Q&A with Mika Kiyono and Briana Rotello, Editors-in-Chief of Two Fordham Magazines

Flash Magazine and Mode Magazine are two new student-run fashion/lifestyle magazines at Fordham. I sat down with Mika Kiyono, a junior who is the editor-in-chief of Flash, and Briana Rotello, a senior who is the founder/editor-in chief of Mode, to learn more about their publications. Briana, a true girly-girl with a big personality, and Mika, a hardworking and enthusiastic fashionista, are the true masterminds behind their publications. Both magazines are still in the process of becoming clubs, and yet they have been able to receive a ton of attention and support across campus. Though their publications may seem similar at first glance, they represent differing visions. Their innovative minds and passion for the magazine industry really shine through. Hear more about the editors themselves plus their experiences running and establishing their magazines.

Briana (left) and Mika (right), both editors of rising Fordham magazines.

Briana (left) and Mika (right), both editors of rising Fordham magazines.

 

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Mika: I’m Mika. I’m a communications major and French minor. I’m originally from Japan. I was born in Japan, went to elementary school in California, in the San Francisco Bay Area, moved back to Japan for high school and came back to the states for college.

Briana: My name is Briana Rotello. I’m a senior. I’m majoring in communications and minoring in marketing. I’m from Maryland, and I love sweets and fashion!

 

How would you describe your personal style?

Mika: This is the most difficult question ever. I actually don’t know what my personal style is! I wear what I want. It depends on my mood, and it depends on where I am. I’ve noticed that how I dress is different in Tokyo and in New York, but I can tell that I always have a masculine touch to my outfits. I love menswear inspired things like my boots, and I have lots of lace-up oxford shoes.

Briana: I really don’t know. I can’t pinpoint my personal style but I do tend to incorporate a lot of neutrals. Details are also important—I love accessories. If it was acceptable to wear all of my accessories at once, I would.

 

What’s your favorite fashion tip?

Mika: Just wear whatever. People can say “don’t wear this,” or “don’t wear that,” but if it makes you feel good and if you like what you’re wearing then just wear it!

Briana: Again, always accessorize. A great accessory makes all the difference.

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To Mika: Now aside from the more personal questions, what sparked your involvement in Flash?

Mika: Flash was launched by a girl named Suzette last year. I got an e-mail that she was starting a fashion magazine, which I thought was perfect because I didn’t feel that The Ram or The Paper or Fashion for Philanthropy were right for what I was looking into. So, I jumped at the opportunity. I started to work with her and some other girls to put together an issue last year in the Fall. Suzette left to study abroad, so we decided that we wanted to continue creating the magazine and trying to get established here. I took over as editor-in-chief as a sophomore. We all work together really well.

To Briana: What inspired you to start Mode?

Briana: It all started in my sophomore year when I was on my way home from my internship at Lucky Magazine. It just dawned at me that Fordham didn’t have a magazine, and I felt that it would be beneficial if there was a publication for students who are interested in this industry. The first step was to start a club, so that summer we started to make it happen by creating a club constitution. We spent months editing and met with lawyers to make it an official document, which took all summer to complete and send in. After completing the process, we had become even more inspired and excited. The semester after we had applied, I heard about a girl who was doing this crazy GM diet, which really upset me. I had also spoken with a nutritionist who said that eating disorders are prevalent on campus, but nobody discusses it. A big interest of mine is how the media portrays women and the effect that it has on self-esteem and body image. So, I decided that I wanted this magazine to become a way for students to be themselves and see fashion in a real way. I want to change fashion so that it represents the real women of the world.

 

Now, I’d like to learn more about the magazine itself.

Mika: We have a fashion section, a beauty section, a culture section, and a creative section that works on layout and photography. What we try to do is highlight all of the cool and amazing things that are going on on campus and in New York, because I feel that a lot of people just don’t know about all of these things. We want to be a platform where people can be inspired and find out about things that are going on. So, right now our goal is to become a source for Fordham students for inspiration. And we also have a blog that they can look at to find out what’s going on in New York and just give students a platform to express their creativity.

Briana: Our magazine is for the students, by the students, which is what we like to say. We try to focus solely on the Fordham community. It is not so much high fashion, but the fashion that the students have available to them. We use what they have in their own closets. We tell the idea of our shoot to the people who we are going to feature and they run with it. For example, our preview covergirl Christina Corrado was featured in clothes from her own closet that she put together. And just like any other magazine, we want to incorporate other aspects of student life. So we have lifestyle sections, room décor, clubs that people are involved with, and more just to get people interested and more aware of the community around us. But essentially, we are a well-being magazine with a fashion base.

 

Mika, I actually heard that you began strictly as an online publication but moved to print. How and why have things changed? 

Mika: Yes, well because we aren’t officially a club yet, we can’t publish a paper magazine. So, we use a site called Issuu, which is a digital magazine that actually lets you flip through the pages when you click. So, we have a magazine as well as the blog that just recently started.

Briana, Mode is a print magazine. Would you ever consider going online?

Briana: Not yet. We are currently on some forms of social media, and I think that is as far as we can go for now. Putting together a published magazine is a lot of work. We also want to stick with the print aspect of it and keep that value of “old times.” Many people are saying that print is dying, but there are some things that just can’t change, at least for fashion. You want to have that tangible thing that you can take with you. So I think we want to keep our content focused on print.

 

What are your main focuses?

Mika: So, the main sections are definitely the main pillars of our magazine. For fashion we might write about new trends, or the inspiration behind a fashion show. Last year, we wrote about what to wear to a concert because it was the beginning of summer when lots of music festivals were coming up. For beauty, we featured girls of different backgrounds who told us about their lives and had a little beauty shoot. I also interviewed Elaine Welteroth, the beauty editor of Teen Vogue which was awesome, as well as incorporated nail tips. In culture, we really focused on what’s going on in New York City, so we had a “Top 10 Cheap Things To Do In The City,” and a review about a museum exhibition. We also had a full-on photo shoot for both of last semester’s issues. Our Spring Weekend Preview issue was our first issue in which we had three big photo shoots in total. We did a Great Gatsby inspired shoot, a Spring Weekend shoot, and a shoot called Fordham Flashback. So, those were also really big projects—to do full-on shoots.

Briana: Of course, our main focuses are the students, their concerns and showing them as they are naturally. It is meant to be something that is accessible for the average Fordham student to inspire their self-expression. We want something that is completely relatable to the student body.

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What are some strengths that you have noticed while creating your magazine?

Mika: Our strength is definitely the students of Fordham. I have been so amazed with the talent that all of the students have. The magazine is completely student-run. All of the models and photographers, the writers and designers, everyone is a student. So it has been really amazing to see their talents, which you normally wouldn’t come across just by having a class with them or something.

Briana: We have an amazing team going. We have people that have internships at places such as Marie Claire, Self, Vogue, and Chanel. We also have people who have been working in the fashion industry and have a lot of insight to help us along the way. The best thing about the people who we have been working with is definitely their enthusiasm. Their excitement in making this magazine happen is what has been helping us succeed.

 

What are weaknesses that you have faced?

Mika: I guess that our weakness would be that, since we are not an approved club, that we don’t have a budget, which is hard. That’s definitely an issue. We would like to print soon but there are a lot of obstacles. You know, I feel like Fordham doesn’t make it easy to do certain things, but we have been able to work our way around it. And it’s also obviously hard to juggle schoolwork, because all the editors and other contributors are all super busy. So getting everyone together is always hard.

Briana: A challenge that has been time-consuming is the process of becoming a club. It kind of puts a strain on our plans for publishing and generally can get frustrating at times. Thankfully, we have had very hardworking Operations Managers to help us along! I think starting up was stressful. For our preview issue, we were using beginner-level programs due to our limited resources, files were not uploading correctly, and images were being shown in low resolutions, so it was not up to our ideal standards of what we wanted the publication to look like. But we were in such a time crunch that there wasn’t any room for changes to be done. We have learned our mistakes and we know what to expect now so that we have better direction and are planning accordingly for our next issue.

 

So, as you have mentioned, you are not an official Fordham club yet…

Mika: Unfortunately not, but we are going through the process. It’s a tough process because you have to write a constitution, and everything has to be laid out very clearly just so that there won’t be any problems. But it’s important that we go through this process so that Flash can last after the original members graduate. We want this to be like The Ram or The Paper. When people think of a fashion magazine at Fordham, we want them to think of Flash. So, it’s a hard process but I definitely say that it’s worth it because we want this to be carried on as a part of Fordham.

Briana: Not yet, but we are working towards it! It has been a long time coming. We have a few more steps to go. Though the process is long, we have learned and have really come together through the works of becoming an official club.

 

Mika, I know that there is a similar publication on campus called Mode. Are you familiar with them? How do you feel about Mode?

Mika: Yes. From what I understand, they are going in a different direction than we are. They are more about personal style and being confident in yourself, but I personally see Flash as more cultural. We obviously focus on personal style of Fordham students, but that is only one aspect of it. So, I do feel that we are doing different things.

Briana, I know that there is a similar publication on campus called Flash. Are you familiar with them? How do you feel about Flash?

Briana: Yes, we think that it is good for Fordham to have another magazine. We are all about self-expression and we think it is great for students to have a variety of outlets to choose from on campus.

 

Do you two affiliate with each other? Would you ever think of affiliating?

Mika: We do not affiliate. At the moment, I feel that we are doing different things, so no. I don’t know if you saw their pamphlet last semester, but that and what we put out last semester are very different. We really take pride in having high quality images and articles. We are working with amazing student photographers and we just want to create the best work that we can. And I’m sure Mode does the same thing, but I feel like our direction is different. So if it’s different, then why not have two?

Briana: No, at the moment we aren’t currently affiliated. We are focusing right now on our own values and what we are aiming towards with our publication. We want to really understand our audience and incorporate their needs into the magazine.

 

What advice would you give to others who are trying to start a publication on campus?

Mika: I think that is important to be passionate about what you want to write about, because it is a lot of hard work. There are so many little things that you would never even think of when putting together a publication, so I think that you really have to be dedicated. And if you are dedicated, then people who want to help with whatever you are doing will follow. It is also probably helpful to have a very specific point of view so that you know what your strengths are.

Briana: Start with a genuine idea. I think that the most successful blogs and magazines start with a genuine voice that they want to communicate to their audience. I think with that, you can build and create something truly great. And, as always, you need to work hard and have a plan—something unique that will really catch someone’s eye and make that person want to read more.

 

What is the most important thing that you hope for readers to take away from your magazine?

Mika: I hope that they realize what an amazing environment that we are in, and really take advantage of that, whether it is at Fordham, in the Bronx, or in New York in general. Plus, I want them to really recognize how talented Fordham students are, and celebrate being here in New York in a place where we can collaborate.

Briana: We want our audience to be comfortable with our magazine as well as inspired. We want our audience to become more aware of Fordham, our peers, and at the end of the day be proud of being a part of this community.

 

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