They’ve been lauded by Elle Decor, launched a web series with HGTV, spoken at Harvard, published a book, designed homes for celebs, developed their own luxury home furnishings line, and are respected by some of the biggest names in interior design. Now, Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason, the husband-and-wife design team behind the popular lifestyle brand and blog AphroChic, are allowing us to bring their incredible aesthetic home—while celebrating our own incomparable influence—with the launch of AphroChic magazine, “a quarterly love letter to the cultures of the African Diaspora.”
Via a statement in the inaugural issue:
When AphroChic began, we were a blog dedicated to highlighting the presence and contributions of people of color in the world of design while providing content for smart, design-savvy people of color—an audience we were frequently told did not exist...The blog was about filling the void in a growing online conversation that made no room for Black creatives and took no notice of its Black audience...
The goal of this publication is mainly two-fold: first to highlight the amazing work and incredible stories of Black creatives across a variety of disciplines, industries and fields; second, to explore the connections between art, design, architecture, food, technology, music, politics and history that fit together to make a culture. Past even that, we want to explore the Diaspora both as a concept and as cultural reality, seeking out and appreciating the myriad pieces within our diversity that connect us and hold us together.
The Brooklyn-based duo, longtime friends of The Glow Up (and full disclosure: also longtime friends of this writer) sat down with us to discuss their latest creation, which launched mid-New York Fashion Week with an event and live podcast recording at Brooklyn’s DUMBO House (sister of Soho House). Though a year in the making, Mason explains that the genesis of the magazine actually occurred four years ago, when the design duo was invited to speak at Harvard’s Black in Design conference.
“[T]here were a lot of black architects, a lot of black designers and people in all these different industries and I think we were struck by, across the board, how few of us knew of the work or even the presence of each other. And that was a problem that kind of sat with us,” says Mason. “We knew that we wanted to do something that would actually help to bridge that gap and fill that void...we wanted to look at black creative professionals in design and tech and fashion—to talk about wellness and all these other things, and really put it together in a way that not only wove the narrative and talked about these people, but actually looks at those intersections, because it’s where you pull all these different things together that you actually get a culture.”
Joining forces with good friend and business strategist Cheminne Taylor-Smith, who formerly held publishing posts at Condé Nast and Hachette (including at Metropolitan Home and Elle Decor) and now serves as the new quarterly’s creative director, Hays and Mason began to bring their vision of a cross-diasporic cultural conversation to fruition.
“You’ve got all the beautiful lifestyle content—like food, and there’s a fashion section, and we have our interior design section—but then there’s also space for really important community conversations,” says Hays, noting that the magazine has been described as a cross between Vanity Fair and a traditional home magazine—but with us at the center. “It’s about developing new conversations in the community about things that matter, and we hope that people will be inspired by what they see, but also inspired to talk, and to have this be a space where issues that face us daily as black people are presented.”
Among their inspirations, the duo cites the iconic publications that were omnipresent in black homes for over a half-century.
“What I hope is that [AphroChic magazine] represents this new sort of, like, Ebony or Jet for people,” says Hays. “You know, the way that you’d walk into your grandparents’ house and they had all of those old publications just piled up, and when you would go through them as a kid, it would be inspirational content, some aspirational things, and then, there were community things that were discussed in the pages of those Johnson Publications.
“We’ve been really inspired by the story of Johnson Publishing and really thinking of what [John H. Johnson] was working to create,” she continues. “How he was working to create conversations, and how he was doing it through the lens of ‘OK, if we can see ourselves—see ourselves at home, see ourselves on the page, see ourselves on T. V.—then that’s an important part of the civil rights movement.’ We hope [our magazine] is part of a new movement, where people again get to see themselves in these beautiful spaces, in these beautiful careers, and know that we can be anything. We can do anything, and we are. We are doing all these things.”
“We’re always saying that a lot of magazines are about the people you already know. We want this to be about the people you should know,” adds Mason, noting that while AphroChic isn’t anti-celebrity (the duo recently designed the new home of Orange Is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks, and actress-director Adepero Oduye appears in the magazine’s inaugural issue), the goal is to equally highlight some of the lesser-known luminaries in our midst.
“Those are the people that we get most excited about,” Hays muses. “It’s people that you don’t hear about every day, that you go to their home or you go to their studio, or you go to a presentation that they’re doing, and you’re so enamored by it that you feel like everyone has to know about this...that’s really the feeling that we get when we’re writing about the people in the publication. “
AphroChic’s inaugural issue, available in digital and high-quality print formats via the AphroChic website, stars another husband-and-wife team, New York fashion stylists Courtney Arrington Baldwin and Donnell Baldwin of Mr. Baldwin Style, as they host the perfect beach party on Sag Harbor. Fashion designer and movement artist Nana Yaa Asare-Boadu (pictured above) also welcomes readers into her home, while photographer Lauren Crew takes us on a photographic tour of Morocco.
As Hays tells us, it’s only the beginning of a beautiful journey together, crafted for us, by us.
“We realized with AphroChic magazine that this is a customer that’s not being talked to at all. [They] are someone who loves design, that loves fashion...[they] want to know about who’s making or creating something new in another part of the world that still looks like [them]—and we realize that that person, there’s nowhere for [them] to go. So in a lot of ways, what we’re excited about is that this is a new audience; that we’re creating something for this new audience—for this audience that doesn’t have anything for them yet...they see themselves in this, and that’s really important.”