Speaking with Sarah Dubbeldam, founder and editor in chief of Darling Magazine, is like grabbing a cup of tea with someone who doubles as your muse and your best friend. She’s insightful, witty and eager to lend you personal advice and encouragement at any given moment—just like her magazine! Sarah’s approachable personality shines through the thick pages of this shelter magazine, placing it at the very top of our desk and bedside piles. Today, she shares the story behind Darling’s rise from an idea to an 11th issue (out now!), as well as the passionate discussion it’s starting worldwide.
How did you get into the editorial world? Tell us what sparked your interest in this creative field, and how you went from “art grad” to “magazine founder.”
I’d always been an artist, and using creativity to bring about social change and good was a passion of mine. So after college, I decided I wanted to work in film because I saw it as a positive media for communicating bold messages effectively. But after I got an internship at Sony Pictures and realized how long that road might be, I started brainstorming how I could work in another field of media and have the same effect, but perhaps with more control over the content.
My friend Kelli Lane and I started brainstorming about starting a magazine (that we would actually read) and came up with the concept of Darling. For the next four years, I worked three different freelance jobs to have the flexibility to work on Darling on the side. During this time, a team of about six women and myself met weekly and laid out the foundations of Darling until we had a very clear company vision. On Nov. 11 at 11:11 p.m. (no real significance—just fun), we launched our online blog. In May of 2012, we did a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for creation of the print magazine, and when it was successful, we produced the first issue in fall 2012. We are now currently on our 11th issue!
What are three of the most meaningful positive changes for which you have seen Darling Magazine be a catalyst?
I see it doing three main things. One, really bringing the discussion of “What does it really mean to be a healthy woman in this culture?” to a deeper level and changing negative perspectives in women’s minds. Two, showing real beauty by not retouching women’s bodies or skin. I feel that doing this is truly bringing confidence back to women—affirming who they were meant to be, not pressuring them to live up to some unattainable standard. Three, reshaping the way men and women see women in regard to sex appeal. Darling seeks to be “modest yet sexy,” which is a very different perspective in a culture and media space that is often using sexuality to sell product and, many times, objectifying women as sex objects in the process.
What has been the most exciting opportunity for you and your business so far?
Some of the partnerships we are creating with influencers and celebrities have been really exciting. To see people who have a large influence and desire to see change in media get behind us is really encouraging for us and our growth as a company.
We imagine that being immersed in the editorial industry has given you a unique perspective on the fashion world. What are some style tips you’ve picked up along the way?
I’ve learned a lot about “balancing” an outfit. For example, if you have an oversized top, make sure your pants are slim or your skirt is narrow and the right length. If you have wide pants or an A-line skirt, make sure your top is more fitted. I’ve also learned to play with fashion more and establish my own style apart from pressure to follow “trends.” I love Paris, so I try to dress like a Parisian. When I shop, I ask myself, “Would a French girl buy this?” I’ve also learned a lot about minimalism—sometimes I try to have way too many things going on in an outfit, and I’ve learned from our stylists that less can really be more!
How do you manage to incorporate the Darling Magazine mission of practicing “virtue, wit, modesty and wisdom” into the different facets of your life (creative director, wife, kitty mom)?
Well, starting with the cats—it’s easy because they don’t talk! But being the editor in chief of Darling, I really try to embody the virtues we promote within our company. I like to practice the art of self-evaluation and make sure that I’m acting in line with who I want to be. I journal a lot through any difficult situations that arise and try to seek wisdom from friends—of course, I’m not perfect, but one can always strive for the best! As a wife, I really try not to bring work home. I seek to be a good listener to my husband, and I try my best to care about him and the things that are important to him.
What inspires you?
Travel. Deep friendships. Poignant conversations. European magazines. Interesting statistics. World news. Studying other cultures and their art forms. Reading old books and classic authors, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald. Getting out into nature. . .
What were your goals and influences when designing the Darling brand?
Back to Paris (I’m not sure when this city and its people became an obsession of mine!), I’m really inspired by the way the French value everything—and I mean everything—as beautiful. Even a teeny-tiny flower shop looks like a professional set design from a romantic comedy. I decided I wanted Darling to embody that appreciation for the detail of beauty—down to every color and design choice in every shoot and layout. I am also inspired by excellent writers, so I wanted our words to be full—full of both life and depth; not words that you’d throw away, but ones you’d keep on your shelf forever as a source of wisdom.
Where would your dream vacation take you?
Right now, I’d really love to go to Tokyo, Japan. I’ve been obsessing over Japanese design and the way that the Japanese—like the French—really value design in a much more minimalistic, clean sense.
If you could personify the voice of Darling Magazine, what would she sound like? What kinds of conversations is she starting, and how is she contributing to a movement?
The voice of Darling is love. She’s got her arms open wide and is seeking to start conversations with women about how much they are worth and what type of impact they can have on the world. She sounds like the mix of a dear friend and your grandmother, bringing a refreshing vulnerability coupled with a deep wisdom. She wants women everywhere to stop competing and start affirming one another. She says to everyone, “Let’s be on the same team and remind one another how beautiful we are.”
What’s on your desk right now?
Mister Meow, our office cat, along with his dusty little paw prints. A computer, thesaurus, lots of magazine tear-outs of art inspiration, lip gloss, a mug of tea, an Apolis candle and a jar of flowers.
What is your favorite way to unwind after a long day?
I love going out to eat, then going home and playing with my cats and watching a good movie.
Where do you see yourself, and the company, in five years?
We hope that the Darling Magazine distribution grows exponentially all over the nation as well as internationally, becoming a leading voice in women’s magazines. We are also building out a Darling marketplace in which we are seeking to collaborate with brands and expand our events on a national level. We really see Darling becoming a multifaceted brand, perhaps even branching into a children’s magazine and TV show. As for myself, I’d love to continue serving as editor in chief while also having children and further developing my own writing and speaking platforms.
Define how Darling Magazine is a flash of delight.
Darling is a flash of delight because it provides a tangible way to slow down in such a fast-paced technological world. From thick, good-smelling paper to dreamy photos to inspiring tidbits of wisdom, it’s like a moment with a dear friend and a large cup of chai tea.