Magazine Sindroms / Relying on the Monochrome State of Mind

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I keep thinking of how brilliant ideas are in fact the simplest ones. Sindroms is a magazine about the monochrome state of mind – meaning each issue is exploring one colour and the content is exploding through that particular colour in the most visually beautiful way. They offer a deeper look on colour, focusing on the feelings and emotions it evokes. It’s surprising how much we don’t know and how little attention is paid to such an everyday life essential as the colour is. The fresh take on culture, fashion and lifestyle has grabbed all of our attention. Therefore, we sat down with Kotryna Abaraviciute, Communications Director and Lithuanian ambassador in this international publication to talk about ideas, cultural differences, life in Scandinavia and colour, colour and colour once again. 

by AGNETE VOVERE

photographer DARIUS MARKUNAS

 

Tell me a little about how the whole thing started.

It started at the university halls in Copenhagen, me and Miruna (our creative director) dreaming of how amazing it would be to have our own magazine. We both have a passion for independent journals, collecting the newest issues. From the start, we were aware of the fact that our idea has to be unique. Miruna asked me what I think about colour, as it is such an unexplored field, and just like that our concept was born – each issue in a different colour. 

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In the beginning, it was just two of us, and later Monique and Ana joined our team. We united our creative forces and brainstormed our sketch for the first publication. We came up with the name Sindroms, which is very universal and fits well with the idea of obsession over one colour. After these important decisions had been made, we dove into the psychology and literature of colour. 

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So, the monochrome magazine idea was in your mind something that is missing?

We all came from different cultures (Lithuania, Germany and Romania), so the thing that united us all was colour, or the lack of it in Copenhagen compared to the countries we came from. 

Yes, I just thought of asking whether you felt the contrast when you found yourself in the Scandinavian environment.

I’m back in Lithuania now and I have noticed that the colours have faded a little, compared to five years ago when I was living here, so now there are definitely less pink sweaters in the streets. We missed colourful everyday life, although we are fond of Scandinavian minimalism and the white, black and grey palette it embodies. We thought, why not introducing something fresh? Of course, it was a risky choice, if you look from the perspective of publishing, because the prevailing tendencies were advocating completely the opposite. 

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We started learning and researching colour, relating it to various emotions and it became our main discourse. When working on our first Red issue, we talked a lot about the feelings associated with it – passion, love, but also risk and anger.

Is colour always the epicentre while putting together an issue? Or is it colour, feelings, then content research, what’s the path?

With the first issue, there was a lot of experimentation. But basically yes, the colour is always the dominant theme, then we decide on the emotions, feelings we want to cover and the next thing is searching for information, taking interviews, etc. For instance, in Red Sindroms, we wrote about Marina Abramović as her art relates to risk and vulnerability.

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What is the spectrum of Sindroms themes? Do you consider it being a fashion publication?

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That is a tricky question because we only have published two issues. I don’t think of Sindroms as a fashion magazine, although it is hard to draw a line between fashion and non-fashion living in Scandinavia. We usually describe Sindroms as a journal that investigates colour across culture & design, but the truth is that each issue is very different and the content gets dictated by the colour we chose. We like keeping this freedom and allowing each colour to shape its issue – it can be that one issue contains a lot of fashion, and another one can have no fashion-related content at all.  

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But you came from the background of fashion, right?

Miruna and I were involved in the field of fashion but we have changed the profiles of our studies to communication design and media instead. I used to do some fashion projects, but these days I am deliberately trying to run away from fashion. I guess, sometimes you just end up having too much of it.

 

Oh, and I thought the completely opposite thing will happen once you moved to Denmark.

Fashion is an inherent part of the lifestyle in Denmark. It’s natural to follow the fashion news, you see stylish people on the streets every day, it’s everywhere. But I’m not sure if I see myself just in the fashion industry. This is exactly what we planned to do with Sindroms – to broaden the topics usually covered in fashion, lifestyle publications. But we do have fashion stories as well, for instance in the first issue we published an interview with Danish designer Henrik Vibskov. We don’t want our journal to be just a bunch of pretty pictures, and that is why we explore human psychology and emotions. 

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What has been the biggest challenge while working on this project so far? Don’t you feel trapped sometimes, especially when you have to wrap up all the ideas in one colour? 

Sindroms is not our full-time job, it is a side project, so managing our time to work on it is the biggest difficulty. Talking about colour, yes, there are always ups and downs while working on monochrome content. You have ideas, you analyse and develop them, and suddenly you see that something is missing – so that happens. We collaborate with artists and give them a lot of creative freedom; in return that pays off with a unique interpretation of colour. This is a great benefit of working with artists from different countries and cultures, as they all have an exceptional take on colour.

 

Were there a lot of people contacting you for the collective projects after publishing the first issue? 

Yes, it’s quite funny to remember how we were pitching our idea, trying to find artists to collaborate on the first issue. It wasn’t that easy without having something to show at first, so we did a lot of writing by ourselves, and we also had a photographer, Ausra Babiedaite, on the team back then, so a lot of visuals were done by us as well. After publishing, we got approached by a lot of people (artists, photographers, etc) realizing we are going the right way.  

I imagine Copenhagen is filled with a great variety of independent magazines. Did this competitive environment serve as motivation or the source of a doubt when deciding to start your own project?

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Actually, the problem in Denmark is big tax fees. There are a lot of publications, but not that much as in other countries, actually. For instance, England or Germany have much more to offer in this area. However, I think our concept and appearance stand out. 

Sindroms is not a typical magazine, it is a keeper, sort of like a book. This phenomenon of collecting particular magazines, is it alive nowadays? How much it is relevant to our generation? Are we able to appreciate a publication not only for it’s pretty cover? 

I think, it is the same discussion of whether the print is dead. It is a very personal matter but to this circle of people that we managed to engage with, it seems important and they are buying and collecting Sindroms and other magazines as well. The idea was to create a product that would not lose its relevance and one could open up and read it years after it was published. 

How important for you is the physical body of a magazine? 

One of our goals is to have a visually beautiful publication. Every detail matters – which article is printed on which paper, the texture, the visuals. It is important to have that thread, continuity of thought and image.

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Let’s talk a bit about the meaning of independence. Dazed and Confused are still manifesting their status as an independent magazine when obviously they have a lot of paid content. What is Sindroms position towards this matter? I imagine you hope that one day it will evolve into your main job, meaning the resource of finance. But it is quite inseparable from putting on advertisements. What are your thoughts on this? 

We already have ads in our magazine but we also have a very strict strategy concerning this. We are very careful in terms choosing our sponsors, we research what are the values of the brand and, if it correlates with ours. All advertisements have to fit in visually, meaning the same colour and aesthetics of our publication. We have a lot of ideas on how to expand our business. Recently, we organized a monochrome dinner where a few of complete strangers sat together for a dinner that we had designed and prepared in yellow, collaborating with Sweet Sneak Studio. It was not only about tasting, it was also a live experience of colour.

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Out of curiosity, where does Sindroms sell best?

We had a great success in China! Sindroms is doing very well in Asia, especially the Red issue, they have a strong relationship with that colour. We are doing really well in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and England. Cultural nuance plays a role, as well as the shops and spots we cooperate with. 

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