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In an age where the print media business seems less and less stable, Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu are willing to take a chance. The two New Yorkers are the masterminds behind Cherry Bombe, a biannual woman-focused food magazine that launched last year.
The two met years ago while working at Harper's Bazaar, and after going their separate ways—Diamond landed at Coach before meeting a chef and opening a few restaurants with him; Wu started a graphic design firm—decided to start a magazine of their own on the side. Why? Because they didn't think there was enough content showcasing women in the food industry. They raised $42,000 through Kickstarter to fund the publication, which is already on its third issue, a 200-page masterpiece printed in color on heavy paper with beautiful original photography and minimal ads. Cherry Bombe has landed some impressive interviews with the likes of Julia Roberts, Karlie Kloss, Chloe Sevigny and Sofia Coppola, and Diamond and Wu also created an all-woman food conference, Jubilee, which enjoyed a sold-out audience in March.
The Cherry Bombe girls spoke with Racked about their decision to launch a print publication without a website, why the fashion and food industries are so connected, and the things they wish they had known before creating a magazine from scratch.
What were you guys doing when you decided to start Cherry Bombe?
Claudia: "I've had a creative agency with a friend of mine, working in fashion advertising and branding, for about five years."
Kerry: "I was working at Coach and had just opened a restaurant, Seersucker, with my boyfriend in Carroll Gardens."
Why did you start the magazine?
Claudia: "Kerry actually approached me about doing a magazine. I had mentioned a cookbook, but she thought there were too many cookbooks out there. I had done my own little independent magazine called Me Magazine in 2004."
Kerry: "Claudia and I are both magazine junkies, so the first goal was to create a beautiful one. Second was feeling that there were so many interesting women out there in and around the food space that just weren't getting their due.
So many stories came out last year that were just like, 'Where are all the female chefs, where are all the women in food?' and we were like, 'Are you kidding? Just open your eyes—they're all around you.' We wanted to spotlight those women."
Kerry Diamond and Claudia Wu, the women behind the biannual magazine.
Were you always interested in the food landscape?
Kerry: "I had a lot of friends who worked in the food world, either as chefs or PR people or restaurant owners, but it really wasn't until I started dating a chef and he asked me to open a restaurant that I got dragged into the world."
Claudia: "I've always had this weird obsession with food. I loved watching Top Chef, and I did kind of follow chefs in New York."
Do you think that the food world is male-dominated?
Kerry: "It's not, but the perception is that it is. I think when you look at a city like San Francisco or Los Angeles, it's not even an issue because there are so many women doing things. It's just because the magazine world is centered in New York and the spotlight is focused on something else, it gives the impression that there weren't women in the industry and that's something we're trying to fix."
Your magazine showcases a lot of fashion personalities. Why do you think fashion and food have become so intertwined?
Claudia: "Fashion brands at some point want to be lifestyle brands, so food is an extension of that. People have these amazing, picturesque, inspirational lives, and it's surprising how many fashion people have interest in food too."
Kerry: "I think for the longest time there was this perception that fashion people didn't eat. I think you had a few skinny individuals and everyone just assumed the fashion world was food-phobic! It's not true today, as the food world has exploded, fashion people have been able to come out of the closet a little bit and say, 'Hey, we do love food, we eat, we cook, we bake.'"
How do you fund the magazine?
Claudia: "We started with a Kickstarter, which raised enough money to print the first issue and pay for our costs. Now we kind of survive—we definitely are trying to increase the advertising in the magazine, and we do get a lot of support from subscribers and people who order from the website and the independent stores we work with directly."
Kerry: "The magazine is too young to be profitable yet. We've only come out with three issues so far."
Cherry Bombe showcases women in the food industry.
Why did you decide on a magazine in what seems like a perilous time for print publications?
Kerry: "We love reading print. It makes me sad when I'm on the subway and I see people either not reading anything or reading a Kindle. I miss those days when you could sit across from someone who was reading a magazine or a book and it revealed so much about that individual. If you want to get into the media business to make money, don't launch a magazine! It's not the most profitable way to go these days. Claudia and I do believe that we can turn this into a business for the long run, and we're in the process of figuring out how to turn this into a real business. But we didn't get into this to make a quick buck; we got into this because it was meaningful to us."
You don't have a website. What's the reasoning behind that choice?
Claudia: "We're only two people, so we wanted to do a print magazine. I think it's just so much work to have a digital presence, so much planning on the backend, and we just didn't have the brainpower or enough bodies to focus on that."
Kerry: "I also think it's more compelling. I think if you're a photographer these days, there's something really meaningful about seeing your work in this beautiful print magazine with this incredible matte paper and beautiful ink. It's very different from seeing it online. And at the same time, everyone thinks they need a website, and I don't think every website is super compelling! So Claudia and I are also waiting until we have something really compelling that we can contribute to the digital world. Until then we're just happy to focus on the things we do find compelling, and that's just the offline things right now."
Tell us about the Jubilee conference.
Kerry: "Last year it sort of came to light that there were all these interesting happenings in the food world and a lot of them were excluding female chefs and food world participants. We just decided, 'Hey, if we don't like it, let's change things and throw our own conference.' We had no experience doing it and were so in over our heads, you have no idea. We put together a one-day conference with all these great speakers and really meaningful content. It talked about everything from being a mom to the challenges of having your own business."
The magazines ready to go out for shipment. Image via Facebook.
Was it scary to start in fashion and then make so many career jumps?
Kerry: "Yes, my life is very different today. But I can definitely say I'm the happiest I've ever been today because I have so much creative freedom and I'm in charge of my own schedule. At the same time, it's terrifying. You say goodbye to that paycheck, you say goodbye to having an assistant and a million interns. I feel like I'm part CEO, part intern because Claudia and I are working on these high-level things and trying to figure out how to make this a business and that's super exciting, but at the same time we are so hands-on that it's exhausting."
Claudia: "I worked at many, many offices and you just start to realize that no one you meet is very happy, so I think that reinforced my lifestyle where I was never in one space for very long. It's not for everyone. I know people who can't give up that paycheck, so it just takes a certain personality."
Kerry: "I would say, if you do have a corporate job and you're reading this, don't quit. Because you definitely can do your creative pursuits on your own time. But also, save as much money as you can. If you have a job and a paycheck just sock away money, even if you don't think you want to launch a magazine some day. It's a lesson I learned later in life, and I wish someone had sat me down and physically took money away from me and put it in the bank. I was a big shopper, traveler and person who would eat out all the time, and I wish I was a bit more of a saver. It would have made life easier today."
What's the hardest part about running the magazine?
Claudia: "I think since we're a print magazine, putting it together was fairly easy but actually getting it out—distributing, all that stuff—was a bit of a challenge."
Kerry: "Carrying boxes to the post office! It seems like that's been our full-time job. The distribution and shipping is the hardest part. The post office isn't really set up to help indie magazines, so it's been a challenge navigating that."
Did your experience and interest in fashion affect the end result at all?
Kerry: "I think our personal style is reflected in the magazine. When I think of the things that inspire me and that inspire what I bring to the magazine, I think about people like Dries Van Noten, Maria Cornejo, Stella McCartney. I wear their clothes, and at the same time I think they definitely inspire me by their approach to business, their aesthetic, just how they seem to care about art and bigger picture things than just making a dollar."
Claudia: "I think your style has to do a lot with your taste level, and I feel like it does show in our work and the choices we make. I tend to wear designers that have kind of done it themselves, like Thakoon, Phillip Lim and Rachel Comey. People who are more independent and show their work ethic. It's very inspirational."
Inside the mag.
Were there any lessons you had to learn the hard way?
Kerry: "I think maybe we should have done things in reverse. Maybe started with a business plan and figured out our digital play. At the same time, I think we have a beautiful product that people really love and that does a great job of shining the spotlight on these interesting, important women. To have this quality product is so meaningful."
What's next for Cherry Bombe?
Kerry: "We do need to start to selling more advertising. That's just a reality. I don't think a magazine can exist without advertising today. We'd like to do it our own way and have a combination of actual advertising, native advertising and sponsored content. I think that's something our reader would really respond to. We're already planning the conference for 2015, and that's an area we would love to expand, maybe do it in other cities or hold different types of conferences. We also just started a radio show earlier this spring called Radio Cherry Bombe that we're doing through the Heritage Radio Network. Again, not an industry you should go into if you want to make a lot of money, but at the same time, it's a great brand extension for us and something we really believe in."
Claudia: "We've also had a lot of interest in people pitching us to do books. I think it's something that we have to figure out because there are a lot of food books out there and what do we do that won't seem like everything else? How do we create something that you are going to love for the long haul and that you're going to take it with you when you move from place to place to place? That's the kind of stuff that we want to do."
· Cherry Bombe [Official site]
· The Law Student Putting Fashion Brands in Their Place [Racked]
· From Closet Porn to Big-Time Success: The Tale of The Coveteur [Racked]