Where We Come From: Looking back on Vegan Good Life

Antagonist is built on the foundation of another project — one we have poured our lives into and one that taught us a lot about what works and more importantly, what doesn’t. A look back.

Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
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March 22, 2021

Words — Eric Mirbach
Photography — Kerstin Brix / Brix & Maas / Eric Mirbach

It was late 2014 when we finally decided we would go for it.

Antagonist, this platform right here, may just have launched, but it’s not actually new. It builds on the foundation of a different project, one I have been pouring the last six years of my life into and in this article, I’d like to take a moment to look back on that journey.

Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
The OG-team in 2018.
Sadly one of the very few times our NY-correspondent Cort made it into our pictures.

It’s a part of the DNA of Antagonist after all and since we fully intend to keep a lot of the original motivation, ideas and characteristics developed on the way here, a clear idea of where we come from can only help to understand where it is we intend to go. So in all honesty, I write this just as much as a reminder for the team and myself as it’s hopefully insightful for you, the reader.

How it all Began

When I co-founded Vegan Good Life end of 2014 (my ex-partner in both business and life at the time has since then left the picture), I felt like I was in over my head. I felt utterly unprepared. Sure, I had worked in publishing for years, but I had never created a full magazine, front to back, on my own — and I knew would have to do it without a real budget.

“This was to be our contribution to change the world for the better.”

We had saved a couple thousand bucks to invest in our idea, but our plans were way bigger than that. After all, this thing we were looking to build was meant to be our contribution to change the world for the better. We had high hopes to create something that would help others re-think life choices and make different, more ethically sound decisions.

Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
The back catalogue of Vegan Good Life Magazine – missing: Our Earthling Ed cover.

So to me, the stakes were high and I had no clue where to start. We named the project Vegan Good Life and, in the beginning, I imagined it to become a German-only print magazine, available on newsstands around the country, with a big print run and advertisers that would flock around us because 2014, I thought, was the time.

“There was buzz around veganism and the magazine-world took notice.”

Veganism was experiencing its first bigger wave in Germany and when our first issue hit the newsstands, we got good placements everywhere, stacks near the counter, visibility in window displays, all that jazz — all of which is something you normally have to pay for, but because we were new and there was a buzz around veganism, the world of magazine-retail took an interest in what we did.

Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
Two newspapers we made for Berlin Fashion Week, to point out that fashion can only be ethical when vegan.
Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
Our Plant-Based City Guides to Berlin and Amsterdam (the latter never came out in a bigger print run thanks to Covid).

The Momentum didn’t last

To no big surprise to anyone who knows print, that momentum wouldn’t last. The magazine market is thoroughly broken, a lot of the inner workings of making a print magazine in this day and age are just utterly bizarre and do not make really sense, especially for a publication like ours, where the artistic quality standard for both content and design was too high to be abiding to the nonsensical rules of the market.

Making something that has the chance to be seen and bought once these prominent placements went away was not really something I had in me. I couldn’t compromise like that.

“Partners became ex-partners.”

Looking back on all of that now, what’s really interesting to me is how little the things that at the time seemed life-changing actually mattered in the grand scheme of things. Partners became ex-partners, I turned what had been a tag-team of co-founders into a crew of likeminded creatives, and the magazine, though not a money-maker, did turn out to be a door opener instead, while the scary lack of well-designed advertisements lead to the founding of our business-in-the-back branding & venture agency Very Good Looking, a flagship of sustainable and impact-oriented creativity in the Berlin scene today.

Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
Photographers Florian Maas & Aglaja Brix on Assignment in London.

More than just “Proof of Concept”

I’m in awe of the journey that took us to where we are now, but I’m even more impressed by how much pain and struggle went into making something that, in hindsight, to me is just ‘proof of concept’. The last thing I mean to do by calling it that, however, is to dismiss any of the early work we did with Vegan Good Life. I for sure do not want to convey a message of “why bother”. Because I bothered a lot, my co-founder bothered a lot and the new team I onboarded after I took the project and my life to Berlin over three years ago bothered a lot.

“We achieved some amazing things through our collective bothering.”

And we’ve achieved some amazing things through our collective bothering. Issues 5, 6 and 7 are packed with some of the best content plant-based publishing has ever seen and the unlikely combination of characters that would become the editorial team behind Vegan Good Life made for some uncanny alliances and a new-found level of quality I didn’t think possible.

I’m very impressed by the level we took this thing to and I appreciate every minute of it, even the tough and scary times, back in that apartment in Western Germany I never felt at home in, where I first put in a full day of work for someone else to pay the bills, only to then spend a late night trying to pull something off that felt impossible and way, way too big.

"Earthling" Ed Winters & Photographer Florian Maas.
Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
Besties now, huh?
Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
Gaz, his team and our editorial crew after two sold out events.
Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media

The Future of Plant-Based Publishing

When I remember the early days of Vegan Good Life, I can see so many things we were drastically wrong about, but a lot of things that were pretty spot on. It’s undeniable to me that the high-end spectrum of publishing is still in dire need of a discerning voice that adds an ethical viewpoint to the discussion. This voice, now more than ever, is glaringly missing.

It’s undeniable to me that making a quality product goes a long way, opens doors, is a chance to elevate different, otherwise overheard voices and helps speak things into existence. And I can still stand behind the original mission; Delivering proof that a vegan life can be a good life.

“It’s time to pour all of that editorial excellence into a project that will create a bigger impact.”

But now, with seven full issues, two ethical fashion newspaper editions, a coffee-table book joint venture,  two vegan city guides and uncountable digital articles under our belt, it’s time to pour all of that knowledge and all of that combined editorial excellence into a new project, complete with the distribution set up and the growth perspective it will need to turn what we’re doing from a niche product for connoisseurs into a platform that will create bigger impact. We’re here for the ripple effect.

Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
The Vegan Good Life booth at Berlin's Green Market. Never sold less copies, never had more fun making faces.
Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
Filming a short with vegan fashion designer Joshua Katcher, directed by our friends at Dough Studios.
Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
Event-Manager Tim focusing on what's important: Wenke holding dogs and beers. This was at our Release Party for Issue 5.
Looking back on six years of Vegan Good Life Magazine - Antagonist plant-based Media
 

Antagonist, I’m am sure, is to be that platform. I can’t wait to get started and I sincerely hope you’ll join us on this journey.

On y va!

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