IN Magazine is the small-scale publication with big dreams



I first discovered IN Magazine last spring when I met its art director Hannah Black at an Instagram meet-up I hosted in Chicago. Over a cup of hot coffee, she graciously gifted me a copy of the indie mag and shared more about her and founder Isis Nicole’s labour of love. Though it’s a relatively small scale publication, the magazine has some pretty impressive contributors and features. Past issues included: Instagram artist John Yuyi and illustrator Grace Miceli, who we profiled here.

I wanted to find out more about the indie zine, so I caught up with Hannah Black and Isis Nicole who together run IN Magazine.

Left: IN Mag issues 5-6 starring Rina Sawayama photographed by Isaac Kariuki, Lil Miquela, and ABRA photographed by Anna Fearon / Right: Rina Sawayama for IN Mag #6 photography and interview by Isaac Kariuki stylist Yuki Haze

Tell us more about you and your background. 

Isis Nicole: My name is Isis (I go by Isis Nicole which is half of my full name), and I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. My parents encouraged my creativity pretty early on. Growing up, I wrote short stories and plays. My mom saved all of her letters from high school and I think it’s what inspired my material. When I wasn’t on the computer, I was reading magazines. I always loved them and imagined having my own someday. I would circle outfits that I wanted from dELiA*s  catalogues and learn how to decorate a bedroom from Teen Vogue. When I was about 15 or 16-years-old my bedroom walls were covered with pages from those mags.

Left: Ashton Sanders photographed by Mikayla Brown styled by Olivia Engobor / Right: Mia Ghogho wearing Glazed NYC beret for IN Mag 6, photography by Hannah Siegfried, stylist Hannah Black

Hannah Black: I grew up in rural Iowa as an only child in the time of dial up internet, so I was kind of isolated. I dove into every magazine I could get my hands on, especially ELLE Girl, Harper’s Bazaar, and Teen Vogue. They introduced me to runway fashion, editorial beauty, and helped to build my knowledge of how those industries functioned. I’m so thankful to my parents for providing so much printed material to me as a kid. I grew up devouring books and movies from the library, and even worked there for several years. I collaged a lot with dELiA*s and PBteen catalogues. Then, I kind of developed a visual style based on the interests I had as a child, once I learned how to navigate Adobe programs at Loyola University Chicago.

What’s the concept behind In Magazine? How did it come about and what kind of content do you focus on?

Hannah Black: We’re an entertainment magazine with heart. I like to describe it as the magazine Jenna Rink wanted to create in 13 Going On 30! We go with our gut and create what we want to see in the world. We don’t let “no” stop us, we’re always a step ahead of the mainstream, and we don’t pander to trends. IN is like an encouraging big sister. We hope to uplift people, create community, inspire creativity, and learn along the way.

Isis Nicole: Girlboss says we’re breathing new life into indie print media. Paper says we’re highlighting some of the coolest innovations in style, fashion and art. We wear a lot of hats within the magazine, from journalist, to graphic designer, stylist, assistant, web design and maintenance, social media, event planning, customer service, editor, producer, etc. And it’s also a collaborative experience with our contributors and an exciting chance to work with people from around the world. Each issue is almost like a book and gives a glimpse of humanity behind fashion, music, and art.

What inspired you to initially launch IN Magazine?

Isis Nicole: I knew that I was fully capable of making a magazine so I went for it. I’ve figured out a way to use both rejection and encouragement as motivation to build a foundation that’s fulfilling and meaningful to me, to those involved, and to those who come across it. The first issue launched in 2013. It was actually tabloid size back then and we used to print it twice a year, but now we’re travel size and annual. I imagine we’ll keep it that way for years to come. We take pride in the quality of the magazine, which takes months to put together. It’s more important to me to do well on a project with clear intentions rather than being driven by being first.  I dream of the day we have our own Rizzoli coffee table book detailing its history with work from past and present contributors. That’s what I’d like to make happen when I’m in my 40’s.

Left: Vidakush Jewlery photographed by Jacob Hengesbaugh for IN Mag #6 / Right: Hannah Black and Isis Nicole at IN Mag issue #6 launch party held Upstairs at Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

How has it evolved since you started it? How does each new issue differ yet build on the one before it?

Hannah Black: Isis worked with two different graphic designers for the first two issues, the third I designed, and from there we collaborated on the content. There’s a thread that runs through every issue and that’s Isis’s perspective and her heart, but the issues all look fairly different and tackle different topics and editorial subjects. We also reconnect with collaborators through the years and look at their stories in new ways. For example, we featured multi-talented artist Brooklyn White’s song Petty in our first promo video, the next year she interviewed Abra for our cover story, and this year we featured an interview with Brooklyn herself in conversation with Isis. We have very genuine connections with our contributors and love seeing them thrive within the mag and on their own terms and platforms as well.

What’s your process for creating the magazine? Take us through it step by step.
Isis Nicole: I live life then I pick a moment that either challenged me or inspired me to turn into a theme. From there, I talk things out with Hannah, discuss and decide on the bigger picture concepts that open things up to contributors. Then I respond to resume submissions, pitch artists, and flip through ideas from our individual journals.

Hannah Black: Since we publish in the fall, we take the rest of the year to live and brainstorm, and begin editorial work in February. Sometimes we have a list of artists we hope to work with and we attempt to tackle those big dreams first, but somehow it all comes into place by the summer and then we tackle small details. I take August and the first week of September to design the mag, and we throw our release party with it hot off the presses! Then the cycle begins again.

Lil Miquela for IN Mag #6 interview by Isis Nicole.

Why do you prefer creating your own magazine over buying larger more established publications such as Vogue or Love Magazine?

Isis Nicole: I actually in fact still buy larger magazines like Galore, Paper, The Editorial, and Dazed. And I’ll flip through Vogue or Love at the newsstand. I’ve been meaning to get Sukeban. I just read Anxy which is really good. I would buy them all if I had the means. I love magazines! I just happen to create my own because I want to, and because I can’t wilt away waiting for someone to take a chance on me. I have the tools, I need to create opportunities myself and encourage others to do the same.

Hannah Black: I enjoy those tent-pole publications and take time to read as many as I can get my hands on, but the barriers to entry are still very much there. We hope to be a forward-thinking, inclusive, creative voice that inspires others to DIY and not wait for a co-sign in order to feel valid.

Tell us more about your issue release party in LA. Do you host an event every time you release a magazine?

Isis Nicole: It was incredible! I was sick and could barely stand, but felt very accomplished and had a very happy heart. A lot of our contributors came out, some even from out of town, and it was just really special. If I could turn a number of moments that led up to that night into a movie, I would. We try to host an event every time we release a magazine. For me, it’s the absolute best and most fun way to celebrate the existence of each issue. We get to curate an experience with artists we admire, and share the print which feels pretty sweet.

Hannah Black: We had a lovely night on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel Downtown LA by the pool, mingling with friends and past and present contributors. Nail artist and former IN contributor Britney Tokyo was in attendance wearing beautiful lavender fur and photographing her contribution from a prior issue with her friends. My best friends from Chicago came out to celebrate with me. LA-based stylist Keely Murphy showed me the new design Jeffrey Campbell is making based on one of her favourite vintage shoes. Former IN cover star Mess Kid provided the sounds. Our friend, filmmaker Joan Summers hosted the night and captured it on camera. This event was our third launch, and yes, we hope to continue having launch parties in different cities and meeting friends and contributors along the way!

Left: HANA for IN Mag 6 photography by Ambar Navarro, stylist Keely Murphy / Right: Isis Nicole in her bedroom, 2006

How do you hope to grow the platform in the future?

Isis Nicole: I’m looking forward to walking into our future physical space. I’m looking forward to scented ads. We really want to work with a candle brand! A dream is also to be stocked in Barnes & Noble. I would love to do an event at its location in The Grove. That was the best newsstand at Barnes & Noble I’ve ever been to. I’m looking forward to making our first rom-com. Hosting our own awards. Giving away scholarships. The sky is the limit.

Hannah Black: I want to continue building community through IN! Host panel events with other magazine creators, shoot an editorial out of the country with the IN team, work with brands to create opportunities for artists. Dreaming really big, I’d love to have a physical space or even a production company! Maybe develop a TV show, a network, or movies. I want to see our big dreams come true, tell stories that inspire people, and make space for others to do the same.

Follow In Magazine on Instagram and pick up a copy on their website. And be sure to follow Youth Culture Editor Sara Radin on Instagram.

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