kristin prim has been building a feminist publishing empire since she was 13
Former teen fashion phenomenon Kristin Prim (who started her own magazine in middle school) talks to i-D about her radical next project.
Katarzyna Kozyra. Courtesy Kristin Prim.
Kristin Prim arrived for our interview wearing a metal dog collar, a flight of silver hoops ascending her ear, and a slightly delirious smile. She'd been up until 4am making the final edits to the proofs for A23, her soon-to-launch biannual art book, before it went to press. But she still had the energy to talk at breakneck speed about her myriad publishing projects and her plans for later that night. She was going out to Jones Beach to watch Marilyn Manson in concert, and a friend had promised to introduce them after the show.
"I've always been different," Prim told me, "I know it sounds ridiculous but it's true." And few people would argue with that, least of all her parents. At age 13, Prim, a student at an all-girls Catholic school in Brooklyn, told her father that she wanted to start a fashion magazine. "My first loves were always music and art, but I wanted to do something outside my comfort zone," she says, as if starting a music magazine during middle school might have been too obvious a move. "I thought: 'I could get an internship, be treated like shit, work my way up, and maybe 50 years from now be an editor-in-chief, or I could just do it myself.' So that's what I did."
She approached her dad, who said, sure, he'd provide funding, if Kristin could present him with a viable business model. "He thought I would go upstairs and forget about it. But he should have known me better; I don't forget about anything." To his surprise, three days later, Kristin returned with a plan and she's been editing and publishing Prim, a large format biannual glossy, ever since.
Over the past eight years, as she graduated from school and completed a course in design and management at Parsons in New York, Kristin's identity has become so merged with her magazine's that, at some point, their names fused together. Kristin's legal name became "Kristin Prim" during a translation mishap in a European magazine feature about her. The name stuck because it suits her all-consuming approach to her work.
In 2008, an editor at Teen Vogue found Prim's website and ran a feature about its "spunky" 14-year-old founder. Other magazines followed and soon Kristin was sitting front row during fashion week. But while fellow teen media prodigy Tavi Gevinson's parents were reportedly supportive of her decision to wear Yohji Yamamoto around suburban Illinois, Kristin says her parents, while impressed by her entrepreneurial streak, struggled with her risqué tastes. Her personal art projects have included naked self-portraits and a copy of Prim was banned from her high school's library. "My mom would tell me, 'I wish you were normal,'" Kristin remembers.
Now 21, Kristin is checking back in with her first love: art. And she thanks her longtime idol, the red queen of New York's downtown art scene, Kembra Pfahler, for turning her back onto it. "I was at a Future Feminism benefit, waiting for CocoRosie to perform," Kristin reminisces, "They were taking so long that Kembra got up on the stage with her bowling balls and stalled for them. She said, 'I'm Kembra Pfahler and if any of you want to be a Girl or Boy of Karen Black, just hit me up on Facebook.'"
Kristin decided she didn't have time to be part of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black (Pfahler's punk performance troupe), but she did have the time to ask Kembra about collaborating on a project. "She's one of my three favorite female artists—no, artists in general; "female artists" is not a real thing!—so it took me three days to message her." But she did and Kembra replied with her phone number, and suddenly Kristin knew she wanted to make an art book.
Each issue of A23 will include portfolios of work by a range of different artists sandwiched between minimalist debossed white hardcovers. Some of the work will be new, some archival, and it will all speak to a theme. For the first issue, Kristin chose the title "Mysticisms of the Female," because, she says, "I've been obsessed with sexuality and gender since I was really, really young." Kembra is working on a series for a future issue, but for its inaugural edition, out next week, A23 will feature work by ten influential artists including Mary Beth Edelson, Luciano Castelli and Natacha Merritt - who has contributed photographs from her new series about the erotic potential of Oculus Rift.
If that doesn't sound ambitious enough, Kristin is also: launching a new online fashion site in the fall, which will focus on the five senses; running her own newly founded publishing house, Issue 1; and working on her most personal project to date, a sort of open feminist mentoring platform called The Provocateur. It will be an archive of handwritten letters penned specially by some of the most prominent and inspiring women in the arts and directed towards young women. "It's a site for girls," she explains.
Ironically, she says she never had the chance to be a "normal" girl, growing up. "I've been doing this since I was 13, so I never went to a house party in high school. I was going to cocktail receptions. That's how weird it was." And she says she still has no down time. When I ask her how she likes to relax she says she enjoys hanging out with her friends. That and reading Deepak Chopra. "I'm currently on The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire. You have to read it. It's all about synchro-destiny…" And off she went on another wild tangent.
A23 issue is available now for online pre-order.
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Images courtesy Kristin Prim