FANTASTIC MAN and The Gentlewoman’s Art Director Jop van Bennekom
When people ask me, “Which international magazines are you following right now?When people ask me, “Which international magazines are you following right now?”, I often have trouble giving an answer to that question these days. Although I flatter myself in thinking that I really do love magazines, I’ve found myself buying fewer than before – probably because I can now get a vast amount of information on the Internet instead. My suitcase would once have returned to Tokyo heaving with magazines and image-based publications every time I came back from abroad. I had to throw away stationary, clothes, even souvenirs, in order to make room for all these magazines I’d picked up on the way. However, things have now changed. Everywhere I go, I realize that most foreign bookstores carry the same types of magazines and books, unless they are a specialist bookshop geared towards fanbases. These magazines even contain similar content. It is only their titles which differentiate one from the other. This state of affairs reminds me of a high street filled with branches of Starbucks, McDonalds and other standard chain stores.
Naturally, things change as times alter. Indeed, much has changed in the world of fashion magazines. The 1980s saw the birth of i-D and The Face in London; the 1990s witnessed Purple and selfservice in Paris. These influential publications are a perfect culmination of the various types of fashion magazines around in the twentieth century. They have affected many people, either in a good or in a bad way. No magazines which came after these prominent publications managed to meet their original standards or create a new style themselves. However, having said all this, I was shocked when I first discovered FANTASTIC MAN, a menswear magazine that first appeared in 2005. I believe that it is this magazine which genuinely embodies the modern style of the 2000s. It’s been about seven years since its launch, but it still remains popular and unrivaled. I’m always extremely interested in discovering who the next issue will feature, what the content will be like, and how it will be designed.
I can think of several reasons as to why FANTASTIC MAN is popular. Firstly, as the subtitle ‘THE GENTLEMAN’S STYLE JOURNAL’ suggests, it’s a fashion magazine which contains a satisfactory amount of articles as well as photography. Secondly, each issue features appropriate and influential figures in a timely manner, and these individuals always appear on the front cover. The 14th issue placed the fashion designer Raf Simons in the spotlight; the 15th issue gave us Matthew Slotover from freize / freize art fair. Thirdly, the magazine uses well-considered print and quality paper which compliments their content, composition and monochromatic / two or four toned colour scheme. Finally, FANTASTIC MAN consistently adopts a simple yet readable and beautiful layout. I could think of many other reasons for FANTASTIC MAN’s appeal, but there is one overarching figure who I believe has been crucial to their success: Jop Van Bennekom, the magazine’s co-founder, editor, art director and designer.
Born in 1970, Jop van Bennekom launched the independent magazine RE in 1997 when he was studying at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. In 2001, he founded BUTT, a stylish gay magazine with Gert Jonkers, FANTASTIC MAN’s other co-founder and editor. Incidentally, although BUTT folded at its 29th 2011 A/W issue, it now exists as an online platform. In 2010, Jop set up The Gentlewoman, sister magazine of FANTASTIC MAN, and invited Penny Martin to be the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Jop is in charge of creative direction, art direction and design.
Jop’s independent and experimental magazines – Re and BUTT – are highly regarded among those working in the art and design industries. Today, they look as fresh as ever. I see his magazines, including FANTASTIC MAN and The Gentlewoman, as design products which are well-considered and skillfully devised in every respect, from content to layout. If you pick up one of Jop’s magazines and have a look yourself, you’ll probably recognize this too. They are pleasant, beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable. Through them, you should be able to appreciate every aspect of the overall intrinsic fascination of a magazine. The fact that Jop is an art director and designer seems largely responsible for the high quality of his magazines. He edits, designs and publishes fashion magazines through the eyes of an art director, not through those of a fashion journalist or a fashion editor. This ensures that his magazines are a medium for communication – and it is this ability to communicate effectively which makes his publications stand out from others in the fashion industry.
The 21st century is an era in which it’s no longer possible to lure magazine readers in solely with cool images and brands anymore. Genuine communication with readers is impossible if your magazine resembles a catalogue, is full of tie-ups or is one which simply imitates others. It is well-considered and carefully designed magazines like FANTASTIC MAN and The Gentlewoman which are able to garner more adverts, increase circulation and become truly appreciated by their audiences. This reality is a desirable outcome for the magazine industry which, unfortunately, is currently in decline.
– Toru Hachiga
Fantastic Man Magazine is available at Actually, Seah Street.
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