A STUDIO TOUR WITH TORI WEST
Today we’re crossing the river and heading from our North London studio to Tori West’s Brixton one. Founder and editor of socio-political fashion mag BRICKS and a long time friend of ours, Tori invited us over to her studio where she popped on some comfy bits from the recent Oafleisure collection before we plonked ourselves on the sofa for a chat and a cuddle with her pomchi, Prada.
Hey Tori, how are you? Thanks for having us in your studio! Mind introducing yourself to our community?
Hey, I’m Tori West, I’m a freelance writer but I guess most people would know me as being founder and editor of BRICKS, which is an annual print magazine and daily online website that looks at social politics in fashion, music and arts culture.
How’s your morning been so far? What’s the first thing you do when you get up?
I recently got a puppy, so I have a really good routine because the first thing I do is wake her up and make sure she goes outside and does her business. It’s the best thing, because I’d usually have to proper drag myself out of bed. But Prada is so happy to see me in the morning. It’s the best way to wake up.
Do you bring her into the office every day?
Yes. She’s so small - she’s a teacup Pomchi - so I never leave her by herself. Plus the team love her and so she has loads of aunties. Which is very cute.
What’s the best thing about running your own mag/business?
I think from the outside people think it looks really fun and they want to work here. And it is fun, and I love it, but it is also really hard. But one of the best things for me personally is the power I have over decision making - we can decide to give money where we think it should go, and to which creatives. So that’s probably the best thing - for example when we have a big cover star and we’re able to hire emerging talent. Like a photographer for example who might never have shot a cover before. I can take risks when I believe in someone’s work. That’s the best thing.
One of the great things about BRICKS is its focus on platforming the voices of those not represented enough in mainstream media. What made you focus on this?
I wanted to make a magazine that I, when I was growing up, could have seen myself in. We unfortunately grew up in a generation where mags were out there shaming women’s bodies for not fitting in with western beauty standards. It was a really harsh environment to grow up in. So I wanted to create something where readers could physically see themselves represented and understood. This year’s print is around 70 pages, and it’s made up solely of contributors and creatives. We street cast everything; we like to give a voice to our audience, and we’re a community driven platform.
Who’s the most amazing/inspiring person you’ve met through running BRICKS?
There’s so many, but two come straight to mind. We shot the Drag Kids, a kid drag collective run by Desmond Is Amazing. They were so young, around 9 to 11, and their parents came to the shoot. It was so amazing seeing their dads come, and they were crying with pride at their kids doing drag. And it was just such a contrast to the culture of Trump’s America at the time. That was amazing.
Then a couple of years later I was really inspired by the youth climate movement. I was watching a Facebook Live of all things, and it was a bunch of kids who had blocked Heathrow with a sign that asked “Are we the last generation?” There was one activist who was around 14, and they were crying because the police were threatening to arrest them, and the kid said “I don’t know if I’m more scared of getting arrested by the police as a person of colour, or of my future, so I’m staying here.” It made me so emotional. I looked for them for six months and finally got to shoot them. I work with amazing talent and people of note, but I really love working with people who are collectively making change. Grassroots change. Those people inspire me the most.
Tell us about the BRICKS studio - how did it start and what’s your aim with opening up a studio space?
Being a working class person, I never thought I’d have a studio space in zone 2, London. It’s been something I’ve always dreamt of, so when we moved in here it was a real moment for me. And renting it out wasn’t the initial aim. However after covid we realised we have this space and all this equipment, and whilst we’re physically in here every day, we weren’t always shooting. So we realised we could rent it out for cheap to get people back into making editorial work post-covid. I also wanted to address, in some way, how elitist the creative industry is - it’s not financially accessible for people. So we rent out the studio for £25 an hour, equipment included. Normally it's £500 plus to just rent a space. I just wanted to be the opposite of that, and have a space where queer creatives and marginalised kids can come and work and it won’t cost them the earth.
We’ve seen you’ve also started a learning platform. What’s on offer there, and what’s the motivation behind it?
It’s our first paywall. I’ve always avoided paywalls because I believe journalism should be accessible, especially the stuff we do with a social political skew. But we wanted to do something that was affordable and offered alternative learning. It’s from £2.50 a month, and there are different tiers. It’s all about alternative career paths; we commission people in the BRICKS community to tell our members how they got to where they’re at. It also has a jobs board which has become really popular. It’s a platform on its own, providing community for people breaking into the industry. It’s online but we do events and panels. and we have a WhatsApp chat.
What’s the weirdest thing we’d find if we went rummaging around in the studio?
There’s so much stuff. There’s a drawer under my desk where things fall out the back all the time. There’s been puppy pee pads, a drill, and branded condoms. I also have a big gold megaphone by the side of my desk. Every now and then I’ll get it out and use it. When you run a studio you just always have random things laying around.
When you get home from work what do you do to switch off?
I’m neurodivergent so my brain never stops. I’ve been doing therapy and counselling for the last year and they’ve explained that I show signs of autism. So I’ve been trying to learn that and understand the things that trigger me. I don’t really drink, so one of the things I do is I have a glass of tonic water with ice; that marks the end of a day for me. I also shower by candlelight with spotify spa music in the background, and it really resets me, whatever time of day it is.
What’s your favourite way to waste time?
It’s really toxic, but I love TikTok - it’s really stripped back those aesthetic driven ideals that Instagram has. So I quite like wasting time on there. I also love playing with Prada. And cleaning the shower whilst listening to podcasts. At the momen it’s either My Favourite Murder or Shameless, which is sold as being for “smart women who love trashy celeb culture.”
Talking about celebs, you’re hosting a hypothetical dinner party. Who’s coming and what’s on the menu?
Phoebe Bridgers - I had a zoom call with her but I’d love to meet her in a non-professional setting because I think she’s really cool. Harry Styles, obviously. And Bree Runway! I never met her when we did her cover shoot. But look, I can’t cook. I’m very organised and I’m good at running my business. But anything else after that is a disaster. Harry will just have to cook for us all.
You’re currently wearing pieces from our Oafleisure collection. How are you enjoying them?
Do you know what I love about Lazy Oaf generally? I love how comfy everything is. Being neurodivergent, one of the things that really stresses me out is when I don’t feel comfortable in clothing. And these clothes are so comfortable that I automatically feel so relaxed. I like wearing baggier clothes because I feel better like that, and Lazy Oaf are so good at that. This collection in particular.
What’s the next big move for you/BRICKS?
So hopefully Harry Styles is going to come and do a cover haha…but no, I’ve always been focused on growing the business from a community perspective. But I’m trying to alter my focus and remember that we in house do deserve to get paid and to have some financial stability. I’ve never been a money oriented or driven person because I’ve never had it. But it would be really nice if BRICKS alone paid for my rent each month, you know? Just to have some security.
Thank you for having us Tori! Any final words?
Yes - support independent publishers! We need to think beyond the mainstream press. Maybe become a member, or buy an issue. Even sharing some of the creative work we do. Every little thing like that helps to support us.