This week's Hustler is Sarah Kim of By Way of Brooklyn. After a brief stint with Carlos Campos and a steady climb up the ladder at ANTENNA Magazine, Sarah Kim has met and worked influencers and industry leading publications while producing interviews and stories that are talked about daily. Her main project, By Way of Brooklyn, gives a voice to and highlights the hardworking women of Brooklyn. Every interview is personal and highly informative, and has inspired many young post-grads and high schoolers alike to pursue their dreams and stay inspired. What we realized is that Sarah is very much like the women she interviews, opting to work behind the scenes to make a project come alive, like in her interviews for ESPN and Complex and her editorials for Staple Design. It's impossible to play a game of six degrees of separation with Sarah, she's well connected and is often praised for h er infectious upbeat attitude, optimism and amazing storytelling.
We met with Sarah on her turf in Brooklyn to chat about her career thus far and her plans for the future.
This interview was recorded on October 8th, 2013.
How was life growing up?
Awesome. I grew up thirty minutes south of Seattle with my parents and my younger sister. My parents have always been our biggest fans, prayed a lot for us and have always been supportive in whatever we wanted to go for and that really made all the difference.
When did you discover that journalism would be your career path?
Sometimes you're encouraged, (aka forced) in directions because doors close or circumstances don't necessarily work out the way you planned. With every interview I write, with every woman I meet, every incredible crazy come up story I hear, I grow to love By Way of Brooklyn more. Not that there aren't those what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moments, because trust me there are, but I think waking up and being excited about work, work that's mine, is a pretty good sign that this is what I want, and should be doing. When you're an optimist, you just make the best of it, you have to think of it as a win win.
When I initially pitched the idea of what is now By Way of Brooklyn, I pitched it to a few sites I love and read, where I hoped to contribute. After editors said they loved it but didn't' have the money to pay for content, I mulled over what to do. My Creative Director, Evan Gubernick, who is an OG in the game, (he's started more titles than you know, has worked with photographers, art directors, editors at your favorite publications), emailed me telling me that if no one was going to pay me, I should do it myself. So we did. We shot, interviewed, and made the site.
Was there another career path that you considered following?
I thought I wanted to be a stylist. And while there are some phenomenal ones, when I was working with Carlos Campos, I was meeting so many wonderful stylists who were well into their later years, who couldn't pay rent. Some couldn't pull a certain brand and because of that, were never hired to bigger places. It seemed like it was about relationships first, then talent second. Also, being a stylist is super physical, And don't get me wrong, I'm good with that, but it felt like passion and talent came second to who you know. I understand it a bit more now but it was off-putting at the beginning.
How did you work your way into the fashion industry and then into journalism?
I moved to New York a week after I finished undergrad at UC Davis in the textiles and clothing program. I came kicking and screaming the whole way. I had to come here because this is where the major jobs in fashion were. I interned for a day at a PR company that was saving up interns for Fashion Week. I didn't go back because I didn't really feel like wasting my time or money doing nothing and found an internship with a stylist the next day. He left me for the West Coast a month later, but we were meeting in Carlos Campos's showroom and when he did leave, Carlos asked me if I'd work as his showroom manager.
After doing the whole fashion week thing and seeing a collection through, I asked Carlos if I could reach out to our magazine contacts to see what that environment was like. Carlos said he'd only let me go to two magazines, one was ANTENNA Magazine, which was where I went. I started out as a freelancer in our fashion department, then when our editorial assistant got fired, my editor in chief, Kaity asked if I wanted to work both in edit and fashion. I fell in love with edit and she was the first person to publish me as a writer. From there I climbed up the ranks from editorial assistant to assistant editor to associate editor to acting EIC when Kaity went on maternity leave.
Then after five years, three of which I was a part of, ANTENNA folded and I started By Way of Brooklyn.
When did you realize that By Way of Brooklyn would be successful?
Success is a funny thing. If I didn't think By Way of Brooklyn could be successful, I wouldn't have worked so many random odd jobs like babysitting, photo assisting or selling clothes to Beacon's Closet this past year to make rent, to make it work. If I didn't think it would be successful, I wouldn't be working this hard.
I knew I was onto something when people who I respect responded to it. You will always find people who will like your Facebook page, will give you a pat on the back, who will enable and encourage you. Those are your friends, and that is their job. But to find people you may not know, people who tell you what they like, but also what they don't like, who want you to be better, who actually go to your site and actually read your interviews, is very different. When my mentors gave me reasons as to why they liked it and critique because they want me to be better and also when younger people were inspired and encouraged [by BWOB], that's when I knew I wanted to make it something.
But do I consider that success? Not necessarily, success is a huge, overarching thing. And to say I know I'll be successful is a funny statement. There are accomplishments, bench markers, there is growth, but the thing about New York and ambition is that, in order to be successful you can't dwell on those moments for too long. Someone else is working harder than you while you're busy reveling in your accomplishment. Not to minimize important moments, but you have to keep working, keep going.
And real talk, when you live in New York, there sort of isn't any other option but to succeed.
What are some of your accomplishments in the industry?
I don't think I've accomplished that much. That's not a fake humble thing, that's honest.
Some things I've enjoyed and really like talking about, things that still blow my mind are the times I've been flown around the world and paid to write. It's still crazy to me. ANTENNA was sick because I got to go to Tokyo to write about Nigel Sylvester, got to interview 13th Witness about growing up playing hockey, got to surf in the warmest Costa Rican waters with hot Etnies surfers. I got to write for ESPN and attend the infamous Pirelli Calendar launch in Rio last year.
By Way of Brooklyn was named one of Tumblr's top 100 fav themes in this pretty print book they have. I've gotten to interview some very cool women who have repeatedly said no to press and said yes to By Way of Brooklyn and that has meant a lot to me.
What else do you hope to accomplish in the industry?
There's so much I want to do. I'd love to contribute as By Way of Brooklyn to different cool publications like Brooklyn Mag or T or be a Brooklyn voice or representative.
I want to work with small Brooklyn businesses, designers, coffee shops and stores and tell their story but also make something cool with them and set up a pop up shop with all of the wonderful collaborations we could come up with.
I want to start By Way of Portland, By Way of Berlin, By Way of Paris, By Way of Busan. There are so many wonderful, inspiring places with inspiring people, Brooklyn just happens to be the coolest right now. Ultimately, I want to make things, I want to tell really good stories and I want to inspire people.
What's the next step in your career?
PRINT. By Way of Brooklyn print edition, journal, periodical. We're not sure what we're calling it yet but it's in the works. Evan and I come from a print background, so it's really what we know best. It's going to look really good on a coffee table, at the entrance of a showroom, in your favorite coffee shop. We're looking for brands to work with, who want a hand in it and want to be a part of what we feel like is this very unique, cool vibe that's taking place in Brooklyn now.