Sumzine‘s Jamie Ortega on Slow Fashion and Launching a Print Project in the Age of Tumblr

sumzine You don’t just need balls to launch a print mag in the digital age — you need a good head on your shoulders, and a healthy dose of insanity. Oh, and a few thousand dollars. Or if you’re Jamie Ortega, a willingness to max out your credit card.

The freelance stylist, assistant, and producer released the first issue of her slow fashion passion project Sumzine in February this year, funding it all on her own. With a tagline I wish I wrote myself, “You don’t have to be crunchy to be clever,” Sumzine aims to position itself as much more than just a riff off the current vogue for all things green. It’s about changing the way we consume, and sustainable fashion as a lifestyle choice rather than a fleeting trend.

Jamie has now launched a Kickstarter to get Sumzine‘s second issue to print. (AmEx will only take you so far.) This one centers around the theme of uniforms: the way we dress, the way we shop, and the way we identify ourselves. Featuring an all-star cast of contributors, collaborators, and other up-and-comers daring to disrupt fashion’s current prevailing ethos, it’s due out in September and almost making us wish summer was over already.

We talked to Jamie about what exactly goes into launching a magazine these days, the labels who make it cool to care, and what the mainstream media still gets wrong about slow fashion.

Has it been a headache getting the second issue ready for print?
For sure, especially since I’m a team of one. As soon as you sign up for [Kickstarter] you find out there are all these PR agencies that are just there for crowdfunding projects. The service is really just them writing a press release and then writing all your friends on Facebook. So I’m just doing it myself because I don’t think there’s a lot of value in that. At least today.

How did you fund the first issue?
Completely on my own credit card. Everyone else donated time, and I street-cast my friends. I did all the printing in Manhattan and just printed it myself.

What was the biggest cost involved?
Printing, for sure.

sumzine2

So you know all the contributors personally?
For the first issue. For the second I reached out to a lot of people that I was excited by on Instagram, or Tumblr, or they were friends of friends. Almost everyone I wrote an email to wrote me back, and we have a dream team in store for the second issue. I just got a couple more confirmations yesterday and I’m really excited.

It must be helpful to have something tangible to show potential contributors rather than being like “hey, so I have this dream…”
Yeah. The first issue was just so I could present the idea to people and show them, “yes, I want to talk about slow fashion, and I want to have a different voice in fashion media.” So the first one was just so I could show people the idea. The third one will be experimenting with advertorial and to see how much further we can go with [having no ads].

Why did you decide to go the print instead of the blog route?
Well we do have a website with some of the content that was in print repeated online, but just because it’s a new voice we thought it would be really special to have it printed, so people can see we’re going against the grain and can have it as a physical handbook.

Is the tangible aspect part of your passion for things that last?
It is and it isn’t. Printing is very destructive to the environment, so you’ve got to pick your battles!

What are some of your own sustainable fashion labels?
There’s Svilu, it’s two women out of New York City who used to work for Derek Lam and Ralph Lauren. They do amazing work, they had a very dreamy spring collection and now their fall one is very cool. There’s also Tara St James of Study NY. She doesn’t necessarily have a spring or a fall fashion line any more, she started out that way but now she’s become so comfortable with her partners that she can release in batches. That’s really cool to me – if she gets a bulk of knit fabric she can just play with that, cut it, and make whatever she can out of it. So it’s cool that she was able to start as a sustainable company and now she’s being a disruptor of the whole fashion market as well. [Svilu and Study] are my top two for sure. Then there’s also B GOODS LABEL, a very small label but very cool, out of Australia. They make a lot of linen unisex clothing, unstructured jackets, pants… I really wish they had a New York distributor because I want everything.

jackets

So tell me about the second issue’s “uniform” theme.
It’s mostly about the personal uniform and how that’s developed. We’re doing style profiles on people like Miyako Bellizzi (Vice) and Jeremy Lewis (Garmento) and Jayne Min (STOP IT RIGHT NOW) about how they get dressed in the morning and what their references are, and today I’m doing an interview with Brianna Lance from The Reformation. I love this label because it’s a sustainable label, one of my favorites, and also there’s a real DNA behind the brand. Yeah there’s a little bit of seasonality to their clothing, but you can tell where this girl is coming from. You can tell that she listens to cool music, she goes out, but she’s not trying to impress anyone. We also have artists interpreting people in their lives that they remember having a uniform, and in the photo editorials we’ll explore the theme – whether it’s your accessories, your hairstyle, or the jacket that you put on.

Do you have your own uniform?
For sure. I always tell people that I look to refine my wardrobe to Acne, Nike, and vintage. Then vintage turns into flash sample sales. I’m pretty utilitarian with how I dress. Basically black jeans and white t-shirts, every day.

Do you think older print media sometimes underestimates the younger market’s interest in sustainability and slow fashion? I’m thinking of Vogue’s attempt to tap into the youth market via Kimye…
I think these publications are realizing a bit later in the game that they need to speak to sustainable garments and try to change their market, but they usually do it in a kitschy, token way – not in a “we need to change how we consume” kind of way. Because that’s the only way that the industry will change – if people change their patterns of consumption. And that’s what we’re trying to say with the magazine. It’s not just about finding that green garment, that “Made in the USA” garment. It’s about changing the way you shop. I think that post-recession everyone got looped into fast fashion simply because clothing was cheap, we could actually go shopping, and now it’s just what we do on Friday nights. We get our paycheck, we go buy our outfit, we go out, and then we do it all again next week. That’s not a sustainable practice.

Related links:
Do You Work Out? Then Check Out This New Fashion Kickstarter
Wait, Who’s Launching a Fashion Magazine?
Fresh Off the Press: The Best New Indie Magazines Around Right Now

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