Sophia Dowling is Seattle’s New Queen of Vintage

An interview with Sophia Dowling, Editor in Chief of Papermoon Zine.

A lot of girls dream of running their own magazine, but few go on to actually do it. Sophia Dowling is one of those few. In fact, she has the whole process down to forty-eight hours. This week I talked with the Editor and Chief of Papermoon Zine on what exactly goes down at these forty-eight-hour parties, her favorite Seattle vintage stores, and how she balances running a magazine with being a senior in high school.

How would you describe Papermoon in your own words?

I’ve been asked this a lot recently and I don’t actually know. I would say its a fashion oriented site for teenagers that emphasizes personal style.

When did you start Papermoon and what was the inspiration for doing so?

I was a freshman in high school and I had been reading magazines my entire life. I’ve always known I wanted to work in publishing or media of some sort since I read Sesame Street Magazine in pre-school, and I’ve been very obsessed with magazines ever since. I didn’t immediately go into print but I needed something to occupy my time. I was a freshman in high school so I didn’t have a lot going on.

sophia dowling papermoon

Sesame Street Magazine? I just want to make sure I heard that right, haha.

Yeah, for my third birthday I got a subscription to a Sesame Street magazine and it came every month and had a different theme, but it always centered around Sesame Street. There was this one issue that centered around feet and it was like the Elmo’s feet issue and the main story in it was about blue-footed boobies and it was just a very educational magazine. I still have all of them- they’re under my bed. But yeah, ever since then I’ve been very interested in magazines.

That’s super interesting! Can you walk us through the creation of an article?

The process behind it… I don’t really sit down to think of a concept, it usually just pops into my head while I’m doing other things and I often have a notebook with me, and I write everything down in my notebook- not on my phone since I’ll never go back to it if it’s on my phone. And then I usually text in our group chat since we have five of us and people chime in on what they think it should be, and somehow it ends up being executed, whether by me or someone else. Today we had a meeting at ten with like ten of us to talk about all our ideas for February since we’re starting a new way of doing things.

What kind of changes?

So, we used to not very consistently post online and we still don’t really. And we tried doing whole months where we alternated every day posting and there’d only be like two of us posting and occasionally we’d get help from other people. But after we made the two magazines, a lot more people became interested in helping. And we were like, well we should actually probably do something with it if people are excited. So we’re going to post every day and it won’t just be me since before the goal was just to post every day instead of making decent content go up. So we’re trying to spend more time on quality posts with a few more people, instead of just posting for the sake of posting.

How big is the team now?

I would say five of us in the main group. We made the second issue of the magazine with twenty-six people. There were eight people in charge of little projects. Like, I’m the Editor and there was the Creative Director and the person who dealt with all the clothes and the makeup, and people directly under them so I didn’t have to deal with twenty-six people at once since I’m way too flustered to do that.

What inspires you artistically?

I’m inspired by a lot of vintage things. I work at a vintage store and I love looking at old editorial stuff. I’m pretty inspired by other magazines and like, a lot of the smaller clothing brands, I like the way they present themselves. I love Reformation a lot and MaisonCléo, which is a Paris-based brand run by a mother and a daughter. And I like Instagram, I follow a lot of people who I really enjoy.

Who are some of the people you follow?

Devon Carlson, um there’s this one girl named Florence with pink hair- I’ve enjoyed her a lot recently. Maybe I don’t remember people by name on Instagram. I also follow a lot of designers like Simone Rocha and Molly Goddard.

from the archives – cdg a/w 1999 #papermooninspiration

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You mentioned you’re also inspired by other publications. What are some of your favorites?

My favorite website probably ever is Man Repeller. I like Nylon magazine, Dazed. I read W and Teen Vogue. I think Teen Vogue is fantastic, way better than Vogue in my opinion.

How do you carry out a photoshoot?

They’re usually chaotic, they require first a photographer since those seem to be the rarest to find. And then models and then we raid each other’s closets and then we go to two different vintage stores- Lucky Vintage in the U District and the Dry Goods in Ballard- to find everything we want. And then Anna Edelman and I usually find all the outfits. In terms of concepts, I have no ideas how those come. I usually just am somewhere and then I’m like, this would be a good place to shoot. Today we’re shooting about tights since I’m really interested in colored tights and we’re shooting them in a bathtub.

How does all this become transformed into a physical magazine?

We sell on Etsy and I do all of the layout on Publisher which is a massive pain in the ass. Layout is probably the most time-consuming part of all of it. We make the magazine over forty-eight hours and then I spend about another week doing layout. We send it to Printing Center USA and it comes a week later and then we have to send it out and we hand package everything.

sophia dowling papermoon

Why forty-eight hours?

Because if you say you’re going to get a magazine done and that’s all it can go on forever. Forty-eight hours is enough time that people are still excited about it instead of people getting excited and then forgetting about it and never getting it done. And we do a lot of preplanning but all the actual content gets done during that period.

So what exactly goes down at one of these forty-eight-hour parties?

We meet at nine am there are about twenty-five of us. We sit in a basement and a lot of preplanning has been done. We know what the shoot concepts are, we don’t really plan the articles, and during the sign-up, people have signed up for things they want to do. So we break people up into smaller teams and we’re all working out of the house during the forty-eight hours. Nine to seven on both days- we go home and come back in the morning. It’s an exhausting weekend and very chaotic, but it’s amazing how much can get done in forty-eight hours with a group of girls who are all really excited about doing something.


My last question is a hard one: What does feminism mean to you?

I think it’s a movement for equality, not just between the genders but for everyone on earth. I think its really important to emphasize- I don’t know how to word this! Intersectional feminism is the most important part of feminism in that it should not just be a movement for white people. It should be for everyone and very inclusive of different races and people who don’t have vaginas.

You can order issues of Papermoon Zine on Etsy





Tigerlily is a writer and musician living in London. She has released two...