundation?
J&MK: The main challenge is probably shipping costs. We aim to distribute to every city, but of course postage costs are so expensive and our production from even a central location like London still raises its retail cost. We want to remain accessible, but also affordable and this is definitely our biggest challenge. Nightmare!
SXH: Have you experienced any difficulties being based between Japan and London – or does this give you an international advantage?!
J&MK: We both love living in different cities that challenge us personally. It provides a great platform to cover them from an insider view, and to have good access and a view of both hemispheres. A disadvantage is working in vastly different time schedules, but mixing it up definitely keeps it interesting. We heavily rely on Skype and Skype Screenshare, so our communication is really easy but definitely computer-bound sometimes.
SXH: How do you think print, and specifically, Champ, is placed in a media environment that is becoming increasingly digital? Many people believe that print culture is growing stronger…
J&MK: It’s certainly growing stronger, and this is seen from the amount of new magazines I notice when walking into T-Site Daikanyama each week. A print magazine can provide more of a curated vision, both in the content and design, and there is more care taken in editing, I feel, as it cannot be corrected later. The physical relationship we hold with objects also resonates in magazines, there’s more of a connection in ownership, but also in a sense of identity – where one can relate to the magazine’s brand identity, the same way we do with what we wear and where we hang out.
SXH: Besides print, how else do you plan to expand the Ala Champfest brand?
J&MK: Through our print, we have the main aim to communicate great works to an international audience. A magazine is just a magazine, but through this, it’s a curated and consistent form of highlighting knowledge to a wider audience. How do we know something is good if we don’t even know about it? Through the abundance of accessibility to online platforms and a delightful deluge of emerging magazines and self-publications, we feel that audiences seek a consistent go-to in their already busy schedules. It’s about encouraging the importance of sharing creative culture and knowledge.
SXH: Where does Champ Creative fit into the picture? Does the work you do through this platform feed into the magazine and vice versa?
J&MK: Champ Creative is a platform for all the ideas we want to produce, such as the product collaborations or design for print, that isn’t connected with our magazine. It’s where we’re able to use the name to create our other interests and push forward-thinking in other creative fields of our interest. Both are connected, because there’s a great influence that fashion has on art, art has on design, design has on architecture, etc. All are interconnected and this is something we are fascinated and intrigued by.
SXH: Finally, what has Issue No.7 got in store for us?
J&MK: It’s our biggest issue to date! We’ve focussed on some in-depth interviews with Shawn Stussy, Shinsuke Takizawa from Neighborhood, forward-thinker extraordinaire Kenya Hara of MUJI, and some really fascinating conversations between legend Don Letts and Nicholas Daley, and the Studio TooGood sisters and Victoria Andrejeva of Cherevichkiotvichki. We’re also excited to showcase Dennis Morris’ iconic photography from his Resurrection: The Stone Roses book, capturing Ian Brown in his element! Please also keep an eye on our cover star, the lovely Phoebe Collings-James who is an emerging artist, definitely one to watch.
Images taken from Ala Champfest Magazine Issue #7
1. Shawn Stussy by Ben Clement. Phoebe Collings-James by Myro Wulff
2 – 3. Neighborhood, Tokyo Studio
4 – 5. Too Good Sisters & Victoria Andrejeva
6 – 7. Azuma Makoto shop and flowers