News & Scoops

2012 April 23

Magazine to Watch: Meet BULLETT's Editor-In-Chief, Idil Tabanca

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Idil Tabanca Idil Tabanca
James Orlando
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(NEW YORK) Have you ever wondered what would happen if The Face and Sassy magazine had a love child? So did Idil Tabanca, the editor-in-chief of a quick-witted, too cool for school magazine called BULLETT. The nostalgic-inducing art and fashion quarterly launched in 2010 and triggered a cult-like following (circulation hovering at 50,000) from New York to Norway. Even Judy Blume was a contributing ed! Tabanca took a break from shipping "The Sin Issue" to talk about being Madonna's doppleganger and why BULLETT is right on target.

What were you doing before calling the shots at BULLETT?
I grew up in Turkey and moved to California when I was 15. I studied film and digital media at UCSC. After graduation, I moved back to Turkey and worked in film production for two years, where I served as a script supervisor and did a little bit of art direction.

How did you land in the magazine world?
When I moved back to California, I got a phone call from a director who was shooting a movie in New York and wanted to hire me as a script supervisor. While I was working on that project, I met Sah [D'Simone]—our creative director at BULLETT. We worked on a couple random projects together and became really good friends. He brought me into the magazine as an art director when we launched in the fall of 2010.

Why is the magazine called BULLETT?
I wasn’t involved in the naming process, but I’ve been told it’s about taking something with a negative meaning and turning it around with a positive spin. When people say the word “bullet,” we want you to think of the magazine now, not real bullets.

Is this your dream job?
It is, but it’s a little more stressful than I saw it in my dreams.

If you weren’t the editor-in-chief of BULLETT, what would you be doing?
Writing is my thing, so I’d be writing screenplays. It’s something I do a lot in my free time. That’s one of the reasons we have so many film-related features. 

As a young publication, how do you nab so many A-listers?
We really push. The whole team is young and hungry. We just annoy the crap out of them to be honest. And we go above and beyond with our proposals. For our first issue, we made a mock-up magazine and brought it to meetings with agencies and publicists. We also typically find a photographer and a stylist before the pitch and put together a mood board that’s very detailed, from the shoes the celebrity will be wearing to the lighting concept. That way we paint a clear picture and everyone is on the same page.

Who are you and your readers obsessed with right now?
We’re a nostalgic bunch. We’re obsessed with anything from the nineties to the early 2000s. You’d be surprised how much buzz these kinds of stories get when you feature people like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Thora Birch, or Melissa Joan Hart.

What other stories have garnered the most attention?
Our journalism pieces are always a conversation starter. In our next issue, we have a journalist who went into crime scenes with the clean-up crew. My favorite section is “Alter Talk,” where we have comedians talking to themselves or shooting their alter ego. It's inspired by Truman Capote’s self interviews from the seventies. 

Who do you want for your dream cover?
I’ve been trying to get M.I.A. for so long. Grace Jones is another good one, and Alan Ball is doing a lot of special things.

How often in the past year have you felt that you’ve nailed it from cover to cover?
"The Obsessed Issue" was great. With every issue you have to meet in the middle and sacrifice certain things that you want to do. We really stood by "The Obsessed Issue" and didn’t have to give up that much.

What’s the greatest milestone since the magazine's launch?
There’s not one thing that jumps out at me, but hiring a new team was a big one. We’ve gone through a number of people and department heads which has changed the direction of the magazine. When I became editor-in-chief, I felt like I had more control to change things and move forward with a new vision. It was difficult to establish an identity for the magazine before because there were too many cooks in the kitchen.

What is the voice of BULLETT?
We’re academic in our writing. We’re all about giving you content. For example, it takes about two hours to read any magazine back-to-back in the industry. It takes exactly eight hours to read ours. We take our features and our profiles very seriously, which doesn’t mean that we don’t have a sense of humor. 

What’s your fashion POV?
We’re very fashion-forward, but fun. We’re all about street style too. It’s high and low, ying and yang. Most magazines are either high or low. There isn’t a magazine that really bridges uptown with downtown.

How would you describe your own style?
My own style is cracked out. There are lots of print and color since I grew up in the West Coast when the nineties hip hop trend was still lingering. People mistake me for Lady Gaga when I’m wearing super short shorts and high heels, but usually people think of me as a young Madonna. I think it’s because I have a broken tooth that looks like a gap. Since I broke it, I get Madonna shout-outs about once a week.

Which emerging designers would you like to launch in BULLETT?
Jessie Hands, Petra Metzger, David Koma, and Timur Kim

What magazines do you compare BULLETT to?
Dazed and Confused, i-D, Love, and I Love You. Those magazines do that high and low fashion bridge very well. I haven’t seen a magazine that’s successfully done that in America. Here, magazines are for a very young, sometimes hipster, audience. Or they’re very Conde Nast; you know, refined. 

Who’s your target audience?
Tastemakers in their twenties and thirties. We have a young readership, younger than your average Conde Nast reader. This generation has a stronger opinion. They have money and access to so much information. You can start a revolution without leaving your bathroom.  

Which editor or writer would you love to hire for the magazine?
Carine Roitfeld is a goddess. I’m sure her new magazine will be mind-blowing. I’d love to have her do selects for BULLETT.

Who should be reading your magazine that may not be?
We’re film heavy, but I’d like to address the music industry more. We have a lot of studios in L.A. reaching out to us, and we just came back from Coachella and saw the Tupac hologram. That show was epic! It’s going to be a stepping stone in history. I was seeing a Nirvana reunion tour via hologram. I want to be a part of that movement.

Who were your earliest BULLETT adopters?
Cindy Crawford and Mark Ruffalo were big supporters. They were on our first cover.

How many people are on staff?
There are 22 people and a large group of contributors, which changes with every issue. We’re based in New York, but we have BULLETT ambassadors all over from California to London to Canada.

Is there any chance the sticker page will make a comeback in the next issue?
We want to offer something fun and different for each issue, so we’re thinking of maybe including cool BULLETT condoms or postcards in the next one.

What magazines do you miss from the newsstands?
The Face and Sassy. Those magazines are definitely inspiration for us.

What do you think of Tavi?
She’s amazing! I remember when I first stumbled onto her blog back in the day. I thought I found my soulmate.

When was the last time you dodged a bullet?
We had a very important shoot for one of our covers three days before the issue was closing. The photographer would not listen to me. He just kept taking summertime pictures when we were shooting for fall. When I got the photos back, I was incredibly unhappy. I got a hold of the talent’s information and explained to them that neither one of us could go out with a story like this. I had to protect the vision of the magazine, myself, and my talent. The talent ended up reshooting the story all night and didn’t sleep for two days. If that was anyone else, it wouldn’t have happened.

What kind of hours do you work?
I wake up, go to work, and then come home to sleep. It’s been like that for the past two years. Not only do we have our magazine to run, but we also have our new store opening in a couple months so customers can buy items featured in the magazine. And we launched BULLETT Creative Agency so we can shoot commercials and ads. I don’t remember the last time I kissed a boy!

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