Style Start Ups: SHK Magazine

May 14, 2013 BY WATM

Interview by Megan Baldwin

The editorial arm of the fashion industry can be a tough nut to crack if you don’t have a high-school diploma from Choate Rosemary Hall, a casual (but that was ages ago) modeling career, and a shoe closet that would cause Imelda Marcos to vomit from excitement. But Rachel Eleanor Sutton, Editor in Chief of SHK Magazine doesn't really give a damn, not only managing to launch her publication but also inserting her unique perspective into the mix and challenging the editorial status-quo. Her magazine, Seen Heard Known, is quickly redefining what online content can look like, what it can say, and who it can speak to; forgoing expired top ten lists in favor of self-generated features which push forward the dialogue around cool kids and cultural creativity. Here she shares her photo-phobia, G-train struggles, and how one solid vision can not just crack an industry, but change it.

Megan Baldwin: What is the toughest thing you did today

Rachel Eleanor Sutton: I had to pose for pictures. I hate it. My face just automatically freezes somewhere between a Myspace-emo-looking expression and an obnoxious sorority girl smile. I feel bad for the photographers because I prefer to just close my eyes and stick my tongue out…but they don’t always let me do that.

How did you get to do what it is you do now?

I wanted to be a writer, so I moved to New York City about four years ago to get my foot in the door. My ultimate plan was to become a novelist, then move out to a remote beach somewhere and create awesome stories for the rest of my life. However, I ended up interning at a magazine and fell in love with the idea of editorial — as in, being able to hone my craft around personal interests from fashion to music to art to photography and everything in between. After working my ass off for a few years, I joined forces with the amazing people at B Culture Media (soon to be Nerve Wire,) and with a solid vision and a twinkle in my eye, SHK was created under the company’s umbrella.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced to get here?

For me, being a creative person and also having to run a business has been an interesting back and forth. Luckily I have great advisors. Still, at the end of the day, those decisions are my responsibility, and it’s of utmost importance that everything we do — no matter how “fun” or “creative” it might be — circles back to the business. Also, I’m young to be running a publication (and it doesn’t help that I look like I’m 12), but I’ve gotten over it and find that when you’re passionate about your project, people will listen.

How has your business grown/evolved/changed since launch?

The past six months have been a whirlwind! We are growing very quickly as a brand in terms of readership and followers. Just this past month, April, we’ve grown above 500% overall since March. We’ve worked really hard to define our tone, vibe and overall appeal, and I think we’re now at a place where we know what we want to say, and we have a better idea of who our readers are. In the past month, we’ve released the SHK Magazine interactive digital edition (available on iTunes) and did a major website redesign, plus we launched a shopping section as well as SHK TV.

What conversation do you aim to disrupt — what are you doing that is different, unique?

I find the fashion world be to quite boring, so my main purpose with this entire thing is to bring a little personality to the way we experience the creative industry.

What's the bravest thing you've done with your business?

Starting it.

If you didn't do this, what would you do?

I would be a detective in the FBI investigating serial killers.

What are your short term—long term goals?

Short term is all about momentum. After this year is over, it will be time to expand. First and foremost, I want to put a store on the website with all American-made and/or vintage pieces. I’m really fascinated with fashion production that takes place in NYC, so I think that will become the main purpose driving the online store. Everything has to have a story!

What does your Monday to do list have on it — what is a typical day like?

My days change all the time. They usually begin with a giant cup of coffee, an annoying ride on the G train and then emails, emails, emails… Typically I go over content on the weekend, and then our managing editor (Emily Marucci) handles all the jazz of posting and sorting throughout the week. We’re always off visiting showrooms, going on photo shoots, interviewing awesome people… It’s never the same. The SHK team writes most of the content, so we spend a lot of time doing research and writing as well. It’s totally not a nine-to-five gig, but we’re all super excited about what we’re doing so working like crazy people doesn’t bother us. Although… It does totally annoy our friends, oh and let’s not even get started on dating life!

What is the most exciting thing about being a part of the fashion space today?

I feel like people in the fashion industry, especially these days, are constantly bitching about the rise of new media and the fall of print. I have a very strong opinion about this, meaning, I believe that it’s like this… Print will be the records and digital magazines will be the MP3s. People will always buy records when they totally dig the music, and then get the rest of their desired music on the go. I think it’s the same with editorial. I’m really excited about this. Creating our digital app was the most satisfying creative thing I’ve ever done. It just brings production to whole new levels. It opens dimensions to styling that you just can’t do with the flat page. Even though I’ll always love print, I’m having such a great experience exploring the possibilities of interactive.

What does success look like to you?

Diamonds on my necklace.

Who inspires you to do what you do?

The rad people I work with everyday. The SHK/B Culture Media family is a tight knit group and we’re all very supportive and easy going, but even so, everyone works their ass off on a constant basis. It’s the best atmosphere I could ever wish for. My team is always inspiring me to take things to the next level and I think the diversity between our backgrounds — from digital branding, to marketing, to writing, to fashion to even pharmaceuticals — gives us an advantage of drawing inspiration from unusual places. I think that’s what the future of media is all about anyway, every industry can relate in digital trends. I’m very lucky, I know.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you started?

I wish someone would have sat me down and been like… “Listen. This job is great. But be prepared to be surround by freakishly good-looking models, hot photographers and clothes you can’t afford. On a daily basis.”

The one thing that you'd never share with anyone:

It’s really embarrassing… I’ve always wanted to be in a cool indie band where I was the lead singer and wore long, flowy skirts, and put braids and flowers in my hair. I don’t think anyone should admit that, but there you go.

Your dream collaboration:

James Franco writing a column for SHK, which turns into us falling in love, which eventually ends up with us creating a limited edition T-shirt.

Who would you most like to be pen-pals with:

Michael Alig. I’ve actually tracked down his prison address, so this might actually happen.

Your go-to karaoke song:

Jay-Z “Big Pimpin.”

The best advice your mom ever gave you:

My mom isn’t one for key advice phrases. However, she had the lovely opportunity to be with me while I was growing up, which I’m sure was a blast. I guess the best advice would be, if I had to phrase it, “do it yourself.” I was competitive figure skater throughout my childhood and I started when I was eight years old. All the other moms would wake up their kids every morning and lay out their skating attire, etc. My mom was more along the lines of, “If you want to skate, that’s fine. I’m all for it. But you can wake me up when you’re ready to go and I’ll drive you.” So, there I was, from eight until my late teens, waking myself up every morning, putting on those damn tights and getting on the ice by 6 a.m. It definitely taught me that if I want to do something, then I just need to do it and I shouldn’t wait on anyone to help me in the process. Don’t confuse support and encouragement with dependence!

Fictional closet you'd most like to raid:

Anita Pallenberg circa 1968.

Who is the coolest lady you know a.k.a whom should we ask these questions to next?

The media-marketing guru of our business: Brittany Mills. She’s a mastermind with digital branding, and was just named the #1 Woman to Watch by Luxury Daily. Her work with Tourneau is outstanding, and I’m super lucky to be working with her because she let’s me constantly pick her brain for new ideas.