Empowering Women: Talking Life, Business and Style with Karolina Barnes Editor of Estila Magazine

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This week I'm talking life, business and style with Karolina Barnes, editor of Estila Magazine. Karolina is a true inspiration - overcoming personal challenges to shake up the mass targeted magazine industry with a beautifully styled, design-lead magazine that champions and tell the stories of emerging brands and creative entrepreneurs. 

What inspired you to set up Estila Magazine? 

I started ESTILA out of frustration. I noticed that I'd stopped reading mass-market magazines and over the course of one year, I unsubscribed from all of them. As a designer, I was looking for meaningful inspiration that would fire my imagination and creativity. Instead, they all talk about the latest must-haves, colour of year and trends, while featuring photoshopped, perfectly formed models.  I reached a stage in my life when I realised that this kind of content did not speak to me anymore. I could see through it. Clearly most publishers are guessing what people want to read about, but as readers are getting more savvy and informed, it’s getting harder and harder to convince them. And I was one of them. I thought, nobody is going to fool me anymore. Life is not perfect. It’s impossible to not have wrinkles at the age of 45 and no, I don’t want to paint my walls in the Pantone colour of the year – thank you very much! 

I started reading content from bloggers, as I loved writing. I liked how they stuck to their own style, expressing it through strong visuals. However, after a while I got bored of that content as well. It was always the same old, same old with some tweaks here and there. There's nothing wrong with that.  I love that kind of approach, but for me personally, I need my creativity to be stimulated with progress and change.  

The idea of the magazine was formed from my newsletter. I was writing about design on my blog but I also wanted to write about sophisticated style, fashion accessories, food and travel. My content consultant I hired at that time, told me that I couldn't do that on the website, so I came up with the idea of a newsletter. That quickly evolved into a magazine format as I had so much content to cover.  My other frustration was that I knew so many brands, designers and artists who deserved to be shouted about, not just through a little product placement mention or one page.  I speak to lots of them all the time. I've worked with a few of them on my projects previously and realise that their stories are so inspiring and empowering. Their stories deserve to be told over several pages.

My final frustration was the design of magazines. I found them to be cluttered, full of adverts and the most annoying thing they do, is to not finish the article within the section. for example you'd have to turn to page 376 to read the rest. What nonsense! I also thought that those types of publications taught people to flick through rather than read and I wanted to change that. I wanted to create a blend of a book and magazine - something that was highly visual and inspiring, while empowering and educational at the same time. From a very young age learning was instilled into me, I could not live without books! And so I decided, if I start a magazine, I want to include some form of learning into it. 

The business angle of ESTILA ha evolved over the past year or so. Each section now features creative entrepreneurs who are on their own business journeys, whether that’s someone running a emerging fashion label, an interior designer, a stylist doing freelance work or a recently opened family business boutique hotel. They all have valuable lessons to share and stories to tell. 


The popularity of independent magazines such as ESTILA, is rising. Why do you think readers are moving away from mass-marketed publications and exploring niche magazines instead? 

I think this comes down to several things. As mentioned, some of us decide not to put up with the content anymore. Print media is only one form of media and content creation, and so we are now exposed to much more than that. Niche magazines recognise that writing for a community is better than trying to speak to the masses. Our communities might be small but they are mighty! I speak with readers everyday, whether that’s in person, on the phone, via email or social media, and frequently I get comments about a particular article or brand we've featured. I love it when I hear that an interior designer or a lifestyle store discovered an artist or a brand through the magazine and now they are collaborating together on a project or they stock their products in their store.  

Having a community of like-minded people enables readers to be more engaged, get involved and become part of the tribe. I know that sounds very  “online” but with ESTILA, I’m planning to bring this kind of approach to the real, physical world through our upcoming ESTILA event tour throughout the UK and other projects I’m planning for our readers.  
The only thing which disappoints me, is that niche publishers don’t work together to challenge the status quo. We are all doing our own thing, and I can see so many things are so wrong within the industry, especially in print. There is so much wastage of paper and monopoly happening. This is not a healthy business environment to be in. Plus, it’s not good for the planet either. Something needs to change sooner rather then later. 

How do you balance work and family life and what are the challenges you face?  

As I’ve been working for myself for most of my life. I’m used to juggling things all the time. My work is my life and there is no clear definition between them. My biggest challenge is to have meetings in London within the school hours. I find myself running between the train and tube a lot (that’s my daily exercise!). My daughters are now little bit older so it’s getting easier, but I still find myself working past midnight on some days.   

You're quite open and honest about having a benign brain tumour. Since your diagnosis what’s close to your heart?

Since my diagnosis I realised that my true calling is to help others. I learnt a lot of things, I made tons of mistakes and so I want others to take that information and apply it.  I have several missions apart from seeing myself as a messenger of the stories we tell through ESTILA. One of them is to raise as much as money for the Brain Tumour Charity UK. 
I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour almost 10 years ago and lost vision in one eye within a few weeks. I was told that it’s inoperable and my treatment options were very limited. I always thought that this was because my case was quite rare. However, recently I learnt that brain tumour research is seriously underfunded, yet brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40.  
Once I learnt that, I decided everything I do from now on is to help as much as I can.   


Where did your passion for style and creativity come from? 

I think that I’ve always been creative. However, I've started to appreciate and use my creativity to its full potential after almost four decades of being told that I’m not creative. I believe everyone is born creative. It’s in our DNA. One of the things I struggle with as a creative, is that I don’t fit into just one box. My creativity takes me into design, content curation, photoshoots, styling, business activities and even my wardrobe.   
My style comes from my childhood and the values that were drummed into me through my mum and my grandmother. I was always told to do things with grace. To be elegant and presentable. Not to be vulgar or rude.  Those values define my standards and the way I embrace my style. 


What are your 5 style tips for refreshing your home for Spring?

I love spring. Everything around us is blooming and colours are popping up too. I like to reflect that throughout my home. Here are my five style tips:
1. Fresh flowers – the easiest and most cost-effective way of injecting some spring vibe into your home. I love tulips and hyacinth. 

2. Cushions & throws -  another quick and easy way to let some spring colours into your space.  I always go for the ones that I can move around the house, from room to room. If I’m tired of them in the living room on the sofa, I put them in the bedroom and accessorise the bed with them. 
3. Candles –  interiors should play on all of our senses. Smell is such an underrated sense, yet it's very important. I love lavender and lemon. They can refresh as well as add a sense of calmness to a room. 
4. Art -  I love changing the vibe of my home through art. It doesn’t necessarily have to be defined by spring. My favourite is abstract art, so I look for spring colours such as greens, yellows, oranges and blues. Also framing a wallpaper can do the same effect if you can’t find what you’re looking for as art. 

5. Coffee table book  - yes, I know, this might be little bit unusual but I love integrating books into my home as a accessory. For spring inspired colours I recommend Jonathan Adler‘s “My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living”. Its green and orange cover is just stunning! 


Creativity is so important in what you do? How do you think people can bring creativity into their everyday lives?  

I think one can apply creativity into everything. Whether that’s through cooking a new recipe from Jamie Oliver’s book to refreshing your home as above. My advice would be to not force it. Don’t try to be creative if you’re not feeling it. Don’t listen to media, don’t consume content, don’t even listen to your friends. You need to be the one who wants to be creative. And when you want to do something creative, guide yourself by listening to your gut. As long as it makes you feel good and happy, who cares! 

Estila is a British lifestyle bookazine combining the best of a magazine – beautiful, inspiring photography, easy-to-read layouts with the timelessness and specific appeal of books.

Visit www.estila.co for more information.

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