TOP Magazine Creator Danielle Top On Inspiration, New York City & DIY Publishing

New York based Aussie expat Danielle Top launched TOP Magazine in 2009, a bi-annual publication dedicated to fashion, music and art. As editor-in-chief Danielle herself meticulously curates a mix of the most interesting, talented creatives around the world to feature among the pages; the most recent edition includes interviews with acclaimed German artist Pia Dehne, fast rising Australian designer/artist Jordan Askill, and fashion boy wonder Richard Nicoll. We recently asked Danielle about what it’s like to live in the City That Doesn’t Sleep, the artists and designers who feed her inspiration, and her take on print versus online publishing…

Danielle let’s start with New York. What has it been like for you to move there from Australia and adapt? Initially, there was a period of loneliness and isolation, which has gratefully passed. Now I’m surrounded by a community of friends who are extremely supportive. It’s the city that never sleeps and where the noise never ends. Anything is possible in New York; it’s absolutely a city of extremes.

Tell me about the particular artistic backdrop of New York; the ‘zeitgeist,’ as you described it, inclusive of its new and emerging designers, musicians, artists and filmmakers. How do they influence you and how do you go about translating this movement into a visual, one-dimensional experience for readers? I live amongst a community of people passionate for their respective crafts. A lot of them have assisted, or are assistants, putting in their time and learning from their seniors, while using the street culture and downtown energy to generate new and exciting work. We all hang out together. Some of these people I have known since I used to live here around early 2000. I am influenced by my contemporaries, people who are alive with what they do. TOP is filled with all the things I love. While capturing the drive and thrill of the ambitious creatives around me, TOP is simultaneously meant to feel carefree and fun; having a sense of humour is very important.

You’ve said that you were tired of seeing the same stories being rotated in fashion magazines, which obviously prompted you to start your own. What do you see lacking in terms of content across current magazine titles? I honestly don’t see anything lacking in the world of publishing — if you include independent publishers!– there are so many titles around who are doing what they do so well. I want to provide something that’s collectible, makes you want to hold on to it.

Are there any of the ‘big name’ major publications that you actually like or read? Yes, several.

What are you reading at the moment? Sway: A Novel by Zachary Lazar.

What do you see as the relationship between zines and fashion/music/art/design? There’s a lot more freedom with zines; the DIY aesthetic can shine through.

Your zine seems to be gaining recognition within its limited circulation. What if a publishing house was to approach you and proposed to publish TOP Magazine as a bi-monthly edition (in a commercial magazine format), to be sold across the world? Would you be up for it – or is this particular niche market what you were always intending? I would certainly consider it. When I originally came up with the idea there was no end goal in sight!

As a newly published magazine, how hard was it to get people like Karen Elson, Terry Gilliam and Miike Snow involved? It wasn’t too hard. Once people hear about the project and see the product they are usually keen to be involved.

One thing I particularly LOVE is the magazine’s design. It’s very distinct; it plays with colour and text but without ever seeming overdone. Is this all the work of [graphic designer] Pierre Tardif? Pierre and I have been friends since working at V Magazine together in ’08. We have a great camaraderie and he’s a wonderful designer. I will tell him what I envision for the page, and then he will work around that– and he will also try different layouts– and then I decide which one works best. I like things to look unfussy and easy.

Tell us about your contributors? Are they all friends and acquaintances of yours? Yes, my contributors are my friends, and I deeply respect their work.

Have you already got an idea of what the next issue will have content-wise? Who are you planning to feature? At this stage yes, we have a good idea. But I would prefer to keep it to myself!

How did the collaboration with the Edition store in Sydney come about? I’m a huge fan of the store; Anne Ryan, the store’s director, approached me after seeing the first issue, and she has been a huge supporter of TOP.

Do you have any plans to expand your circulation across Australia in other stores? Yes, I would love TOP to be available everywhere.

How do you go about choosing stockists that appeal to the market in which your magazine targets? I ask the stores that I adore.

Describe your reader? Are you very familiar with the kind of people who read TOP? Our reader is well-traveled, a collector, between the ages of 17 and 40. The kind of people who read TOP are the tastemakers of the world.

You’ve mentioned you initially wanted to start a blog of own but you weren’t technically savvy enough. What is your opinion on the ever-growing blogosphere? I think blogs are great! Food for the mind when you’re bored at your desk!

What/who are you inspired/influenced by? Somebody who is extremely dedicated to his/her craft, people who are down to earth, natural beauty, punks, nature.

Where do you see the magazine industry headed? Why do you think people still love the concept of print – something tangible? The opportunities provided by technology developments are allowing for more self-publishing, which is great, on the one hand; sorting through all the options for the really special work can be time consuming, however. For me, physical objects are really different from web content; the nature of how a magazine in print is taken in by the reader is totally different from reading at one’s computer screen.

Who are the artists/stylists/musicians/designers we should keep an eye out for in the coming months? Tracey Nicholson, Colin Dodgson, Ivy Risser, Max Snow, Sam Friedman, Risto, Stevie Dance, Eric Elms, Michael Hauptman, Stella Greenspan, Mickey Moonlight, Pia Dehne, Alexis Georgopoulos, Ohne Titel and Pierre Tardif.

What are your thoughts on web-only published magazine titles, like Contributing Editor and the newly launched The Wild? I think it’s great! To read a magazine is a break time for me; however, I would hate to be relaxing and seeking inspiration from a computer screen the whole time.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading your magazine? I hope they feel happy, peaceful and inspired.

What else are you working on right now, besides TOP? Right now, TOP is taking up a lot of my time. I’ve been writing mostly personal essays for Russh, and there’s my interview with Ryan McGinley in the latest issue. Always updating my blog too!

TOP Magazine is only $4 and is available in Australia from EDITION in Sydney and around the world from the following stockists:
Ace Hotels
aNYthing, NY
colette, Paris
Family Bookstore, LA
Capricious, NY
OHWOW Gallery, Miami
Printed Matter, Inc. NY

214 Crown St Darlinghurst, Sydney
(cnr of Crown and Liverpool)
(02) 9331 0995

Main image by Michael Hauptman