When we asked journalist, stylist and zine-making 21st century girl Bertie Brandes why it’s great to be a woman in 2015 her response was pretty straight-forward. “Because Tom Hiddleston exists and I fancy him”. And why is it not so great? “Well we haven’t met yet and we need to get married quite soon”. We couldn’t agree more and Bertie’s honesty and wit have made her one of the most intelligent young female writers out there. If you haven’t heard of her, you’ve probably read her work in The Guardian, VICE and SHOWstudio or as contributing features editor for i-D. Whether it’s party politics or party dressing, you can guarantee Bertie will have something great to say about it.
But it’s her magazine The Mushpit that we find ourselves flicking through on a far too regular basis. Produced by Bertie and best friend Charlotte Roberts (and featuring an A-Z of London’s coolest young contributors) The Mushpit has been described as ‘J-17 meets Private Eye’ and is as self-assured and satirical as it is silly. “Mushpit is a response to all the shit me and Charlotte had to put up with from interning to patronising magazines and crap boyfriends.” says Bertie “Mushpit was our outlet, and it’s as absurd and neurotic as us.”
Now on it’s seventh issue, The Mushpit started back in 2011 when it’s pages were Britney-clad and full of agony aunt advice and flowchart quizzes. Evolving over the years like it’s editors, the last two copies of the zine have taken a leap forward and positioned itself firmly and seriously in the independent magazine market. “We persevered out of complete passion for what we were doing, even when people said it was too crap or obvious or mad. Suddenly everyone wants a bit of Mushpit because we speak our mind and know ourselves so well. I wonder why.”
Well, we can think of a few reasons. Firstly, the zine is the perfect reaction to the ad-driven world of mainstream magazines. In the latest issue - ‘The Sell Out Issue’ - the girls designed a fake ad page masquerading as a promotion for luxury London flats, better known as ‘Another Stunningly Depressing Development’. It’s just one of many political statements The Mushpit makes in it’s own sassy, comical way.
Secondly, you can expect fashion editorials with a refreshing mix of charity shop finds and the cream of the crop of London’s bright young things, including Marques Almeida and Claire Barrow. Collaboration is key and Bertie cites “shooting the issue 6 cover with Tyrone Lebon as an amazing example of how working with people you love and admire can create the most exciting and rewarding work”. So is it all about power in numbers? Bertie thinks so: “Me and Charlotte always style Mushpit stories together so in my opinion the fashion aspect to what we do has double the references and double the relevance”.
A lot of Mushpit’s content comes back to the fashion industry - whether it’s tales of unpaid internships or desperate dispatches from the fashion cupboard, Bertie and Charlotte have fed their experience of working in the industry into honest words and anti-textbook styling. “You can work really hard for no credit or money. It’s a lie that if you grind away for long enough you’ll make it to the top, fashion is in no way a meritocracy.” comments Bertie “I’ve seen too many teenage girls completely taken advantage of and then discarded”.
However it’s not all bad. Bertie’s total love of clothes is clear to see in her support for emerging designers and beautiful fashion photography, but it’s the individuals she’s worked with along the way that have shaped her the most. “I’ve met amazing people and made great friends, bonded together over horrible commercial shoots or insane deadlines. It’s always the people you remember, after each new underwhelming season rolls around and disappears”.
As a 25-year old girl trying to get her voice heard amongst the big-players, female representation is an issue close to Bertie’s heart. And it’s clear to see. Whether it’s through her writing in national newspapers, anti-bullshit Twitter feed or simply by featuring some of the most powerful girls out there in the pages of Mushpit, including (most recently) punk band Skinny Girl Diet and co-founder of creative platform Don’t Get Culty, Grace Pickering, she knows exactly what women want to read and how they want to be represented. In typical Mushpit style, it’s the boys who are objectified in its pages with “a sexy male centrefold” featuring in every issue. That’s our kind of girl power.
The Mushpit is as statement-making and hilarious as it’s co-editor and we believe it’s saying a whole heap of important things in its own independent way. But what’s the most important thing Bertie would tell anyone embarking on a similar journey? “Keep creative and inspiring people around you and do something you genuinely believe has the potential to change the world for the better. Don’t add to the noise”. Bertie, we couldn’t agree more.
Cover image: Bertie Brandes by Dasha Love
Words: Lucy Vincent