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Publishing Fantastic and Gentle

Starting as a niche publication and now being picked up all over the world, Fantastic Man by Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers was discussed during the What Design Can Do conference in May.

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 13-06-2013

Two titles that are famed for their old-fashioned approach to print; black and white photography, editorials as the main body of the ‘zine’ and long, in-depth interviews with heroes from various backgrounds. Fantastic Man and The Gentle Woman are high on our reading list. 

At What Design Can Do, Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers,  founders and publishers of popular (yet still niche) magazines Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman talk of their success. 

Meeting in the late 1990s and both from magazine backgrounds the two creatives became close friends and often talked about starting a magazine together. It happened in various forms but not until 2005 was the idea for Fantastic Man born. The publication hit the market fully formed and was quickly picked up by stylish gentlemen all over the world. 

Putting editorials first, interviewing their heroes from the silver screen, fashion designers, architects and artists, Bennekom and Jonkers quickly defined what they did and didn’t like. “We take ourselves as the benchmark,” says Bennekom. “Only publishing interviews with people we like ourselves.”

Advertising is not the drive of the ‘zine’ as Fantastic Man is lovingly referred to. Even though commerce is what allows most magazines to keep their head above water, instead FM is geared towards its readers. 

Often the magazine is referred to as being old fashion but the duo doesn’t necessarily agree, the black-and-white photography allows for a clear visual language, the way interviewees are referred to as ‘Mr.‘ they see as good manners, “but not in an old-fashioned way”.
Bennekom: “The magazine is very formal, yet ironic at the same time. We try to be aspirational by presenting people we like, much like a fanzine really.” Jonkers adds: “Magazines simply aren’t about people anymore, ours is. It’s great to be embraced by the public.”

Both men are still very much involved with the magazine, not by writing each article but as publishers, caring about each detail. 
In 2010 the publication The Gentlewoman was born, more commercial than Fantastic Man  – catering to male interest and fashion is a niche in itself – and geared towards women’s fashion. Printed in London, now the hometown of Bennekom, there is a pressure to be more commercial, more complex. 

“It’s difficult for women,” says Bennekom. “Many of the magazines push them to consume, be thin, compete.” The Gentlewoman is doing well though with (famous) women being more available for interviews “men often say no to a small publication based in the Netherlands. For The Gentlewoman it’s easier to secure talent.”

Both magazines are very tactile, very analogue if that’s still a word. Although the publishers have a website and have recently joined Twitter, being part of a publication that only appears twice a year doesn’t really call for broad participation online. 

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