Interview: Les Others
"We are all urban dwellers who live in Paris during the week, but we escape the city as often as we can."
From a chance encounter in our London store we were introduced to Les Others, a forward-thinking French magazine on a mission to redefine adventure in the outdoors. The team produce a thoughtfully compiled, bi-annual publication and they also have one of the best looking Instagram accounts going! We managed to grab five minutes with the founders, Baptiste and Solene to chat about the history of Les Others and their big plans for 2020:
Can you tell us a little bit more about Les Others and who you are? You’re now on your tenth edition but probably new to most people in the UK, us included until you dropped into our Coal Drops Yard store with one of the best-looking outdoor mags we’d seen.
Thanks guys! I remember dropping the mag off a year ago right after you opened. At that time, I was still living in London. (Love what you guys are doing by the way, you need to open a store in Paris.) To answer your question though, we are a small crew of French outdoor enthusiasts who wanted to build a platform for outdoor fans. Our aim is to reconnect people with nature by redefining the notion of adventure: to make it more accessible, more creative and more sustainable. There are a bunch of great performance-oriented and specialised outdoor publications in France but nothing that covers the whole outdoor lifestyle spectrum, this is the white space we took up 6 years ago. We are now a team of six at the office on a daily basis but working with hundreds of contributors who are part of our community of content creators. We call it the « fresh air club ».
At Les Others we are all urban dwellers who live in Paris during the week but are also really attached to the outdoors, we escape the city as often as we can. Beyond our daily jobs at the studio, we love to spend time in the outdoors to explore, climb, hike and ski.
You have the Les Others Studio now, which is your creative studio, is that a newer enterprise off the back of the magazine and its success?
Les Others Studio is the parent company and creative shop. In a nutshell, we are working with brands and institutions that want to bring nature and adventure to the centre of the frame. In terms of the scope, we can work on various projects such as content production (video, podcasts, photography), media partnerships, strategy, consultancy and experiential design. We are working with client’s in the outdoor industry such as Arc’teryx, Columbia and Patagonia but also clients from the luxury and automotive industries. The only requirement to work with us is to share the same ambition: to put nature at the core of the message. Most importantly, having Les Others Studio is allowing us to not have advertising on the Les Others media channels and maintain a high quality for our audience’s reading experience.
It’s probably difficult to have a favourite, but has there been a standout article or piece you’ve created for the magazine?
That is indeed a difficult question. We conceive each volume as a complete piece, articulated around a specific thematic. Think of a big puzzle, in which each article is as important as the next to tackle the topic from every angle and create diversity in the different types of content (interview, adventure tales, photo series, shorter content pieces), I have to say we are more and more happy with the new issues in general. We change up the whole formula every 4 volumes, so volume 9 has launched the 3rd formula, with more pages (304), a smaller size, different paper and a new style of content… Les Others is a constant work-in-progress which evolves with us, our tastes, our desires, feedback from our community and also the world and its matters. I'd say that the magazine gains in maturity with every new volume, and so do we.
That being said, if I really had to pick one article from the last issues, it'd probably be "Camel" (Volume 9), the story of a guy who spent a whole summer building up an old boat to be able to reach waves to surf in remote places. The cover photo is actually part of it, I love the tone of the text, the photos and the guys involved... I think it reflects perfectly the Les Others' ideal of not being constrained - even if it seems a bit out there – and be able to embrace nature as much as you like. From the 10th issue, I'd pick the twenty-page piece about how some alpinists would lie about their ascents, pretending to have reached some of the highest summits and the people who investigate these claims and what it reveals of our human nature. We want to inspire people with great stories and beautiful photos but also the outdoor culture in general, with more historical and technical content. To achieve that, we collaborate more and more with specialised writers and journalists, and it's always such an enriching experience.
The magazine used to be a side-by-side translation of French into English but you’ve moved to a condensed English section to reference at the back of the magazine, can you explain the reasoning for that choice?
To be honest, it's been a big source of debate for us. The main reason why we made that move is that we invent a whole design and universe for each of the articles. Colours, typography, lay out... you will never see two pieces looking the same in Les Others, by the way, I'd like to give a big shout out to Bastien, our Art Director. But unfortunately, having French and English text side by side put big constraints on his creativity; he had to maintain both sets of text close to one another and French is always longer than English. In short, we had to make that choice to be freer to experiment with the design, giving more space to photography, typography, illustration and so on.
Did you guys grow up into outdoor pursuits, it’s fair to say you do a fair bit of alpine stuff. Or did the interest come later?
Some of us grew up in the mountains, others of us are born and raised in the city but were used to spending time with their parents outside as kids.
Personally, I consider myself super lucky to have grown up in Les Arcs, a ski resort in the French Alps. My dad is a really great rock climber and mountain guide and my mum is a ski instructor, so I started climbing and skiing before walking. The interest came quite early haha.
I'm from the coast, born in the south of France then raised in Brittany and always in need of wind, waves and salt! My whole family is very fond of sailing, surfing, fishing, hiking and skiing and there's never a family dinner without talking about climbing. Also, I grew up in a very environmentally conscious family. So even if I've been living in Paris for 10 years, nature is a big part of my identity.
Obviously, working in an environment such as Les Others only makes us more and more into nature. We spend our time talking about it, reading, watching, curating, writing and going on new adventures together... it's a constantly growing passion we all have in common, and we are so lucky to be able to make a living from it together now.
What’s coming up for Les Others in 2020 that we should know about?
We are planning to move into our own offices, at the moment we are sharing offices in a co-working space. Les Others is both a B2B and B2C company, meaning it’s really important for us to have a physical space with our own identity, a place where you’ll have the same feeling as opening the first page of the magazine when you walk in.
In terms of outdoor projects, we really want to put local adventuring as the key concept of 2020, to limit our impact on the planet. At the moment we have already planned a few trips: some ski touring in the Alps this winter, multi-pitch climbing in Corsica this spring and mixed climbing in Les Écrins massif this summer, all of these adventures will be published on Les Others. We also want to enhance our video offering to sit alongside our already strong print magazine and audio with our podcast: Les Baladeurs.
Check out the latest from Les Others here.