For all the tears shed over the withering magazine industry, certain niche periodicals have actually thrived. Design-oriented mags require the printed page for best effect, foodies aren’t yet comfortable placing laptop beside mixing bowl, and glossies slavishly documenting aristocratic spoils don’t really make sense unless casually strewn about the armoire. So long as there’s old money, there will always be old media, though newer iterations take rather a different approach toward preserving the hoariest traditions.
The sixth edition of Portland-based quarterly Kinfolk presents itself as “a guide for small gatherings,” without bothering to include anything so dully practical as advice. Fondly remembered recipes are offered but not quite recommended, and undercut by the ever-present paeans to spontaneity. A piece concerning the irritation of mismatched ancestral silver serves largely to comfort similarly bedeviled readers. Reminiscences achieve a solipsistic grandeur—“As a child, I spent a lot of time with older relatives,” one essay helpfully begins—that best resembles a psychoanalyst’s notes workshopped to bloodless anonymity. Written by, for and about twentysomethings who need only the gentle reminder to luxuriate within their good fortune, articles bereft of information would seemingly hold little value for anyone striving to approximate the heights of patrician grace. But, then, we’re not so sure Kinfolk was meant to be read.
Typos are scattered about shrunken packets of prose quite literally marginalized beyond irrelevance. The fine print primarily showcases the sumptuous white space abounding outside showily edged borders: a quantity of white space inversely proportional to the number of photographs depicting people of color. Should the clumped type be intended only as a vestigial nod to the early days of periodicals, the resulting design couldn’t be lovelier. Richly textured portraiture and playful illustrations fill matte pages as thick and lustrous as their exaggerated cover price affords.
At $18, Kinfolk
might equal the weekly food budget of our local creative class, but the
magazine, which came to life in Salt Lake City, isn’t really meant for
Portlanders. The putative hometown receives scant mention, and a
far-flung distribution shepherded by enviable placement within
Anthropologie and Williams-Sonoma outlets probably explains its
continuing existence. Kinfolk embodies the furthest flowering of
the lifestyle publication: a bottomless reserve of uncomplicated
reassurance that promises the aging children of privilege that intimate
entertaining will require nothing more than benevolent intent. That’s no
more true for parties than for magazines.
READ: Kinfolk is available at Anthropologie, West Elm, Spartan at Beam & Anchor, Oui Presse and the Woodsman Market. kinfolkmag.com.