Persistency And Determination: Seth Footring Of 502 Bad Gateway
Zayyar: Hey Seth, can you give our audience a brief intro about yourself, where are you based and what do you do?
Seth: Sure thing, I edit 502 Bad Gateway which is an independent men's style magazine that I launched earlier this year. Since launching it I’ve been doing all of the sales, distribution and marketing myself.
Zayyar: How did you first become interested in menswear and magazines? What are some of those first moments of realisation where you were like “I like how this and this come together”?
Seth: I think the first thing that I ever really got very very excited about was probably Mr Hare. I don’t know if you know that brand, it’s since closed, but they made the best dress shoes. I spent all of my pay-check one month on a pair of Fitzgeralds. Needless to say that I have no occasion to wear them at all, suede, calf leather and a patent toe in black and white. Goddamn. Menswear I think I came in to more from trainers/sneakers but really got in to it whilst at uni studying fashion. I learnt a lot about high fashion in my own time - Antwerp Six, how to spell Margiela and the history of clothes etc. Stuff like that. Then magazines are something I’ve just always bought. Skate mags, music mags, naughty mags, menswear mags and also books too. I like the printed page. There’s an interesting finality to it that captures the feeling of the time that appeals to me.
Zayyar: So from then what were some of the brands at the time you were enjoying?
Seth: Nike, Dries Van Noten, Norse Projects, Engineered Garments, Comme des Garçons and Carhartt. Carhartt beanie or die.
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Zayyar: And to counter this, who are the designers or brands today that you think are at the forefront?
Seth: Noah, Patagonia, Geoffrey B Small, Sports Banger, Tender, Story MFG. They’re brands that I think are doing something that feels new.
Zayyar: Let’s jump deeper into 502 Bad Gateway. Can you tell us what it’s about and why you decided to start it?
Seth: My side hustle was writing, I wrote for a few blogs and magazines, and I had a few pieces that weren’t going to fit anywhere so I made a little zine that I didn’t really share with anyone and then I decided to make a magazine to move on from that. Issue One is an attempt to make good life choices and to show great product design. It seems like the only viable option - for your clothes to be well and responsibly made and to make you look good.
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Zayyar: So your reasoning behind 502 comes from a good place, a need to fill a void and wanting to do it. How hard was it overcoming some of the initial challenges? And to back onto that how did you stay motivated on it?
Seth: It was difficult. Especially when doing a first issue because there’s nothing to show anyone. There were long swathes of time where I was unmotivated and kinda wasted the time. It was a struggle, I read a really good self help book called Work Clean by Dan Charnas that my Mum sent me. Sorted out my productivity and made everything seem less daunting.
Zayyar: Personally for you what are some magazines and publications that inspired you to do this?
Maekan: Powerful storytelling and a community vibe that makes everything relatable, great photography and website design. Really worth either reading or listening to because it made me feel like what I wanted to achieve was achievable. Great taste too.
Monocle: This is the modern media brand success story. If you check what my to the previous question was then everything is kind of mirroring that. “The Stack” podcast is something that really got me through in terms of gleaning information about publishing.
Interview Magazine: The current set up has some drama around it as they keep closing and opening but as far as concept and clout go it’s as good as it gets.
Delayed Gratification: Slow journalism. Curious? Go read it.
Absence of what I wanted to read – at the time of conception there were lots of media covering the latest Gucci collection, or a famous person and not much coverage of brands that were really cool and responsible. Now there are a decent number, but that was one of the original missions – to normalise a responsible supply chain
Zayyar: So you have the online website, the magazine and of course the podcast. What are some other touch points you'd like to explore with 502 Gateway and the brand?
I am a big believer in the power of the internet in connecting people however I also appreciate that real world interaction is often a lot more powerful. Even a look someone gives you as you walk by can stick with you so I would like to create something that people can come to and, as cliché as this sounds, have an experience at. I’ve got an idea for this – not a new one; a market where people who make cool shit can come together – and my current issue is working out how to make it more than an Instagram photo op and the logistics of it.
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Zayyar: Do you think the content itself within the pages or the actual product itself are more important than the other? Or are the two mutual?
Seth: Magazines are strange because they have moved, not so recently, from being the information format of choice to being something to collect - objects of beauty. Much like vinyl; the experience can be richer but it’s not most people's first choice to consume information in the age of the internet. So to answer your question, I would say that they both are essential. They don’t have to be perfect - there are some booboos in the first issue and plenty of room for improvement but I think that the content and product feed in to what you’re known for. Hopefully for 502 it’s that it’s beautifully designed interesting content, tactile and informative.
Zayyar: What was your approach to getting these brands and businesses to get behind the project - was it a lot of cold calling to get them featured?
Seth: Loads of cold calling. Basically, I had to get very good at explaining myself in a short paragraph and approach people in an approachable way and to be persistent. Also, I made myself an email signature that said I was the editor. I think that made a difference. Basically anyone that was in the mag was extremely generous with their time.
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Zayyar: If you were to give advice to someone thinking about making a magazine what’s a little gem of information you could give them?
Seth: Ahhhhh. Two wise men told me the best two things. First piece of advice - don’t start a magazine. Second piece of advice - build the brand prior to printing. Cryptic, but if you get past the first one and do a good job of the second then you’ll be on your way. In practical terms I would say get the book - there’s a couple - on how to make magazines and also do all the boring stuff first: find a printer, get an ISSN and barcode, website, work out distribution etc. It’s probably 45% fun stuff and 55% panicking about how you’ll ever get rid of your print run.
Zayyar: What was the hardest or most challenging thing you had to overcome personally to get the first issue out?
Seth: Enormous mid point meltdown: What the fuck am I doing? This is the worst decision of my life, no one will buy this, you’ll never finish and so on. My wise friend Charis once said that big projects are a harder mental burden because you have to be so persistent and that is completely true. Once you’ve taken that leap you’re in for a ride. I would say to anyone who is embarking on a major project, or a small one, don’t feel like help isn’t out there – I can’t recommend that book enough but spend time trying to find out what will work for you. Sounds lame but if the other option is capitulation then what one will you chose?
Zayyar: Now for future issues what's your intention what can we expect from 502?
Seth: More stuff! Bigger! Better! I think that I’ll branch out quite soon in to merch, I’m relaunching 502 Radio and I’m trying to do Issue Two and involve more people in it. If you’re a creative please feel free to reach out - no guarantees but I’m open to working with people of all walks and experiences.
Interview: Zayyar Win Thein
Photos: Katie Biggs