There’s Now A Magazine For, & By, Cool Teens

Photo: Courtesy of Womb/VFiles.
A brand-new teen magazine debuted last month. Or, perhaps more accurately, a new title was born: Womb comes courtesy of VFiles, the cool-kid online destination, e-comm platform, and app. Everything in Womb is conceived and created by Gen Z and the first issue’s 100-plus pages explored the theme “We’ve Got Issues,” culling ideas about the stuff teens truly care about these days from a survey sent to VFiles’ 200,000 users. While it's entirely focused on teen-generated content, Womb's founding editor and creative director isn't a technically teen — it's Kevin Amato, acclaimed photographer and progressive casting director, responsible for casting shows like Hood By Air. Make no mistake: Though its ambitions are accessible and open-minded, Womb is a pretty niche project (for now). For starters, you can’t find it on any newsstands, at least not yet. It’s available at VFiles HQ in NYC, plus select boutiques around the world. It’s free, too. The advertising strategy is still pretty TBD, though the inaugural issue was fully supported by Calvin Klein. The plan is to produce issues quarterly, unlike the monthly or 10-issues-per-year production schedules of most teen titles. Oh, and it’s heavily image-driven. In fact, there’s barely any text at all. VFiles’ founder, Julie Anne Quay, talked us through the intriguing new “for teens, by teens” project.

How did Womb come about?
“Every time we do VFiles Runway show, we crowdsource designers, models, photographers, and stylists. We get an incredible reaction, but in a runway show, you just don’t get to give as much exposure as you could in a print magazine format. So we decided to do a magazine to really show the incredible amount of work and talent on the VFiles platform. Womb’s editor, Kevin [Amato], and I think of magazines as luxury products. We wanted to give all the kids on the VFiles platform the opportunity to see their work in print. Even now, when there’s so much digital [content], print still really matters. It means a lot to see your work authenticated in a magazine as a young photographer, stylist, or fashion editor. “We really wanted the magazine to feel like, ‘This is it. This is what the kids are saying. This is how they feel right now.’ The subject of the first issue was ‘We’ve Got Issues.’ We put a survey up on VFiles and kids answered the questions were like, ‘What’s your biggest issue?’ A lot of the answers revolve around equal opportunity."
Why did you choose the name Womb?
“Kevin wanted to call it that. He said, ‘Everything comes from the womb: It’s the one thing that we all have in common.’ At the beginning, I thought it was such a crazy name, but it makes sense. "We have so many users on VFiles who are pushing culture forward and we want to create tools that those kids can use, build a brand, and actually benefit from. Then, other kids can be inspired and maybe they can all collaborate together.” What kind of feedback have you gotten thus far?
“The response has been amazing. It’s been really great; very thankful. Kids have said to us, ‘Thanks for shouting me out,’ [and] ‘Thanks for putting me in the spotlight, it inspires me to keep going to do more.’ That's the kind of response that means everything to us.”

Why have a non-teen edit a magazine of solely teen-crafted content?
"Kevin is really connected to the youth community. He’s out there with them, creating with them. It’s a global situation: I mean, the guy who shot the cover from Womb is from Eastern Europe. These are not just kids from downtown NYC."
How is the content curated, exactly?
"Kevin is taking pitches, but he’s not assigning stories to anybody. The kids are the story. There are no stories, even; I mean, Luka Sabbat submitted this one shoot, which was really cool. That’s kind of a story. Someone did a series of images that are kind of like a prom story, but the bulk of the magazine is just images; some of it is very raw. We live in a very visual world. “This is not about preaching to people about how to live or how to be; there’s no trend coverage, no ‘get the look for less.’ This is more of a showcase of what are kids are actually doing. It’s about celebrating and memorializing it in a luxe print product. It’s very important to not edit too heavily what the kids are doing and thinking. We just really want to put it out there for the world to see.”
How is Womb intended to be a next-gen glossy?
“My [career] history is in magazines. I love magazines. Magazines are supposed to be transportive luxury products; I want to aspire and be inspired when I read a magazine. That’s what magazines actually used to be at one point; then they sort of switched over to this throwaway content: ‘What to wear to get married,' [and] 'How to eat your five food groups in one meal.' You can find all of that online — so you don’t need to buy a magazine for that, right? The next generation of magazines, as far as I’m concerned, have to be luxury products. “Womb is the voice of the kids. One of the best magazines, ever, was Life. You opened an issue and you were transported to another country, another world. You’d see pictures of things you’ve never seen before. Womb should be like that."
Will each issue be funded by just one advertiser, as the debut issue was?
“We honestly haven’t thought about that part. Is it a single-advertiser [model]? Is it multi-advertisers? Is it no-advertisers and we come up with some native advertising project? Honestly, the beauty of Womb is that it’s totally flexible."

Did you have any reservations about launching a brand-new print product in 2016?
"I didn’t even think about it, because for me this is more celebration of the kids. Everything we do on VFiles is about amplifying the kids. We don't look at it as competing with other magazines."

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