Paul Toner’s Clobberzine Is for the Working-Class Glamazons of the North

The Clobberzine Founder and Editor-in-Chief talks tackling issue 002, circumnavigating the mainstream and amplifying working-class voices.

WORDS Emily Phillips

Against the backdrop of 2020 – a deadly pandemic, international Black Lives Matter protests and natural disasters resulting from our climate crisis – the fashion industry vowed it would change. And yet, within the first half of 2021, fashion remains rife with accusations of racism, sexual abuse allegations, political nepotism, and has been financially forgotten about in stimulus packages by governments across the globe.

Enough is enough. We must stop expecting change from those who continue to benefit from a system that perpetuates racist stereotyping, capitalist pink-washing and gatekeeps financial opportunities from working-class creatives. Innovation must come from new perspectives, new voices and new faces. While the hellscape of the past year has increasingly tested our ingenuity, a number of young creatives have used this time to pioneer new projects, creating their own opportunities and spotlighting original talent and innovative works.

As part of our new series ‘Industry Innovators’, BRICKS meets the creatives pioneering change in the fashion industry. Today, we meet Liverpudlian journalist, Paul Toner, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of emerging fashion publication Clobberzine. Clobberzine began as Paul’s final major project at London College of Fashion where, at the time, he held a part-time editorial assistant position at 10 Magazine before being promoted to his current role as Online Editor. Culture Editor Emily Phillips joins Paul for a conversation that delves deep into issue 002, avoiding the mainstream and amplifying working-class voices.

Hey Paul! Could you please give us a brief description of Clobberzine and what inspired it? 

Clobberzine is a top-notch style mag which I’d say is the best thing since sliced bread. We cover fashion, music, culture and politics – firmly rooted in the north and spotlighting authentic voices from a regional perspective. The mag was born out of a desire to create a publication which spoke to people like me and spoke like me. So many working-class lads from home are always dressed to the nines, the same can be said for the glamazons who can be seen parading through the town centre at night. So why haven’t they got a fashion magazine directed at them? I hope Clobberzine is that publication. 

So many working-class lads from home are always dressed to the nines, the same can be said for the glamazons who can be seen parading through the town centre at night. So why haven’t they got a fashion magazine directed at them?

Paul Toner

Why did you want to launch your own magazine?

Apart from actually having to do one for my final major project, I really just wanted to create a space where I could foster a community of contributors from across the UK, where we could speak how we want and have a platform to spotlight talented people who mean something to us. 

Working-class young people in places like Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and beyond really take pride in the clothes they put on their back, whether it’s the Dsquared2 top they’ve saved up to buy, or the football shirt of their favourite team. I wanted them to have magazines directly aimed at them.

How has your Northern and working-class upbringing influenced the making of the magazine?

In every aspect, to be honest. From the talent we feature, to how we write in the publication, to the large chunk of contributors who make up our extended team, even the name. It’s a right northern affair. 

What has been an unexpected adversity you’ve faced while creating issue 2 and how were you able to overcome it?

Trying to create a mag in the middle of a lockdown is a bit of a mission. Because I wanted the second issue to focus on club culture and going out-out again, it was hard trying to map content without relying too much on that sacred June 21 day of freedom. Thank god we didn’t, ‘cause it ain’t going ahead anyway. 

What is your experience with mainstream media being alienating for working-class, northern creatives, and how does Clobberzine explore this notion? 

In the creative field there’s still such a reliance to be down in London. If you can’t get down here, or simply don’t want to – because, why should you have to move from where you’re from for work? – you’re automatically still perceived as being at a disadvantage. Even if you do make the move, for uni usually, how’re you meant to compete with rich people in your class who can do as many internships as they please because they don’t have to work part time, where as you’re trying to balance a job and uni whilst trying to squeeze in free work experience between it all. Northern, working-class creatives are just put at a blatant disadvantage from the start.

Northern, working-class creatives are just put at a blatant disadvantage from the start.

Paul Toner

With Clobberzine, I want to not only feature talent from northern, working-class backgrounds, but also photographers, stylists and writers, too. The dream would be to be a part of a wider cultural hub up north in the future which provides paid working opportunities for working-class creatives so they don’t feel like they need to move down south in order to make a career. 

Why did you choose to make the switch from a men’s magazine to an ‘ungendered’ publication? 

It just happened naturally to be honest. I found myself wanting to feature womenswear designers such as the likes of CSM grad Tasha Sweeney, who dedicated her grad collection to her family’s love for Everton FC. I don’t want Clobberzine to pigeonhole itself when it’s only just begun. 

The Clobberzine description on your website states: “…Clobberzine cuts through the bullshit to deliver only the best in fashion, music and culture.” How do you go about achieving this?

I’d say just by delivering authentic, quality content. I think there’s a sense of humour missing in a lot of magazine publishing today. I want Clobberzine to tell real stories about real people but take the piss with it, too. So many magazines out there do a great job at taking a more poetic/nuanced way to tell stories. I think Clobberzine thrives more when we just get straight to the point. 

How do you avoid falling into the mainstream? 

I don’t think mainstream is a dirty word. Many of our readers, in particular the men, do like what you’d call “mainstream” brands. What we’re trying to do is highlight and showcase emerging brands/musicians/talents who are from a similar background to our reader, or share their accent, or those who tell stories which are much more relatable than a mega brand over in Milan or Paris. It’s amazing how globalised the creative industry is, we just can’t forget about talent across Britain, too.

What we’re trying to do is highlight and showcase emerging brands/musicians/talents who are from a similar background to our reader, or share their accent, or those who tell stories which are much more relatable than a mega brand over in Milan or Paris.

Paul Toner

Why is it important to you to amplify working-class voices? 

It’s never crossed my mind to have Clobberzine any other way. As I touched on earlier, when you’re working-class you have to work 10 times harder to break into the industry compared to those who can just pay their way into it. If I’m going to have a platform, which isn’t heavily reliant on advertiser content, why wouldn’t I use the space to amplify creatives who are doing some absolutely incredible work?

What kind of relationship do you have with your team and contributors and how has it been formed?

It’s a big mix. A large chunk are people I know from uni or home, or people I’ve met over the last few years whose vision aligns with mine. With Issue 002, we brought in a lot of amazing contributors who I’ve actually never met before. Whether it be through suggestions of friends, or people I’ve just stumbled across on Instagram who are really fucking amazing. People have also reached out asking to contribute too, which has been incredible. It’s all happened very organically which I’m super happy about. 

What’s in store for the future of Clobberzine? 

We’ve just put out our second issue which has been so nice to see everyone’s reactions. I’m looking forward to working on more exciting projects in the future. I’d love for Clobberzine to morph more into a creative agency, working with a wealth of talented brands/artists/talents on as many exciting projects that we can sink our teeth into. Before all that, though, make sure to grab your copy of Issue 002!

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<strong>Emily Phillips</strong>
Emily Phillips

Emily Phillips is a BIPoC Canadian writer presently based in North London. She is a current BA: Fashion Journalism student at University of the Arts London: London College of Fashion. Emily has an insightful, creative, and seductive voice that shines through in her writing. Her work has been published in 10 Magazine and Coeval Magazine, as well as the 2021 book Networked Futures: Online Exhibitions and Digital Hierarchies from the digital art gallery platform isthisit?

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