Emerging out of an entirely new space dedicated to the freedom of expression within art and fashion, King Kong is a fashion magazine that organically includes elements of pure art; designed by its co-founder Mikel Benhaim. The aim of the publication is to “provide a fearless platform for artists to push themselves beyond what is featured in most magazines today,” Mikel tells It’s Nice That.
“I never studied graphic design”, says Mikel. “I’m an architect, so I see things in a different way. I like to think that the layout has a chaotic order to it”. King Kong is an unusual publication as each spread is designed unexpectedly and Mikel never follows a consistent design layout. “The beauty is that I’m allowed to do whatever I want,” explains the co-founder. "There’s no fear of doing something wrong and I love some of design decisions I make by accident.”
Founded a few years ago by Mikel and best friend Ali Kepenek, the publication has a freeing, post internet aesthetic. Mikel designs each story unique to its content, which gives the publication an expressive sense of flow. Within publication design there are often strict rules to abide by, following grids and typographic rules that gives a publication aesthetic uniformity and cohesion. King Kong however, is a magazine up for interpretation with its wide diversity of visuals. On this topic, Mikel adds that “what often stops designers progressing is the need to design in a certain editorial way with margins and borders and such. Someone told me, ‘I think King Kong needs more white space’ and I just laughed.”
The recent launch of the sixth issue continues to marry together art and fashion in an unusual idiosyncratic manner that King Kong has made a name for. Each issue loosely revolves around a certain theme, most recently “worship”. Contributions for the sixth issue include the likes of Ed Atkins, John Bock, Annie Collinge, Micaiah Carter and Lorenz Shmidl — to name a few — and features the talents of superstars Janelle Monae, Ciara, Billie Eilish, Soko, Kembra Pfahler, Daniel Lismore and many more. The magazine posits how “worship reveals the positive and negative aspects of our hierarchal society”. Our interchangeable relationships with one another reveal inherent acts of submission through modern rituals of worship, such as that frequent double-tap of the phone or the series record button on the remote. “So why not use these ideas of worship to deconstruct power structures and ideals?”, explored through the sixth issue of King Kong.
With a continually anarchist attitude that disregards all graphic design rules, King Kong is catapulting to the top by rejecting “the systematic elitism that can be a pernicious force within creative industries”. The artists are given sufficient space to fully expand on their work unlike a lot of other highbrow art publications that skim the surface of a creative practice. As a result, Mikel receives a lot of admiration for King Kong: “people constantly tell me how it’s their favourite magazine and they collect each issue. That was exactly my intention. To become a collectable item and give the people the raw excitement that print media always had.”
The longer turnaround of creating a biannial magazine allows the creative team to focus on creating something timeless rather than reporting on trends. Its audience greatly anticipates its latest releases because of its unexpected visuals and its determinism to showcase fresh, underground talent with the longterm aim to “democratise art and fashion for the benefit of both artists and consumers.” Mikel’s impulsive attitude to the creative process can be summarised in the magazine’s ethos of: “We never repeat ourselves. Just reinvent.” Perhaps this is a result of the fact that during Mikel’s teenage life, “I was always a certain way, so I’ve got to a point now where it’s like fuck it, I’m just going to do whatever I want, whenever I want.”
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