The link to this has been broken on the Herald’s website for a while, so I’ve re-posted it. I took a photo of the hair: you’ll see it soon enough. (Note that all this is nearly a year out of date at this point; the site has only gotten cooler since.)
Bass Café is a terrible place to meet up. Because it’s such a great place to meet up, the tables are packed, and I’m wandering fruitlessly in search of Dorian Grinspan SY ’14. Yale Facebook tells me he’s a worried, bushy-haired brunette who looks nothing like the future king of college fashion. No one seems to fit—but then I turn and see someone who could indeed be that king.
His smile brings extra sunlight into the underground coffee shop, though he hasn’t picked up a tan from the glow. His sweater looks hand-woven. And his hair is spectacular—a waterfall in defiance of gravity, it pours away from his forehead and washes over his temples.
I’d planned to ask Grinspan about his new project—Out of Order, the online culture mag that spammed Yale College and reads like a mashup of Pitchfork and Vogue—but that hair is my first priority.
“Who cuts it for you?” I ask. By now, we’re wandering Harkness in search of an empty room.
He considers the question for a moment. “Actually… I had it done in New York.” He sounds a bit embarrassed. “I go there a lot. I wish I got to stay in Yale more often.” He opens yet another door onto yet another study session. “Is this place always so busy on Sunday afternoon?”
Finally, we sit down and I get my curiosity in gear. “What should we tell people Out of Order… well, is?”
Grinspan tells me Yale lacked a “comprehensive culture magazine”: a blend of music, film, art, and fashion (not to mention architecture and blurry photos of Yalies’ nights out). “It might be a bit confusing, but it’s meant that way—you see a lot of random things, maybe you’ll be interested in something new.”
He’s right—Out of Order overwhelms the reader at first glance. As I type this, its top stories are an exclusive interview with Woody Allen; a discourse on prison design; coverage of London’s Fashion week; a lengthy explanation of how the Academy awards its Oscars. Its Tumblr, titled “Love” on the main site, is a disorderly wall of photos: models, landscapes, abstract paintings, and a pair of bloody eyeballs staring one another down. The site (designed by Bolz of Berlin) resembles a luxury version of Tumblr, which is exactly Grinspan’s intention.
“The idea is to bring magazines from the other world inside the college world,” he says. But the magazines he cites—Purple, Monocle Man, Dazed and Confused—are foreign to me. I look them up later, to find that Out of Order is a near copy of the last, from the writing style to the website design. But Dazed and Confused started up in 1992 and has existed online for at least six years; Out of Order launched three weeks ago. Come April, 20,000 copies of the print edition will flood the East Coast and possibly overwhelm Yale’s magazine racks. Grinspan estimates the first issue will be 220 pages—none of which will have appeared online.
How did a project so enormous appear so quickly?
Grinspan’s life to this point seems to have prepared him to launch exactly this magazine. His parents move in the loftiest circles of the French fashion scene. His godmother owns a style monthly called Numero, which has—of course—a stunning website. Even when summer vacations removed him from his native Paris, Grinspan made connections; he met Out of Order’s film editor, now at the University of Michigan, in a California cinema camp.
Other connections aren’t so accidental: The Woody Allen interview came about when Grinspan’s mother put him in touch with a founder of The-Talks.com. The site had Bill Murray, John Malkovich, and Ben Kingsley on call, so they happily spared Allen to help out an acquaintance.
In many ways, Out of Order seems too big for Yale. The Herald asks writers to review the new Chairlift album; Out of Order interviews the band’s frontwoman. Weekend covers the latest art school exhibit; Out of Order reports on the Da Vinci show in London’s National Gallery. Managing editor Juliet Liu, SM ’14, in fact, does her job studying abroad in London; OOO went behind the scenes at that city’s Fashion Week (along with those of Paris and New York, Grinspan’s usual haunts).
“My job, at the moment, is manifold,” Liu tells me. Despite its massive scope, Out of Order’s staff is a third the size of the Herald´s. The site relies on freelance writers in several cities in addition to Yale students, and photos are streaming in from Harvard, Emerson, and RISD, with more universities on the way. Somehow, Liu finds the time to arrange all her content in an orderly fashion, hunt down interviews, and handle her course load without falling behind on another key responsibility: “The job requires that I stay updated with all things cultural. Reading New York Magazine or Variety or Pretty Much Amazing all contribute to my role [at Out of Order].”
Much of OOO’s staff comes from Cavort, an undergraduate fashion magazine that folded last year but gathered some of Yale’s top culture hounds in the process. Cristina Vere Nicoll, SY ’14, a London native who helps handle the workload for that city while shuttling between New York and New Haven, lives and breathes art, just as Grinspan does fashion and Liu film. Vere Nicoll’s position is narrow enough that she has time to double-major in Art and Art History, work in the YCBA archives and give tours at the YUAG, and she’s enthusiastic at Grinspan’s management of her workload: “I never have to think about what fashion is doing or how advertising is going. It’s ideal!”
Vere Nicoll is the only staffer who openly hopes for a career with Out of Order after college—and all of them, even the editor-in-chief, hesitate to speak too boldly of the magazine’s future. I ask Grinspan what he’d think of making Out of Order his life’s work. He thinks for a long time.
“I don’t know.” Pause. “I really don’t want to be an editor!” He laughs, but it’s only a sound. “If I had to do it all again, I don’t think I would. But it’s a love/hate relationship.” When I follow up the next day, he e-mails to tell me he’s boarding a flight to Paris. In our conversation, I ask what he thinks of Yale after a life spent in the world’s cultural capitals.
He’s quick to defend his Yale pride: “You can’t compare New York and Yale—they have nothing to do with one another.” He’s passionate about dorm-room conversations, low-key parties, and even our little slice of nightlife. “Toad’s sucks—but it’s great!”
Despite its student writers and audience, however, Out of Order is clearly the product of a world beyond any college. In Out of Order’s world, magazines hire professional website designers, shoot moody videos of models lounging in armchairs, and invest small fortunes in travel and fashion show tickets. Grinspan gave OOO its start-up funding, without applying for fellowships or asking for help at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute, and seems to regard the practice as natural. He loves high society and college culture; why wouldn’t he start a magazine combining the two and give it away for free?
We step out into the February sun—Cross Campus looks like a Gant ad—and I ask Grinspan if he thinks the magazine will start to turn a profit soon. “It’s not we’re looking for,” he casually replies. “But ideally, it will be self-sustaining.”
As the publishing industry chokes and sputters, Out of Order might just survive. The website is beautiful, and I’m just cultured enough to recognize that their content (excepting a few studies of old, classy films) is close to cutting-edge. They review college music as it arrives, fashion three months before it arrives, and art shows that might seem foreign to Yalies but would thrill students at Cambridge or Columbia. Their photographs, especially those given to them by art galleries, are a match for anything else on the Internet; clicking through the sum of the content so far, I find more than a few shots to add to my “things to buy when I have money” bookmark.
On the other hand, the magazine’s superb style serves as a gateway to writing that is often less engaging. The music reviews are awash in awkward metaphors (“the sonic equivalent of a motorcycle gang”) and excess adjectives (I count eight in one sentence, including “quick” twice). The art show write-ups are more skillfully done, but sometimes lack content: often, the image introducing an article is the only art sample you get, and OOO refuses to provide outside links to further context. This is intentional—to “emphasize the magazine aspect,” says Grinspan—but often frustrating, especially when I can visit other sites that pair equally strong or stronger text with an easy way to learn more about what interests me. Sometimes, an intriguing piece ends early or abruptly shifts direction, like the rough draft of a college essay that would be great with a little rewriting.
And then there’s the paradox any college fashion site must confront when it imports topics from the outside world: its target audience isn’t likely to feel a strong connection to many aspects of the luxury world it presents. Romain Le Cam jewelry (tacky-on-purpose gold chains are a major element) isn’t my thing, but even if it were, I can’t find where to buy them even with a search engine. “New York Fashion Week: Where to Party” is extremely detailed, but how many Yale students need or want to know such a thing? How many rich and/or fashionable people would use Out of Order instead of one of the fashion world’s more established sources of information? Why are all those cool “love” photos presented entirely without descriptive text, or even searchable artist names? A great painting by someone named “Maddsor” suddenly saddens me when the word returns exactly two web pages.
But I’m pretty sure I’m overthinking this. Without seeming to try, Grinspan peppers his conversation with fashion factoids and observations that prove his impeccable knowledge of high culture. Some of Out of Order’s pieces are brilliant (those film studies, for example), and while most of the content echoes what a thousand other blogs are doing, an amazing quantity of writing has appeared in the first few weeks, and the flow will only accelerate as the magazine grows. More exclusive features are sure to follow Woody Allen’s conversation, and the first paper issue will be one of the biggest college-run magazine launches in history, with advertisers salivating at the thought of 20,000 young consumers immersing themselves in Out of Order’s stylish world.
Or it could fail to attract attention, lose money and eventually vanish (the website has no ads, and 20,000 copies times 200 pages is expensive math). In a way, it’s funny that Grinspan is taking this risk. Before he departs for a meeting in Atticus, I ask him if he has a general philosophy of fashion. He tells me he doesn’t mind when people don’t care about clothes. “I would judge someone more,” he finishes, “who really tries hard, but fails.” Few Yale students are trying harder than Grinspan to get a project up and running—but somehow, I don’t see failure in his future.