While the term "print is dead" might still apply to mainstream glossies that are struggling, smaller niche magazines are actually thriving. Last year, according to The Telegraph, Stack, an independent magazine subscription service, reported a 78% increase in revenue and a 76% growth in subscribers. Between Kickstarter and social media, creators with a vision are finding funding, contributors and readers. In an interview with The Independent, Ruth Jameison, author of "Print Is Dead. Long Live Print: The World's Best Independent Magazines," said that in order for an indie magazine to be successful, "It needs to have a really pure, original idea. And it needs to know who its audience is and speak to them."
These standards of success allow independent magazines the opportunity to speak to audiences mainstream magazines rarely address—which means, by default, the content is more diverse and inclusive, making up for the lack of new points of view, women of color and a spectrum of sexuality. Some popular indie magazines you may heard of include Gentlewoman, Girls Get Busy, Bust, Bitch, CherryBombe, and Candy. But new indie mags are continuing to pop up year after year. We've rounded up 12 cool new independent niche magazines (founded within the last two years) that have a fresh approach to women, culture, and fashion.
What: A bi-annual magazine celebrating black women and their complexities, in their own voices and narratives, covering everything from fashion and beauty to politics and tech.
Why read it: Last month, Hannah reached their Kickstarter funding goal of $30,000 (raising over $37,000) to start producing their first issue. In the interim, the magazine produced awesome digital content, featuring interviews with Rosario Dawson, former Essence fashion editor Celia Smith, and beauty entrepreneur Jodie Patterson. At a time when inclusivity is still not the norm with many magazines—in both the subjects and the masthead—the launch of this indie zine will be refreshing. For more, visit hannahmag.com.
What: A bi-annual magazine birthed this year in Chinatown, New York, exploring contemporary Asian culture through food, fashion, beauty and personal narratives.
Why read it: "Banana" is a slightly offensive term, meaning "white on the inside and yellow on the outside," used to describe first generation Asians. Banana Magazine reclaims the term in a celebratory way, embracing and exploring the identity and cultural fusions that come with being Asian with roots in both the Eastern and Western worlds. The founders (Kathleen Tso and Vicki Ho) are currently working on their second issue. For more, visit banana-mag.com.
What: A Brooklyn-based publication profiling women who are leading movements and conversations in various fields from art and fashion to education and social justice.
Why read it: Top Rank Magazine—which featured Janet Mock on the cover of its first issue this year—aims to not only bring racial and topical diversity but attempts to breakdown the complexities of feminism and be inclusive. In an interview earlier this year, creative director Christelle De Castro told Opening Ceremony: "Do you want equal rights? Do you want ultimate authority over your own body? Bottom line shit. Feminism is not anti-man, men can be feminists too. It’s about empowerment, sisterhood, and respect.” For more, visit toprankmag.com.
What: A UK-based bi-annual "smart magazine for women" covering outspoken subjects on topics ranging from innovation, politics and travel to art, design and music.
Why read it: Founded in 2013, Riposte has created a cohesive formula for each issue: Five ideas, four meetings, three features, two essays and one icon. The rigid structure allows the bold and inspiring ideas and subjects to flourish. Recent content includes everything from an interview with Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a feature on the women in The Simpsons' writers room, an essay on being a woman working for publishing houses in the Middle East and North Africa, to a iconic tribute to photographer Carrie Mae Weems and drummer Sheila E. For more, visit ripostemagazine.com.
What: The year-old UK-based zine is focused on "all things trash, kitsch, and camp" relating to girls and the internet. It creates a tangible space for internet-like content IRL, defies boring fashion trends, and questions the concept of bad taste.
Why read it: From the '00s-look website complete with emoji cursors and Dollz Mania to the over-the-top ~fashuns~ with bright makeup, gaudy accessories and lots of pink, Polyester Zine is nostalgically fascinating. It's also a safe space for girls to talk about everything from body image issues and bullying to ex-boyfriends and therapy. For more, visit polyesterzine.com.
What: A bi-annual women's magazine based in London that centers around "imaginations, creativity and spirituality." Each issue focuses on a different theme, intertwining ideas about faith, activism, identity and women from different backgrounds, specifically creating a safe space for Muslim women.
Why read it: OOMK explores both religion and feminism in the form of essays, cool photography, original artwork and illustration. There are very few mainstream magazines that feature content from the viewpoint of a Muslim woman, let alone magazines that feature women with hijabs on the cover. For more, visit oomk.net.
What: Launched in 2015, La Farfa is Japan's first magazine for plus size women.
Why read it: When mainstream magazines do feature plus-size women, there's usually only one model. Often her body is either fetishized and featured in lingerie—or hidden by voluminous clothing. La Farfa doesn't do any of that, treating its readers and models as normal women who like clothes. There's no promoting weight loss or covering-up bodies, and the pages feature various fashion tips from everyday trends to wedding gowns. For more, visit lafarfa.jp.
What: A NYC based bi-annual "slow fashion" magazine advocating for sustainable, safely-produced quality clothing in a world ruled by fast fashion.
Why read it: So many fashion magazines push trends and designers that there is little time to think about how clothing is produced. Sumzine offers beautiful imagery that isn't geared towards a specific trend or designer and features words from fashion industry insiders also practicing sustainability. For more, visit sumzine.com.
What: A quarterly magazine that takes a "new approach to the women's interest genre," featuring views on every aspect of life from adventure to money—through the eyes of bold and empowering women, as the subjects or the writers.
Why read it: Golly aims to be inclusive in both the topics and the backgrounds of the women featured. The first issue contained a feature on a female scientist Dr. Linda J. Spilker, who was on the team exploring and capturing photographs of Saturn and a how-to-guide for houseplants. In the second issue, there was an essay on female MCs, interviews with chefs of Asian cuisine, and a trend analysis of normcore. For more, visit gollymagazine.com.
What: Launched in 2014, Bare Journal is a global fashion and culture journal with one rule: No retouching.
Why read it: In 2015, magazines are still being called out for portraying unrealistic images of women—whether via Photoshop or just employing extremely skinny models. Recently, the actress Zendaya called out a magazine for Photoshopping her hips and thighs to be skinner. While Bare Journal isn't as diverse as it could be (there are mostly white women in their shoots), it does forego both Photoshop and airbrushing, allowing readers to see women just as they are. For more, visit bare-journal.com
What: Shade Magazine is not just a magazine, it's a movement. The founders, Apryl Fuentes and Azha Luckman, are dedicated to creating a safe space for young artists of color by helping them to create zines and submit content. Since their start in 2014, they have released one digital zine and one print zine.
Why read it: The magazine is created by two women of color, creating their own solution to the lack of people who looked like them in the mainstream media and art world. They're helping create opportunities for the underrepresented. Their first digital zine, Xicanas in Suburbia, focuses on what brownness means to Mexican-Americans. Their first printed zine, Sassy, explores the use of the term "sassy" and how it's often used to improperly describe women and their behavior. For more, visit shadezine.com.
What: Diaspora Drama is a digital and print magazine that embraces the idea of not fitting in, focusing on children of immigrants growing up in a Western world.
Why read it: Diaspora Drama is 100% contributor-generated, opening doors for artists and writers from all backgrounds to contribute content. It embraces the internet, with the tagline "have faith in cyber space." It's essentially a community, one that is wholly authentic; the people the mission aims to represent are also creating the content. For more, visit diasporadrama.com.
Want to tell us about your own zine or a mag you think is cool? Tweet us or leave a comment below.
Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.