The Hustlers: Serena Guen of SUITCASE Mag

November 11, 2013 BY OBI ANYANWU

Serena-Guen-for-The-Hustlers-Series-by-Obi-Anyanwu-on-We-Are-The-Market-1 (1)French dramatist and writer, Charles-Guillaume Étienne is said to be the first to pen the phrase, "On n'est jamais servi si bien que par soi-même", which literally translates to, "One is never served so well as by oneself" but is often said in English as, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." No phrase is more fitting for SUITCASE Magazine's Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Serena Guen. The NYU grad spent her life traveling, which has become the focal point of her digital magazine, and has helped her garner an international readership and growing fan base. Although SUITCASE is very young, its fast growth and notoriety is a credit to the young jet setter's eye for talent and foresight.

We caught up with our latest Hustler to talk about how the magazine got started and what's to come for the magazine and herself in the future.

So how was life growing up? I was very lucky to have grown up with an amazing family. The only catch was that they were spread out all over the world. Most holidays would be spent abroad going to visit them or meeting at some mid-way point. I was very lucky to experience so many places on such a local level and have always tried to share my experiences when I can.

Wow, where did you have to travel to visit them all? Predominantly the States, Italy and Germany – although mid-way points could also include Switzerland or France. I’d always spend half of my summer with one set of grandparents in Delaware in a very low-key town surfing and teaching surfing and the other half in Forte dei Marmi with my other grandparents at one of the bagni eating lots of focaccia and reading.

When did you discover that this will be your career path? I guess while I was doing it… I’d always wanted to start a travel magazine that was younger, more engaging but I didn’t know what angle I wanted to go for and I thought that I needed a lot more experience. I don’t want to say it took me by surprise because that would make it sound like I didn’t work inordinately hard, but well it kind of grew very quickly, very organically because it was something that a lot of people wanted.

Serena-Guen-for-The-Hustlers-Series-by-Obi-Anyanwu-on-We-Are-The-Market-3Was there another career path that you've considered following? Many! For many years I was torn between becoming a doctor, psychologist or go into publishing- my A-levels semi-decided that fate for me. After school I toyed with the idea of going into film for a while (script writing/editing etc.) but owning a travel magazine was something that I’ve also always wanted to do. I don’t believe this will be the only career path that I will have for the rest of my life either- why should it be?

This should only lead to another path. How did you decide on fashion? If I think about it the reasoning is quite complicated but naturally it seems like a good fit. I often say that traveling means not only going to a place but accessing its culture. For me fashion is not only the easiest access point of most cultures, it can be an art form, and can be appreciated across borders. Thus, including fashion with travel makes the magazine more ‘artistic’ in some ways, more beautiful, and a way that people can travel without actually getting on a plane.

How did you work your way into the fashion industry? I’ve always been exposed to fashion to a certain degree by my grandmother who has an amazing shop in Washington called Inga’s Once Is Not Enough. I did an LVMH training program at Donna Karan while I was at NYU and even dabbled in a tiny bit of pattern cutting at Bruce Oldfield (that was an accident though- I can’t even draw a straight line!) I’ve always been aware of the differing style, taste and traditions in different countries and thought that it is an essential part of any place’s culture. I guess it followed naturally that it would go hand-in-hand with the travel aspect of the magazine.

Why start your own magazine instead of opting to write for an established magazine? Because what I wanted to do didn’t exist- it still doesn’t- so I guess it wasn’t really an option. I’ve only interned at one magazine before in my life- that was Tatler, and have done very brief stints at Reuters and the Philadelphia Weekly. I suppose the lack of experience at other magazines has meant that I have less [mental] restrictions in what I can and can’t do with a magazine.

Serena-Guen-for-The-Hustlers-Series-by-Obi-Anyanwu-on-We-Are-The-Market-2 copyWhen did you realize that you would be successful? Oh, I’m nowhere near ‘successful’ yet, well by my definition of it. It’s far too early to rest on my laurels. It’s hard to measure success- some people do it by numbers, others by brand awareness and so on. For me, success is something that is continually redefined, and the day that I feel that I have achieved it, will be the day that I retire. Given the fact that no one in my family has ever retired, I still have a fair way to go…

Do you think you’ll be with SUITCASE Magazine well into retirement age? I think that SUITCASE Magazine will certainly still exist, but it will be a part of something a lot bigger and even more exciting.

What are some of your accomplishments in the industry? The journey so far has all been a bit surreal; within 6 months of launching I was named one of London’s 25 most influential under 25s by the Evening Standard. I was also chosen as one of 8 Young Britons to feature in the Jack Wills autumn/winter campaign. These things are amazing but I don’t consider them as successes in themselves- just recognition that what I’m doing is working- i.e. sitting in an office for 10+ hours a day is worth it!

What else do you hope to accomplish in the industry? Eventually, I want SUITCASE to become the number one ‘destination’ for travel for young men and women anywhere in the world.

Maybe find SUITCASE on flights? Oh that’s definitely been talked about!

What's the next step in your career? We have several exciting long-term plans on the cards but in the next year- strengthening our digital and experiential platforms and probably opening up the magazine to male readers. I’d say that’s quite a lot for now…