“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself and finds no one at home.” – Joan Didion
I’m an obsessive collector of print magazines.
One of the reasons I collect these magazines is that they are not easy to find in South Africa. In fact, I now collect anything that remotely links to the aesthetic of my favourite publications, Cereal, Lindsay, Oath and Hole & Corner, so I stay connected to the feeling of beautiful editorial spreads and makers’ creations.
My love for editorial and lifestyle was nurtured where my mom had displays of piles of home and lifestyle magazines on coffee tables and side tables at my family home, and often left the latest volume of VISI on my pillow for when I returned from school.
Then I found an abundance of independent print magazines whilst travelling in the Netherlands as a student and my mind was blown. For years after I returned, I kept a close eye on the magazine shelves in bookstores, waiting and wishing for more independent magazines to take their rightful place alongside the glossy covers of Vogue, GQ and Men’s Health. It was in London where I finally found these shelves.
I’d always dreamed of moving to London. In my mind I would walk the pedestrianised shopping streets of Soho soaking up the cultural scene; wander along the Thames with a Mexican burrito in one hand, a tote bag filled with fresh produce from Borough Market in the other; and explore the cobbled streets of Shoreditch looking for famous Banksy street art.
So, after graduating from the University of Cape Town – armed with a camera and a degree in Multimedia Production – I said goodbye to my family and set off to London with my boyfriend, in search of the girl I thought was within me.
I arrived in autumn on a miserable cloudy day. After a couple of weeks of finding our feet, we moved into a small shared flat with friends. I found a job as a Brand Manager for a start-up FMCG company in Shoreditch after weeks of sitting at a local Starbucks tapping into their WIFI to search for jobs, often for the price of the cheapest herbal tea, or a sneaky glass of tap water. At this point, life was looking up – my first proper job saw me leading the direction of the brand and taking complete ownership of marketing. I lived in a warm home with friends and had an exciting city filled with art, architectural gems and lush woods to explore just beyond our doorstep.
Then Covid-19 hit and we were sent indoors for the summer. Thankfully, a few months prior, I had found a little shop along my route between the tube station and the co-working space where I worked in Shoreditch. I walked past it a few times but only took notice of it when I was returning home from work one winter’s day and the warmth of rows of magazines invited me in and out of the cold. It is in this shop that I allowed myself to explore, think and have a quiet moment for myself. I bought a few magazines home with me from that shop during the seven months before lockdown in London, which kept me feeling inspired and connected to myself and my creativity long after Boris announced the hard lockdown.
Today, having had the experience of losing hours paging through shelves of printed stories while waiting for a gap in the autumn rains falling on cobbled London streets, I still find a sense of comfort connecting with the stories of makers printed in the pages of a magazine.
I’m now back home in Cape Town and loving it. I love the space, the salty sea breeze and the community of people who connect their identity to, not their location (which I thought I wanted so many years ago), but the people around them and a deep sense of belonging, respect and giving.
To me, independent magazines represent these human cravings for belonging. They speak of the power of storytelling, connections with those who own their space in this world and an ode to beauty. These magazines also represent a willingness to shape their own voice as a publication alongside those they interview, write about and photograph, rather than trends and fads.
That is how I view a personal brand too – an exploration of what we stand for and our experiences all wrapped up in an ever-evolving package of who we hope to be. A personal brand is about being human. About being our own versions of what being human means to us.
London taught me that being the human I want to be is not based on a single location or the opportunities we think we must grasp – or the herds we think we must follow. Being an authentic human is having the self-respect to know who we are truly and lead ourselves bravely into our future. That’s what I have learnt from my time abroad, from London with love.