Confession – I never thought there would be a post dedicated to CATS on The Design Files (!!), but when Lisa brought Cat People to my attention (with the reminder we did once dedicate an entire post to another amazing local magazine all about dogs) I had to acquiesce. Cat People is such an impressive little indie publication, and despite the Japanese Kanji on the front cover, it’s created right here in Melbourne.
At the helm of this unique title is editor and art director Jessica Lowe, who is most definitely (and defiantly!) a cat person. The idea for Cat People came about when she and her partner and photographer Gavin Green were travelling in Japan and became besotted with the zine culture there. Eager to find a zine about their favourite domestic animal to bring home as a little souvenir, they were shocked to learn no such one existed! It was then that they had the ingenious idea to create their own, combining their shared skills in editing, publishing and photography.
Cat People is about bringing together a global community of cat lovers. Issue One features the lifestyles of four ‘cat people’ including artist Tanya Schultz from Pip & Pop, illustrator Mat Maitland, and fashion designers Vivetta Ponti, and Suzanne Clements & Inacio Ribeiro from Clements Ribeiro, with a brilliant collection of commissioned illustration and photography by some pretty serious peeps including Italian illustrator Olimpia Zagnoli, and aclaimed Japanese photographer Takashi Homma. It is a beautifully presented and considered project that even those anti-cat or hyper allergic types can still enjoy.
Another amazing thing about Cat People is that it is bi-lingual, with sections written in both English and Japanese. Jessica and Gavin launched their zine at Tokyo Art and Book Fair last year, where all advance copies sold out! ‘Japan is such a huge part of Cat People – it’s where we conceived the idea, and it has always been the spiritual home of the magazine,’ says Jessica.
We asked Jessica a few questions about this niche title –
Growing up my parents were the publishers of several bridal and fashion titles, so I was kind of raised around magazines. During school holidays my sister and I would watch over the shoulders of the graphic designers, borrowing their Pantone markers and helping to mark up the proofs.
As I got older, I developed a healthy obsession with magazines, particularly late ’90s issues of The Face, and graphic design, which I went on to study at RMIT. Books and magazines have always been where my interest lies as a designer, and I think print still offers us an experience that can’t be replicated in other media.
Issue One takes us into the homes and workspaces of several cat-obsessed creatives from various disciplines – illustration, photography, art and fashion. We feature new work by Lucy James, Olimpia Zagnoli and Takashi Homma, and interviews with Pip & Pop (Tanya Schultz), Vivetta, Mat Maitland and Clements Ribeiro. Cats are used as subject matter, but also as a link between the featured creatives. It’s 146 pages of interviews, art and cats!
I’ve been working cats into my designs for some time, so the idea of a sort-of cat magazine was never too far-fetched!
My partner Gavin and I had been thinking of a project to work on together, and during a trip to Japan in 2012 we dug around in bookstores half-expecting to find a Japanese equivalent of Cat People. We didn’t, so we decided to make it ourselves.
Gavin is a photographer, and also a bit obsessed with books, so Cat People began as the convergence of both our interests – art, design, books and cats.
The next few months involved tonnes of emailing potential editorial leads, and receiving both crushing rejections and unimaginable acceptances. Self-publishing can be so tricky when you’re starting out, and it’s important to have the right measure of confidence in your ideas and communication. Ultimately, people seem to know instinctively when something is a good idea, and we were lucky enough to work with some of our favourite artists and designers on Cat People.
We travelled to photograph each of the featured ‘cat people’ in their homes and studios, while commissioning interviews and artwork. By the end of August last year we had the final magazine designed, and in September we travelled to Japan to launch Cat People at the Tokyo Art Book Fair, where we managed to sell out all our advance copies.
We had Siamese cats around the home as kids, so they have always felt like part of the family. Now, we have two crazy Siamese, Lola and Lulu, whose favourite pastime is sleeping on my keyboard while I am trying to use InDesign.
At the moment I’m really excited about an award that Cat People has been nominated for – ‘Best Indie Magazine’ by the Society of Publication Designers in New York. It’s such an honour to be part of the awards. Fingers crossed! We are also in the very early stages of planning our second issue, which involves making lots of lists and writing so many emails. It’s an exciting stage and anything is possible.
Cat People is available to order here.