​peek inside the perfectly unpolished pages of no substance

We talk to Becca Deakins, the editor of the independent magazine, No Substance who’s shooting sumo wrestlers and shutting down stereotypes.

by Billie Brand
29 July 2015, 10:00am

photography and styling becca deakins

As the short but sweet editor's letter of No Substance sums up; "'all style, no substance' is a term that suggests people with style lack meaning and depth." In a world of glossy magazines and easy, breezy, beautiful cover girls, it might often seem that fashion is all about the shallow outer shell, and never about what's going on beneath it. It's this phrase and concept that inspired 22-year-old Becca Deakins to launch No Substance magazine. Lo-fi, high-fashion and beautifully put together, the first issue features a blossoming little black book of contributors including Rankin, Masha Mel and Toilet Paper magazine.

Documenting selfie-snapping Geisha girls, the (beauty) Queen, and the censure of stereotypes, No Substance is a photographic journal that combine brains and beauty. i-D caught up with Becca to talk about HRH, the new wave of print zines and Japan's panty fetish.

Photography Becca Deakins. Styling Lovisa Blomstrand

What's the story behind No Substance?
I was once told I'm all style and no substance and I've been like 'what the hell' ever since. The magazine evolved as a response to the phrase. A lot people think fashion is frivolous so I wanted to show the unity of style and substance through images. I cut the 'all style' as I didn't want it to be seen exclusively as a style publication as we primarily focus on fashion, culture and photography.

What makes No Substance different?
It's text free, lo-fi, raw and unpolished.

What inspired the aesthetic?
I'm really drawn to the subtly obscure; I find it so relatable. I find culture a lot more inspiring than fashion. I don't think fashion images should inspire other fashion images. I wanted there to be a cultural perspective on every editorial so I included a lot of documentary photography, even within fashion editorials I added everyday documentation.

Photography and styling Becca Deakins

How did you decide which contributors to feature?
I wanted to showcase emerging talent alongside the established - I felt it was so interesting having an image from Rankin's archive next to mixed media work by up and coming stylist Lilja Hrönn. Within the Curated section, I asked a range of creatives that I admire to provide a photograph that's "all style and no substance". It was exciting never knowing what I was going to receive, that's why that section had everything from architectural columns by photography duo Scandebergs, to a man covered in spaghetti from Toilet Paper magazine. "All style and no substance" means something completely different to everyone.

What's your favourite shoot from the issue?
Probably the 'panchira' underwear shoot. Japan has a really public panty fetish. I saw vending machines that sell used panties for anyone to buy; basically girls wear underwear for a day and then deposit them in the machine. The machines are technically illegal but I saw a few in Tokyo's adult district. The fetish is so common that on the underground they have warning signs that say, "watch out for upskirting!" Apparently men use phones to photograph up a girls skirt. The editorial was shot in London but based on this concept - we shot all the situations that girl's underwear can be exposed by accident.

Photography and styling Becca Deakins

I love your Overseas section! Why did you decide to shoot in Japan?
I wanted to showcase a culture that many people don't see on a daily basis. I think selfies are considered quite a narcissistic thing, so having the Geisha girls take selfies in traditional dress kind of provided justification to the selfie and added the 'substance' or reasoning behind it.

What was the best thing about Japan?
The arcades!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Mexico - right now I am so into Mexico's pointy boot dance culture.

Photography Becca Deakins. Styling Yana Surodina

Despite the rise of digital, it seems like independent magazines are having a moment. Why do you think our generation has such an affinity with print?
I think because we're a generation that was tearing pictures out of magazines and pinning them on our bedroom walls, not just on Pinterest. It's just so nostalgic.

Why did you choose print as a format?
To me, I feel like print is more premium because of the physical engagement. I think we see so many digital images every day without even acknowledging their worth, we scroll through Tumblr and Instagram and don't appreciate them or engage with them in a way that they deserve. I personally don't spend the time considering digital images in the same way as print.

Clothing and photography Kotoha Yokozawa

What advice would you give to those who want to start their own magazine?
Have the guts to approach the people you admire - if you don't ask, you don't get.

Who would you most like to find flicking through the pages of No Substance?
Probably the Queen - I hope one day she gets to see her special feature. 

Photography Becca Deakins



Text Billie Brand

becca deakins
no substance