Monday, October 10, 2005

Trifling Mental

The team of Josh Yaffa and Thomas Williams have combined their passion for design and philosophical ruminations to create the premiere online magazine for modern aesthetes, Trifling Mental.

The first issue offers the dynamic duo's thoughts on everything from the Dutch design click Droog to home scent recommendations. They channel Nietzsche to wax philosophical on the need for a modern "cult of beauty" and even give you a breakdown of the latest from the magazine rack - from deconstructing Lil' Wayne's tumultuous upbringing to pointing you towards the best from the latest issues of Harper's and the New Yorker.

What I enjoyed most about the site is its effortless integration of hip hop and pop culture references into its coverage of high-end luxury design. In a time when you find the trendiest spots in NY to be reinvisioned diners full of hipsters and modern speakeasies not bridge and tunnel mega-clubs, Trifling Mental is one of the best publications I've seen that address this new niche audience of "hi-low" style enthusiasts. It is unashamed of its interest in Beanie Siegel's first thoughts after leaving prison and its praise for $50+ home fragrance candles. In TM's call for a modern appreciation of style, they are truly practicing what they preach by unabashedly dropping Pac references in a piece on modern Italian furniture design and touting local spots with no cover and cheap drinks while still advocating dropping considerable change on modern design for the sake of "style."

I got the chance to ask the TM team about their motivation to create the magazine and what they have in store for readers in the future.

Who are the masterminds behind Trifling Mental?

TM is composed of two like-minded devotees to form (and sound, and smell, and…), who've been politicking on these ideas for several years now. Our mothers call us Thomas and Josh, but you can just call us "Maison Trifling Mental."

What inspired you to start the site?

Trifling Mental was originally conceived of two years ago as a physical space. We were both living abroad at the time, France and Russia respectively. We would meet up in different cities and spend a lot of afternoons and evenings kicking it in cafes. While we felt the spots we were frequenting very hard, we had a sense that there was a certain lack of the unexpected, no cultural juxtaposition, which we think are important elements in keeping an environment fresh and stimulating. In the European case, that meant we felt like a dose of urban American flavor (read, hip-hop), slang, and street culture could be added to the mix and appreciated. And here in NYC we think the scene could be at times too self-referential and centered on a few established formulas (Dunks, A.P.C.s, iPod, etc.) - that yes, we do enjoy, but would ultimately like to free ourselves from.

Our initial dream was to open a gallery/lounge/newsstand/restaurant based on these ideals; but that's a project for which we have yet, not surprisingly, to raise the necessary funds. But really, Trifling Mental is essentially just a body of ideas which can manifest in many ways, whether it be a spot, a website, a specific party one night at a BK loft, or a T-shirt. We like to think of TM as a movable feast.

I noticed you mix everything from philosophy to Lil Weezy references - how would you describe your tastes and do you think Trifling Mental's target audience represents a new group of young professionals steeped in modern "hip pop" culture and interested in beauty and design?

We do, indeed. Nowadays everything is about synthesis. People seem less and less inclined to solely identify themselves with one style, with one social group, one genre of music, one favorite cuisine or even one sort of fashion. It is tough to think of a single magazine that completely covers the entire spectrum of interests its readership may possess. It used to be the case that people who liked Metallica also dressed in ways that indicated their overall association with heavy metal and tended to hang-out in the sorts of places frequented by metal heads. Nowadays, it's tougher to pigeon-hole people.

In terms of hip-hop culture, it's become so pervasive in our culture as a whole that it's no longer an interest which sets someone apart from the group. Now it's just sort of a de facto part of being alive and aware in the world. We feel like most people are basically comfortable interacting with the slang and references, but at the same time it's not their be-all, end-all. They can't get everything they're interested in by watching MTV and reading The Source. On the flipside, magazines like Wallpaper* or Metropolis, while containing items of interest, don't take into account an affinity for street culture. There are plenty of people these days who listen to Biggie, appreciate or are capable of appreciating Bauhaus design, and also know who Thomas Keller is. So they don't get all or most of their interests catered to in just one location. TM tries to speak to people on all these levels, without compromising. Our own tastes are all over the board, we're less concerned with traditional distinctions such as "good" and "bad" or "high" and "low" and more concerned with "interesting" and "uninteresting".

What's in store for the coming weeks on Trifling Mental? How often will the content on the site be updated?

We would like to give more of a focus to the "up-and-comers" in the game, the artists, designers, musicians and writers of our generation who will be filling out the mainstream media's "must-have" lists in a decade. The perpetual question we have to answer is why check for TM, what are we giving you that you can't find elsewhere? Because yes, Cappellini is hot, but do you really need to read TM to find that out?

In terms of format, we'd like to stay with the magazine style as much as possible. That is, we want to hit people with new content as one complete package. There are so many interesting and engaging blogs out there that it can be hard to be heard above the traffic in that format. But at the same time, we know it can be hard to keep an audience if you are only hitting them with new content once every two or three weeks. I think you'll see some daily content pop up on the site separate to the more traditional magazine section. Also expect some sort of a forum in the future.

Trifling Mental also goes beyond preaching, and puts their money where their mouths are by offering event planning services and running an underground supper club. What is in store for someone who books your services?

Whether you are having dinner at our place, or we're coming to yours, TM is really about savoring the fleeting moments that collectively comprise our lives.

Modern life is so stripped of any greater meaning, and TM doesn't really try to create any, rather we aim to raise appreciation of the instantaneous to an art form. And that doesn't have to be hedonistic or overly decadent, we hope in the end to make the dining/dancing/whatever experience more human.

And finally, I have to ask a cheesy question that I'm sure you both can reply to with a clever answer. If you could invite any 4 people to your supper club, alive or dead, who would it be?

Martin Margiela, Tyler Brule, Marcel Proust, and a young Fidel Castro.

This is not to say these are necessarily our four favorite people, or the four people who have most inspired us, it really is just a list of the four people we'd most like to have over for a trifling little dinner.

1 comment(s):

  • give me a break...these guys are total wannabes...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:09 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home