VFiles launches crowdsourced youth magazine

Streetwear brand VFiles is the latest fashion company to entertain publishing ambitions, joining a growing number of non-media businesses launching publications in an attempt to engage consumers.

Womb, a youth-centric print magazine that describes itself as “a place to nourish and be nurtured,” is entirely crowdsourced from young photographers around the world and offered at no cost. The first edition, which will be available in VFiles stores and online starting July 12th, is centered on the theme “We Have Issues” and evokes a sense of youthful curiosity, aspiration and the challenges inherent to growing up.

Womb joins a slew of brand-led media ventures cropping up in recent years, including Van Winkle’s, launched by mattress company Casper, Airbnb’s print magazine Pineapple, and Uber’s Momentum. It also takes a cue from streetwear media sites like Hypebeast and High Snobiety that identify underground trends and share curated updates to the masses while linking to product sites.

However, Kevin Amato, editor-in-chief and creative director, emphasized Womb is not seeking to serve as an arbiter of style. Instead the pictures depict raw imagery of young love, angst-ridden teenagers smoking by fences, festive community dance parties and a boisterous high school football team. One spread shows a rumpled notes that reads “How to make money” with with a laundry list of items like “debit card scam,” “buy clothes at the thrift store and flip them” and “the good ole 9 to 5?”

“Womb is not about dictating trends or ideas. We’re here just listening to your voices,” Amato wrote in his editor’s note.

The idea for Womb came from the high volume of submissions to VFiles Runway, a crowdsourced fashion show now in its seventh season that pulls from user-submitted photographs and designs. VFiles founder Julie Anne Quay said she wanted to find a way to feature the submissions that didn’t make it to the runway, as well as invite other young creatives to share their work.

“The whole idea was to showcase all these photographers and kids on VFiles and that we see every day doing amazing things, and give them an opportunity to see their work in print,” Quay said.

While the magazine, which Quay hopes to publish quarterly, is primarily composed of photographs, it also features poems and quotes, both original pieces and prose from literary greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald. Amato runs Womb with support from Calvin Klein, who advertises throughout the issue. Model Luka Sabbat acts as curatorial director.

“This is how these kids see the world. Some of it might be dark, but you don’t want to edit someone’s vision, and I think that’s the strength of the whole thing and working with someone like [Amato] who is so empathetic to what the kids say and do,” Quay said.

Sabbat, who was one of VFiles first interns, has risen to fashion fame in his own right through his modeling work and prolific social media accounts, serving as the focus of a feature in The New York Times this spring. Quay noted that when she asked him to step in and help with the magazine, he said he came in and asked for a desk.

“Luka came in and said, ‘Well Julie Anne, I need a desk.’ I say, ‘What are you going to do at your desk?’ and he just says, ‘Stuff,’ Quay said with a laugh. “Luka will always have a desk.”

Though Quay said Womb differs from other youth-driven publications since there is no editing involved and little written content, it is reminiscent of the photo stories and mood boards shared on Rookie, which also accepts outside work. Rookie, founded in 2011, operates as an online magazine, but also publishes a “Rookie Yearbook” series that includes curated content from the website.

Quay said at some point she would also like to print a yearbook-style book with hundreds of pages of content. In the meantime, she said VFiles plans to continue to work on showcasing submitted work and cultivating a community through the magazine.

“It’s a magazine produced in reverse. This is the reader’s magazine,” she said.

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