Regulars / Nicer Tuesdays

Kirsten Algera on running MacGuffin, “a design magazine that is not about design”

Kirsten Algera, editor-in-chief of MacGuffin magazine, joined us at May’s Nicer Tuesdays to talk us through the biannual design and crafts magazine’s seventh issue: The Trousers. “MacGuffin is a design magazine that is not about design,” Kirsten announced. Rather, the publication was born out of “a desire to combine in-depth research and visual appeal”. Inspired by the MacGuffin technique, a term popularised by Alfred Hitchcock, which assigns significance to an object according to its effect on the characters and their actions, MacGuffin magazine is likewise a platform that is less about objects and more about the stories they tell.

Kirsten founded MacGuffin magazine alongside Ernst van der Hoeven in 2015. The idea manifested from their lingering boredom with the design world, which they felt validated commercial success and star designers over talent. After pitching to a number of uninterested investors, Kirsten and Ernst decided to adopt Tina Brown’s famous mantra “If you don’t have a budget, have a point of view.” They then successfully applied for a grant at the Dutch Fund for Creative Industries and, consequently, got to work. Kirsten and Ernst have, over the past four years, been involved in every part of the magazine’s creation – from art direction and writing to distribution and production.

Their first-ever issue was dedicated to the bed because, in Kirsten’s words, the bed is “the beginning and the end for most of us.” After selling out of their debut issue in just two weeks, the duo got to work on MacGuffin’s second issue that focused on windows. The third issue explored the versatile material and object, the rope, while the magazine’s fourth issue honed in on a household necessity: the sink. MacGuffin’s focus shifted for its fifth issue, which took a closer look at cabinets, before turning to balls – the sixth issue delved deep into dissected footballs among other things. Many publication rounds were followed by exhibitions like Finders Keepers, which explored the act of collecting through a total of 5,000 objects.

The Trouser issue, MacGuffin’s seventh and latest issue, is divided into three chapters: Pants Up, which considers pants as a vehicle for culture; Pants Down, which explores trousers’ materiality and their over-production; and Pants Off which exposes gendered power structures through a closer look at the clothing item. The magazine includes an A-Z guide on survival trousers, a story on the impact the material touch of trousers have on our day-to-day lives, and informative illustrations illuminating the problems with fast fashion. The magazine’s final feature, Radical Trousers, is devoted to gender inequality. For this, Kirsten and Ernst celebrate a collection of female artists from the 1960s and 70s that used their bodies to highlight sexist biases – a critique that is as urgent and necessary today as it was fifty years ago.

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