As brands took up residence from behind the mic last year, gravitating to media channels to forge new avenues of connection, media publishing houses, who are natural storytellers and curators at heart, have begun to rewrite the definition of the publication by also showing up in expected ways. Armed with cultural cognizance, brand expertise and a growing digital readership, they’re forging new homes of inspiration to connect fans to their communities as IRL product curators at retail.
It’s a shrewd and very organic move to celebrate their orchestration of the worlds of culture, commerce, style and art, and the perfect forum for in-person inspiration and discovery. Plus, as interest in traditional media wanes amongst younger audiences in favour of digital, bite-size reels, this reincarnation of traditional media as a physical forum, is breathing new life into old formats.
Curating meccas of cultural discovery
Berlin-born media authority and streetwear trendsetter Highsnobiety have been turning heads lately - and not just for their role in the iconic and gloriously wholesome Francis Bourgeois x Gucci x The North Face collab that graced our screens last month. The digital-first publication who boast a community of over 50 million, opened their new temporary concept store GATEZERO at Zurich Airport at the end of last year, carving out a new definition of luxury airport retail for all that pass through. A bold departure from the norm and an even bolder category to enter.
But this wasn’t their first retail rodeo, having dipped their toe in the waters back in 2020 with their Co.Lab pop-up space in Selfridges, created in collaboration with former Parisian boutique Colette. The launch followed shortly after their documentary Colette, Mon Amour, an hour-long film about the iconic and celebrated concept store that closed in 2017.
“We are challenging everything that fashion was, merging different spaces, different categories, different worlds with a series of collaborative projects. We want to be the mouthpiece for a new generation of consumers, collectors and fans, who cherish new ideas above everything else.” Highsnobiety’s CEO explains, following the Selfridges launch.
Influential publication by day and moonlighting as a production house behind the scenes, collaborations are certainly the media giant’s M.O - having been the uniting force behind a slew of iconic partnerships, from Gucci x The North Face, to the IKEA x late Virgil Abloh launch and recent Polestar x Semi Permanent takeover, as well as creating pop-ups for the likes of Galeries Lafayette Champs-Elysées. Highsnobiety are more than just a publication with cultural magnetism, but helping pave the way for the culture of tomorrow. Prior to their bricks and mortar debut though, the digital-first publication had already launched its own e-commerce platform in 2019, alongside its core content business, establishing itself as more than just a media brand, but a luxury streetwear retailer in its own right.
GATEZERO is made up of a curated selection of fashion, accessories and lifestyle products from Highsnobiety’s favourite brands, their own-brand capsule collection of ready-to-wear apparel, GATEZERO print magazine, and of course, some signature exclusive releases thrown into the mix for good measure. Running for six months, the space that will evolve every two, as a new brand is invited to take over the space, keeping it exclusive and transitory – in keeping with its surroundings. But is it in keeping with the brand?
“When I look around the space I feel like I am on the Highsnobiety Instagram feed but with the opportunity to smell, feel and touch the products we admire, we learn and we write about” explained Max Berger, Highsnobiety CCO at the launch.
Whilst digital readership might be booming, print is still very much alive and kicking- despite the alleged rumours- and this physical reincarnation of a once traditional format is proof of our desire for tactile discovery brought gladly to life. Highsnobiety’s growing physical presence is not only bringing their fanbase together but fortifying their cultural zeitgeist.
A collaborative collision of creativity and commerce
From publication to publishing house, collaborations play in prime territory for pop-up spaces ripe for enticing a niche, highly engaged fanbase. Co-founder of Colette and creative industry heavyweight Sarah Andelman launched her own pop-up Just A Space at the end of January, coinciding with Paris Fashion Week. Having closed the legendary Colette store in 2017, which was seen as a heartbreaking blow to the industry, Andelman went on to set up her own consultancy-turn-publishing house Just An Idea.
The space showcases her latest venture - a book series called Just an Idea Books - which spotlights creatives she discovered on Instagram and felt deserved more than just the fleeting presence of a feed. A brimming kaleidoscope of colour, the floors and walls are plastered with the upcycled sheets of paper from Just An Idea’s excess stock, transforming the space into a hub of discovery and quite literally an open book of her work.
In true Andelman style, the pop-up played host to other creatives and brands such as Sean Wotherspoon – designer and infamous sneakerhead - as well as installations by Edward Bess and artwork by Matt McCormick, taking on the inspiring and curious air of an art gallery.
As masters of heralding the very best creative talent in the fashion and art worlds, the Highsnobiety-Sarah Andelman love affair continued over in Miami as the publication donned the hat of curator, but in the truest sense of the word. The publication’s HIGHArt platform which is a melding of in-person events, content, and a $21.50 print magazine, launched their latest month-long pop-up HIGHArt in December during Miami Art Basel - curated by Highsnobiety founder David Fischer and cultural connoisseur Andelman. Dubbed A museum store without the museum, the space is an ode to all things art, with over 100 unexpected limited edition pieces.
Giving art the canvas it deserves in real life spaces is certainly a more prominent love letter to the work itself – ideal for an image-only magazine. Back in 2016, surrealist bi-annual art publication Toiletpaper Magazine – and perhaps the epitome of escapism itself - brought to life by the minds of artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari, opened a pop-up in Milan in celebration of their one millionth magazine sale. The store showcased the publication’s eccentric, co-designed wares from their established homewear brand in a space that so perfectly matched the irreverent irony of the publication.
Capitalising on the unexpected even further, the duo have more recently been making moves into beauty territory, with the launch of their beauty line Toiletpaper Beauty, in a bid to rid your run of the mill beauty routine, for something a little more bizarre. Created in collaboration with cosmetics company La Bottega, the partnerships range of products subvert the classically clean beauty aesthetic with brash, vibrantly photographic, punchy packaging – think spaghetti adorned dish soaps and multi-coloured serpent conditioners for the ultimate hair charming experience.
Neither Ferrari or Maurizio have commented on their new beauty venture – a move that’s oddly in keeping with the incongruity of the publication-turn-brand. What their new range does do however, is offer a new and more accessible entry point into the brand for those that don’t have the bank account to match one of their $2000 lipstick armchairs.
Editorial beauty inspiration in IRL spaces
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Condé Nast-owned magazine influence Allure put a stake in New York ground last Autumn with the opening of their debut store on Lafayette Street – a two storey physical manifestation of the trusted expertise of the editors and beauty contributors, connecting customers on a closer level to the products they love.
The new location has been carefully shaped with a selection of 300 products, responding to the magazine’s most popular content; the editors who select them will regularly host in-store events, tutorials, and master classes bringing their readers closer to the crux of the magazine. Whilst digital may have transformed the beauty industry for good, IRL shopping still prevails – Allure, as one of the biggest influencers in the industry, bringing their authority and curation of products under one roof, is a move that will surely trigger more to follow suit.
A harmonious meeting of minds
The natural coalescence of content, commerce and culture is becoming a force to be reckoned with as media houses move away from being merely lifestyle curators, but into the realm of lifestyle facilitators that truly acknowledge and understand the nuances of their audience’s lives – outside of merely one category. As the media landscape faces fresh challenges and shifts in the ways in which content is consumed, this new residence for storytelling makes for a commercially astute move.
By virtue, media’s arrival at retail has the ability to create an exciting revolving door of collaborations and partnerships – never stagnant, always transient and responsive to the times. The perfect edit for our blended world.