IN THE ‘OFFICE’ WITH JESPER LUND & SIMON RASMUSSEN
Despite the nod to uniformity, New York-based publication Office magazine fits no mold—and especially not a monotonous one. The office they have built is one that transcends physical space, even venturing beyond the typical creative confines of a fashion publication. Office is gritty but high-end, raw but seasoned, New York but global—and according to editors Simon Rasmussen and Jesper Lund, here to be the new face of the downtown culture that drew them to the city.
The Office M.O.? If it doesn’t have a point of view, it doesn’t matter. And having just released their ninth iteration, Rasmussen and Lund have turned Office into not only fashion editorials and interviews but a far-reaching brand by delving into events (some of the most fun in the city, mind you), a quaint newsstand/coffee shop combo right in the heart of Canal Street Market, merchandise, a beauty line, and even their very own creative agency. Their print editorials will always take you aback, whether it’s with Atlanta’s Magic City strippers in issue 5, Danny Trejo playing a game of mini golf in issue 2, or in-depth cultural commentary with Spike Lee, shot by accomplished Vogue photographer Tyler Mitchell, in issue 7.
We met Simon and Jesper for some water cooler chat to discuss how far Office has come, meeting Bono in line for the bathroom, and their big plans for issue 10.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is the Office brand message? How does Office excel where other magazines don’t?
Jesper Lund: I think when we started Office, we felt that in New York, especially in the fashion realm, there wasn’t a place that was really raw.
Simon Rasmussen: Raw and real.
JL: And more down to earth. More real in the sense that it’s more in touch with what’s actually going on. We wanted to be inclusive whereas a lot of fashion magazines are exclusive.
SR: I think there was also a shift in fashion at that time where being exclusive and being very glamorous wasn’t cool anymore. Let’s just say V magazine, for example, became irrelevant, became out of touch with reality. That’s at least how we felt—that we had to keep things real and down to earth and keep it relevant to a young audience.
What are some publications—either current or past—that you admire? Did any publications inspire Office?
SR: For sure. I think Dazed, Purple, The Face.
JL: 032C. A lot of the magazines that really define cities—that’s been an ambition for us. We wanted to define a certain part of New York, a certain culture in New York, like, how you have Purple defining Paris, Dazed defining London, and 032C for Berlin. Yes, there are certain magazines that are very associated with New York, but they’re all, as Simon said before, very glam and didn’t feel that current anymore.
SR: New York is a very gritty city, and not many fashion magazines were portraying that or showing that. They were showing something glamorous, which I think is also a part of New York. But that’s forgetting a whole subculture.
JL: That’s the side we were attracted to. I think some people come to New York and they’re attracted to the Sex and the City side, right? I mean, Upper East Side and Vogue. Whereas Berlin probably has less diversity, New York has so much. But what I’ve always loved about New York was this gritty subculture.
You just dropped the ninth issue. Tell me about this iteration of Office.
JL: I think it’s important to say that we never do themes. It’s not thematic, it’s just what we’re inspired by.
SR: It’s of the moment.
JL: And also the people we feature….Of course, you have to have people who are current and a little bit mainstream in popular culture, but we also love to feature older icons and also random people who are not necessarily ever going to be anything “big” but who inspire us.
SR: For instance, @enormousface. That’s his Instagram name. [Our Beauty Editor] Zenia met him on the subway doing puppet art. He’s a subway artist. He’s a little bigger than that, but not that much bigger. And we gave him, like, 12 pages. But then we also have Dev Hynes on the cover.
You also run a creative agency called Office Solutions. What is it exactly that Solutions does?
SR: We work as a creative agency.
JL: Creative powerhouse.
Is it just you two?
SR: Yeah, but then we pull in external photographers, models, hair and makeup, DPs if we do video.
JL: It’s really an extension of the Office aesthetic—so working with brands who are obviously interested in our point of view and helping them create content for online use. Doing events also. Over the summer at Century 21, we helped the company CALA throw a party every Thursday to promote their new boutique store called Next Century. So we’re creating this brand that’s Office, and then under that, we have all these arms: online, print, events, content creation, coffee shop, etc.
What has been the highlight of making an issue of Office so far?
SR: Last year, we broke even, business-wise, but this year we actually started making money. Turning it around and making it into a business—that was a big moment for us. Had it not turned around, I think we would’ve been like, let’s cut it. But luckily it did.
What was the biggest challenge in getting Office up and running?
SR: I don’t know. The first issue was pretty easy, it happened really quick. I did this other magazine before Office and then we just continued the same thing and merged into Office. Then for issue 2, we changed things a little bit, and with issue 3, we found ourselves even more.
JL: It started out as almost a little side project. We were like, let’s do a magazine, it’s fun. And, of course, in the beginning, everything is exciting. We were throwing big parties and stuff. Everything is new. And also, people in New York like new things. So, of course, our first party was a huge success, the first issue was a success. The first year was fairly easy. I think it was getting to the point where we were like, okay, this has to become a business. We have to go all in.
SR: It was around issue 3, 4, 5.
JL: We invested a lot of our own money in the first few issues. And I mean, we’re still in debt. We still haven’t taken out all the money that we put in. But at least we started breaking even. So when we got to issue 4 and 5 and still weren’t breaking even, it was like, fuck.
SR: It was really tough.
JL: The thing is that you need to grow. We want this to grow. We don’t want this to be a little side project or a hobby. We constantly want to move the needle. So that is a constant hustle. But I feel like we passed the hardest part, hopefully.
Also, when we launched our online platform, that was tough because at the same time we were opening the Office newsstand and we had our print deadline. November/December of 2016 was really tough. But that’s the exciting part of doing this. Doing the actual physical magazine was not the hardest part. I’ve done magazines for a long time, and Simon and Zenia have been in the fashion world and done magazines as well. But doing online, you know that when you do that, there’s no way back. You can’t just shut the website down. And online has grown so much within the past year.
Tell me about some of the NYC creatives you’ve built relationships with. Who are some of your favorite people?
SR: Ian Isiah is for sure one of them. He’s a friend and a very nice person and someone you come to care about really fast. I met him when we did an article on Hood By Air for issue 2 or 3. His whole Hood By Air family, it really is a family. Just on our block, we have the photographer Jason Nocito. Joji from Magic Gallery is down the block. I like Nick Sethi who we just did a story within issue 9. There are many, many creatives in the city that we’ve established a relationship with.
JL: Dev Hynes is someone who we’ve been wanting to work with for a while, and finally it happened for this issue.
Explain the name, Office.
SR: You can’t. It’s a secret.
JL: No comment.
What are some of your favorite downtown spots?
SR: I like the Russian Spa on East 10th Street.
What is the Russian spa like?
SR: It’s gritty. I’ve been to this other one downtown called Aire Ancient Baths. It’s so nice.
JL: It’s Greek-themed. You walk down the stairs, and they have a salt water pool. It’s all candle-lit. It’s a really good date place, if your date is into that. They have a massage room. It’s really nice and clean. The Russian spa is very tiny in this little basement, and you’re really close to people.
SR: But you also meet real New Yorkers who have been going there for twenty or thirty years. You even meet celebrities. I prefer that, to be honest. I also like the restaurant Aux Epices. I kind of don’t want to tell anyone because it’s one of my favorite spots, and no one really goes there. It’s a Malaysian-French place on Baxter street, cash-only. It’s really good. But don’t tell anyone.
What is it like working out of Chinatown? Some people are saying that it’s becoming the new Garment District.
JL: For sure. It’s so accessible, so close to Tribeca and SoHo. And it’s still fairly cheap, comparably. Instead of having an office up on 28th or 30th, here in Chinatown, you’re just so close to everything.
SR: And you can go cheap, or you can go expensive. If you go down to SoHo, you can find high-end places like 11 Howard where we like to have meetings sometimes. Or Sant Ambroeus to have lunch, or Balthazar Restaurant—within walking distance. There’s also cheap spots in Chinatown for lunch. I like that it’s very flexible.
What’s the coolest meeting you’ve ever had?
JL: Bono. We did a dinner with Eden and I was waiting for the restroom at the top of The Standard and Bono really had to pee and didn’t want to wait for the restroom, so he just peed in a cup. He’s such a rock star.
SR: Not that they’ve been the coolest meetings, but I feel like Jesper and I have had several meetings where we walked out and were like, we got it! We got this client, this is the best meeting ever, and then nothing ever happens from it. And now, we’ve learned that, so every meeting is like, well, it might be a good meeting or might not.
Are you planning anything special for issue 10?
JL: We’re still talking about it, but I think it should be a New York issue.
SR: I mean, it’s gonna be our first “anniversary” issue. It’s gonna be our biggest issue, our most amazingly fantastic, expensive issue. We’re gonna have posters everywhere and ten different covers. Celebrities. Sex. It’s gonna be a whole issue of celebrities having sex.
Words Ivan Guzman
Photography Travis Bass