Thursday, 16 December 2010

In the Editor's Chair - Abubukar Tafawa-Balewa

Remember back in the 90s in the midst of Cool Britannia when The Spice Girls, Oasis, Blur and Brit fashion designers ruled? Well heading the creastwave was a lads magazine called Loaded which set the trend for so-called lad culture which was really an excuse for men to drink loads of beer, smoke lots of cigarettes (or anything stronger) and behave like overgrown chimps. Loaded was created in 1994 by James Brown, Mick Bunnage and Tim Southwell and was so successful that it caused other male magazines such as FHM and Maxim to follow them. Well Loaded is still at large but nowhere near as high profile as it was and the debauchery that was now in men's magazines has now been replaced with a more stylish and quirky feel that is bordering on geek chic. Publications such as GQ and Esquire are aimed at a more culture orientated crowd and focus on fashion and music. A lot of international male magazines are going down this route as well. Take Mode Men magazine which is a publication aimed at Nigerian men, which focuses on style, gadgets and trends. The magazines was set up by Abubukar Tafawa-Balewa in 2006 when he saw a gap in the market.

How did you get into journalism?
I've always loved magazines after a short stint in legal practice, I decided there was a gap in the Nigerian men's magazine market. I knew loads of men like myself who had to buy GQ and Esquire monthly, I felt the Nigerian/Black man needed something of our own. It started off as a joke and we are about five years in the business.

Describe the concept of Mode men and the idea behind the name.
The concept has always been to have a magazine for stylish men who like the good things of life and who want to be up to date on trends and gadgets etc. The name has been something I had in my head from secondary school funny as it may sound... It was an acronym for 'men of distinctive elements'. It was amazing to see the 'Ugly Betty' series a year after we launched.

The design is very slick, how did you decide on the art design of the publication?
Each edition has a theme, that theme determines the cover. This particular issue is our 'men of the year issue', normally we have multiple covers but this year we decided to feature style mentor, Stan Mukoro alone as he had two nominations. Stan is style and class personified so we went with that in mind for the cover and the result was satisfactory.
Who is behind Mode Men?
Myself and my team. I'm the Editor-in-chief and double as a creative director. I have a wonderful, dedicate team supporting me.

How many members of staff work on the magazine?
We have a total number of ten but we are currently expanding as we go monthly, so we will be hiring a few more hands. We also work with a lot of freelance stylists, photographers, make up artists etc..

Describe a day in the life of Abukakar Tafawa-Balewa.
Two days are never the same for me. As a creative person I work at all and odd hours. Inspiration can come at 2.00am or 4.00am. I'm up early most days, pray, exercise (if I'm up to it). shower and head to the office. From there anything can happen: meetings, photo shoots, interviews, presentations, trips to London, Abuja... I don't have a closing time. I've spent many nights at the office also.

Which blogs do you check out regularly?
Bella Naija, Linda Ikeji and a few men's blogs.

What magazines do you read?
GQ, Esquire, Vibe and Vanity Fair. I also read Ebony and Essence.

What tips do you have for anyone who wants to become a magazine editor?
You need to love magazines, information and reading.

The Dec/Jan issue of Mode Men is out now.

You can check out the Mode Men website.

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