As social media-driven fashion continues to dominate the industry landscape, Outlander Magazine is here to defy the norm.
Arriving onto the scene in 2014 amidst a bevy of Tumblr pages and Instagram moodboards, the self-described “blogger-zine” has carved a unique (and very succesful) path that shows no signs of letting up. With a Twitter page boasting a formidable 370,000 followers and an Instagram page with 75k followers—which, in turn, caters to over 2 million profile views a month—Outlander’s success stems from its ability to strike a delicate balance between familiarity and novelty.
With a keen pulse on the streetwear scene, “O”—the anonymous powerhouse behind the page—curates content based on his personal taste and expertise, selecting pieces that resonate with the brand’s global audience while offering a fresh perspective. And while it’s fair to say that posts featuring young designers and fan-faves like Off-White, KidSuper and A-COLD-WALL* perform well, it is Outlander’s own editorials that truly shine. Built upon a foundation of mutual respect and a shared vision, the past six months have witnessed major collabs with the likes of SLAWN, Mia Khalifa and, more recently, Smino, all of which have served as a spotlight for the up-and-coming, the avant-garde, and the unconventional.
We recently caught up with “O” to delve into the intricacies of running a globally-loved style page, its position as a respected media outlet, and the current state of the online fashion community.
“I feel like the fashion scene right now is a journey that we’re all following and learning from, or at the very least waiting to see the next big thing.”
COMPLEX: How did Outlander begin and who was it created for?
O: Outlander was born as a blog in 2014. There was another page at the time, which has since stopped running, that retweeted my pics of the Rick Owens x Adidas collab, something from the MCM collection, and the Comme Des Garcons PLAY Converse, which I shared all in one picture. It got 50 likes and I was gassed! From that moment, I knew I wanted to do it for other people and let them know their style was appreciated. It wasn’t called Outlander at the start—it was just the @ name Street Fashion 01, because the goal at that point was to grow it and let people know what it was about right away. That’s still actually the @ of the page today—it works well on an SEO level: if people type in ‘fashion’ on Twitter, then we come up right away. Outlander is for that individual who really doesn’t care about dressing for the approval of others. In terms of my own personal style, I wear a lot of brands that are unknown because they’re a lot more unique and aren’t often seen on everyone. It’s also the kind of stuff I push on Outlander as well. When it comes to some of the larger and more established brands, I find pieces that they’ve created to fit the aesthetic that I believe Outlander is. That’s kind of how Outlander became a brand rather than just a blog that posts things.
In what way do you feel the new generation of social media curators, like Outlander, rival traditional media outlets?
I would actually call Outlander more of a “blogger-zine”. In my head, a magazine is any source of information; it doesn’t have to come from a traditional newspaper or a tabloid, and the personality behind Outlander is what rivals these. I think a lot of people, especially the younger generation, automatically assume that these big corporations don’t really care about what they are pushing, and when these corporations give their channels a bit more personality, their audience will see it as someone who is just doing their job running these pages and relate to it. They see them as equals and that’s how they engage more. With Outlander, I want people to think that if they were to DM us that we’d reply, which we do. I feel like the fashion scene right now is a journey that we’re all following and learning from, or at the very least waiting to see the next big thing. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve always been very transparent about what I didn’t know. The rivalry thing I also get, because we all share the same type of updates, so it’s easy to question why someone would engage with mine but not someone else’s. People like to comment where they know it’s going to be seen, and that’s where a lot of our conversation starts. You know if you put a comment under an Outlander post that it is going to be seen and heard.
Outlander often takes a journlistic role. Do you have any fashion journalism experience and do you close relationships with some of the people and brands that you cover?
I have no formal background in journalism. I was, however, one of the first apprentices for Burberry. I was on a retail apprenticeship, which was great, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. Even though I don’t do it as much anymore, I’ve always naturally loved writing. There are some strong relationships with some of the brands we work with. We’re super tight with all of the smaller ones, but we also have a solid foundation with larger brands that we’ve built over time. It’s these labels that see the Outlander brand and want to be part of it. Naturally, we’ve had relationships that have formed on that front.
Are you a collector yourself? Do you have a grail or favourite season/piece? What’s the rarest item you’ve ever owned?
I am, but I think what makes my ‘fits is the outerwear. I keep my T-shirts quite plain, and I’m usually rocking loafers on-foot. My favourite right now is a guy called Kody Philips; he’s out in the States and is a trouser extraordinaire. It’s a lot of American brands, because I feel like they’re just creating more exciting pieces than in the UK, who are very lifestyle-based right now and more about design. There’s also this brand called Bad Son; he makes these really cool, loud jackets. But, obviously, KidSuper is my main one. I’ve found that I’m more drawn to wearing brands where I’ve spoken in-depth to the head designer about a collection. Ultimately, it needs to be a brand where there’s a level of friendship. I’m more inclined to wear an independent brand because it feels like I’m supporting the vision of someone I respect; brands like A-COLD-WALL* and MSCHF—I’ve actually got the Big Red Boots but am yet to rock them outside because I’m scared of my foot getting stuck [laughs]. I actually make my own Outlander stuff, too, so I wear a lot of that.
Tell me about how Outlander went from an influential moodboard to a legitimate business. What was that journey like?
To be a business, you just have to understand where the value of things lie. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and as I got more tapped in, I’ve understood the industry better and what brands actually want when they allocate their marketing budget. It’s a tough one; I only think people within the industry need to view Outlander as a business. For people on the outside, it’s important that they’re not being sold to. It’s a really strong factor in what we share; you don’t want to just tell people to buy stuff they don’t really need, but if you can present them something that you know they’d enjoy and it then happens in an organic way, then that’s fine because people can make their own choices. I think other people now see us on the same level, which has come through creating our own content. We’ve just done an editorial with Smino and we’re super-focused on creating meaningful shoots with the right talent and brand partners.
What’s it like when you’re getting retweets from the likes of A$AP Ferg and followers are growing in large amound every single day?
It’s amazing because it means consistent growth. But, to be honest, we’ve had that consistent growth for over three years now so we just try to keep up the momentum. The projection for the following months is insane! When celebrities retweet, it’s amazing in the moment, but you can’t get an ego about it. I see Outlander being bigger than me, and although it’s great to get love from certain celebs, we have to be aware that each interaction only lasts 24 hours and then they’re forgotten about; it doesn’t need to be something to dwell on—especially in our case, as we have to keep it moving 24/7. All I really care about is the people who connect with us in an authentic way, celebrities or not.
What have been some of Outlander’s most popular posts? What were some of the first brands that you were sharing across your Twitter and Instagram pages?
The first post was back in 2014. I was into brands like Supreme and BAPE, and I think I was one of the first people wearing the CDG Converse at the time. One of the first things I posted was a BAPE shark hoodie—a real sign of the times. During Fashion Week, it’s more of the brands that are culturally aware of Outlander’s audience that do really well—it’s the wackier and cool brands that aren’t so corporate-facing. It’s also never really been about the brands, but more what pieces they’re creating.
How does Outlander find the balance between giving people what they know and showing them something new?
Because it’s all about my taste. Even when I get stuff sent from PRs, they understand that Outlander won’t just post anything. At the end of the day, I am Outlander. It is my taste; it’s everything I’ve learnt and shared on socials. You kind of get a feeling. I can look at something and, within five seconds, I can tell whether it’ll perform well and whether it’ll be something our audience will engage with. I look at so much content every day, you could show me two pictures and there might be the smallest difference, but I could tell you which one will perform better. It really is just a feeling you develop after doing it for so long.
How important is it for Outlander to shine a light on emerging artists/designers?
It’s everything. It’s the foundation of what Outlander is. Obviously, it’s a lot harder to find smaller brands because they aren’t often producing loads of pieces, so there has got to be a balance between them and the established labels. These young designers love it. They see these posts on Outlander as something to strive towards, which I think is amazing. It’s really how a lot of these magazines like Hypebeast started and continue to be. There’s almost a pledge that people take to be a part of that. I love being able to do that for these small brands; they appreciate it more and one would argue that they deserve it more. It also goes way beyond just posting them. We did a shoot with Mia Khalifa and SLAWN earlier this year where we used smaller brands. And with our most recent Smino editorial, the biggest brands used were Lavin and KENZO—the rest where all from brands with under 50k followers. I’m really trying to put on for these kids. There’s this great story: we had a brand from Brighton called Workroom Archive, who makes these sick denim pieces, send over a denim bandolier for our Smino cover shoot, and I believed in the designer so much that I made sure to take a signed Polaroid of Smino wearing it and sent it back to him with a message telling him to keep doing this thing.
What’s your overall opinion of the streetwear community today and how does that influence the type of content you share?
To make something a trend it has to appeal to the masses. Outlander has such a large audience that it does appeal to the masses, in a way. It’s good to touch on trends, but it’s important that you don’t make it the be-all and end-all of where fashion is. You’ve probably seen the whole ‘quiet luxury’ trend that’s all over TikTok at the moment. With Twitter, specifically, I can tap into this, but I allow the audience to come to conclusions themselves. I know, subconsciously, that stuff like a brown Prada jacket from 2015, which falls under the trend, is something that the audience wants to see right now. I’ve also never told our audience how to dress. I think that’s what’s great about Outlander: people can just take what they want and use it however they wish. In terms of trends, Outlander has its own aesthetic—I don’t really care about trends, but from doing this for so long, you can almost predict what will become a trend. A lot of these big magazines have so much on the line, it’s hard for them to predict what will blow up because of their role and reputation. However, because it is just me choosing what’s posted, I can take certain risks.
Why do you, O, choose to remain anonymous?
The only people that I think need to know are those within the industry because it’s easier to navigate if they know how I am. I’ve never thought the audience needed to know, though, because it’s not necessary. If you look at RyanAir on social media, the audience doesn’t know who’s behind it but they love it all the same. Unless you’re an egomaniac then you don’t need to tell everyone that you’re behind something so many people love. Outlander is bigger than me and, from a business perspective, while I have a team that I work with on a project-by-project basis, I want brands to know that there isn’t just one person running the whole show. Being known was never a goal regarding this stuff; I feel it just takes away from the authenticity of the brand. When I meet people at events and they find out what I do, they’re like: “No way! I’ve been following you for years.” That always feels really nice and also feels way more personal because it’s one-on-one and I can also take time to learn about what they do.
What advice do you have for any other like-minded accounts that are looking to turn image curation into a professional practice?
It’s really saturated right now. There are a lot of people doing this, and unless you find a super-niche angle and base your brand around that, then it’s going to be really difficult. I’ve watched a lot of Instagram pages not find their own success that they deserve because they’ve just taken what I’ve posted and just tried to copy what we’ve done. That is not what it’s about. You’ve got to have a vision and show them you know what you’re talking about, otherwise it won’t work. In terms of making it a business, you just have to offer something to brands that they can’t get for themselves. When you have an engaged audience like that, you can kind of build it into a business anyway. It has to feel like a community and it has to make sense. It’s the only way it will work.
Besides clothing, are there any other disciplines or areas that could extend the Outlander vision?
Over the next year, we have a really solid plan. We have parties and some big brand partnerships coming up, but I don’t want to give too much away. We’re focusing on shoots with people who fit the Outlander mindset at the moment because Outlander is an aesthetic and that’s what we enjoy dressing these people in. Although Smino has possessed a really well-curated style for years, we presented him with some crazy pieces and he knew exactly how to incorporate them into his own personal style. But for some, it’s such a step away from what they dress like usually, so that’s where some more of our power is coming from. But yeah, overall, some big things to come.