Maria Joudina-Robinson, Gemma Lacey and Matt Robinson are the London-based creative team behind Puss Puss, a high-end fashion and lifestyle magazine that launched last year.
Puss Puss draws its theme and inspiration from cats, but you won’t find articles about kitty litter or flea collars; the inaugural issue featured an interview with cutting-edge Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and glossy photo shoots that reveal as much skin as fur.
In town for a launch party at the Ace Hotel downtown, they stopped by KCRW’s studios to talk fashion, style, design and cool cats — both human and feline.
DnA: Can you tell us how the magazine got started?
Maria: My background is in design and art direction. I’ve been working with fashion brands, jewelry brands, design magazines. And I’m big cat lover. Putting the two together was kind of a natural progression for me.
One of the first people we wanted to feature was Ai Weiwei. I managed to get in touch with him, and when we got an email saying, when do you guys want to come over, it just meant that we had to make it happen. So we went to China. We met Ai Weiwei, Matt took his portrait, we hung out with him and his cats. And it just went from there.
Maria: Well, he is a big cat lover and when he was on house arrest he lived in his compound in Beijing and had a couple of cats and we were told by his assistants that sometimes people just came and literally threw cats over the walls of his compound because they knew that he would take care of them. So he wound up living with 30-plus cats — a colony. There’s actually one big ginger cat that kind of looks like him which is quite funny.
DnA: Can you talk a little bit about the name Puss Puss?
Maria: We had loads of different options like one was Cool for Cats; we had Pussy Galore.
But as soon as I came up with the name Puss Puss I just knew that’s the one because it’s got the right kind of level of cheekiness and naughtiness and I think that’s what cats are about. They are a little bit provocative and they are a little bit hard to read. We wanted to leave that slight ambiguity. When we were delivering the first shipment of magazines to our distributor, we got directed to the adult section because they didn’t know what kind of magazine it was.
DnA: When people think of cat magazines, they might think of something like Cat Fancy that focuses on purebreds and cat health. Is your magazine trying to be something very different?
Gemma: It definitely is. I think Cat Fancy had a really great place and it showcased a really fun side of cats. But what we’re trying to do is almost a separate proposition of taking people who are interested in lifestyle, fashion art and culture, and then bringing in cats that way. [Cat Fancy] was the forefather of cat editorial culture and we’re taking the torch on to the next level. We were looking for a vehicle for talking about interesting and beautiful things. Cats are the medium for that.
Maria: The way we described it to people from the beginning was that it isn’t really a cat magazine. It’s a magazine for people who love fashion, art, culture, music — who also happen to be big cat lovers. The biggest compliment I get is from people who aren’t even into cats who say, this is a great magazine, I read it from start to finish.
Gemma: The fact that it’s such a beautiful product and the production values are so high — that’s been another thing that enticed people to take part and work with us.
Maria: It’s very important that people have a beautiful product that they want to keep and collect. It’s an object as well as a magazine.
DnA: Are cats fashionable?
Maria: Absolutely. Cats are in their nature extremely elegant, extremely beautiful. They keep their distance. I think this is what fashion is, as well.
Matt: There is that independence about a cat. It chooses what it wants to do. Cats can be, like, OK today I don’t want to be with you. But then the next day they could just be all over you sitting on your knee. So they can show love but they can also show a nonchalant attitude to people and things. It’s all these different characteristics about cats and embodied in them, I think that’s what we like.
Gemma: That element touches on the idea of the cat as a kind of very discerning curator. I think if we were to choose a personality that embodied the magazine, with the cat at the helm and Maria as editor-in-chief, you would get that kind of discerning thing.
What would the cat think is worth talking about in the world? That’s a great way for us to talk about our editorial position on things.
Matt: One thing I will say about Maria and her obsession with cats is, she is allergic to cats.
Maria: Only a little bit.
Matt: And we have one.
Maria: We’ve got a Russian Blue called Sputnik. Sometimes I have some sneezing going on which is annoying. But you know, what can you do?