So Josh, can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you do, and how The Domestique fits into your life?
So I’m 28 years old and currently work four days a week installing exhibitions at The National Gallery in London. I have a fine art background which is what led me to this job. But being a very creative person, I don't find this all that fulfilling. So, a few years back I combined my love of cycling and creating and started The Domestique with a bunch of friends. Originally a blog where we would tell the odd story and review any freebies we could get our mitts on, eventually it narrowed down to just myself creating these stories. But I really wanted to make a physical product, with an influence of what we had been doing with the blog, so I set about producing a zine with a friend of mine, who just so happens to be a great photographer too - Matt Ben Stone. And since then, The Domestique has evolved into the ‘stories from sport’ publication that it is now.
"I see Domestiques as the un-sung heroes of the peloton. You’t don’t read about them too often as they're not kicking up a huge fuss. They are the work horses, and without them, those big names wouldn’t be so big."
Why “The Domestique’? What’s the meaning behind the name, and what inspired its establishment and its subsequent volumes?
In road cycling, a 'Domestique' is a rider who works for the benefit of the team or team leader - blocking the wind, making sure they have food and drink etc. It's a french word that translates as 'servant'. I see Domestiques as the un-sung heroes of the peloton. You’t don’t read about them too often as they're not kicking up a huge fuss. They are the work horses, and without them, those big names wouldn’t be so big. And so I liked the idea of creating a blog which could house stories and/or reviews that could help another cyclist. I also liked the idea that myself and all my friends could ride under this name as a collective and be Domestiques for each other.
The blog and collective is something that I may return to one day, but for now the magazine has taken president. I believe the name works equally well with the ethos of our publication as it does with our blog. It's all about bringing light to the lesser heard sporting stories and giving a platform for the extraordinary everyday sports person to tell their story. These stories are all aspirational yet very inclusive. I love the thought of featuring a sports story or community in the magazine and one of our readers having that feeling of 'if they can do that, why can’t I?'
So the name has stayed, but the stories and how we use it has evolved.
What stage of the creative process do you enjoy most? What aspect/s do you find most challenging?
So, to get the 'bad' out the way first, I really don’t enjoy trying to find avenues for funding the magazine. I’m not a sales person and so this is something with which I have always struggled. It's something that most people hate, but a necessary evil I suppose.
But I love getting wind of a story or a community that is doing amazing things and getting the right group of people together to bring light to that story. I normally have some idea on how I would like the imagery to look and what aspects of the story I think we should tell. But collaborating with all these creatives and giving them a chance to input their ideas is so much fun. At this stage, I can’t afford to pay people for their time and skills, and so the people involved are doing it for the love of being part of something new, and when you have a group of people that passionate about what you are doing, it's such a good thing. Once the content is decided, I sit down with my amazing designer. Again, I normally have an idea of what I want each piece to look like, or at least a starting point, and then he just runs with it. Seeing it all come together is so exciting!
You’ve worked with many respectable brands like Jam Cycling, Parcour Wheels, and Bowman Cycles. How do these partnerships usually form and how have they helped The Domestique?
Yes, all of the above and more have been so helpful and supportive of what we’ve been doing. JAM Cycling and Parcours, in particular, really believe in everything we're doing with The Domestique and are enjoying being part of it. Likewise, I’m a fan of their brands and the people who make them so I'm more than happy to have them involved and, equally, help them as much as I can. Printing isn’t cheap and so we wouldn’t be able to get to print without these brands supporting us.
"I love the thought of featuring a sports story or community in the magazine and one of our readers having that feeling of 'if they can do that, why can’t I?"
Has there been a particular feature which has attracted a lot of interest in the magazine and/or seems to have resonated with alot of your readers?
So many to choose from!
Vol. 1 was based on and released at the fixed gear bike race, Red Hook Crit. We featured David Trimble (the founder) on the front cover and had a nice little interview with him for the magazine. He’s a cool guy and has a great story to tell. Red Hook Crit has a huge following and so this really was good for us.
Vol. 2 featured a great story on a group of track cyclists from Derby taking on the world and conquering. This was a great piece and one that really ticks all the boxes of what we look for when it comes to content. All out David and Goliath story. We also had the pleasure to shoot Death Spray Custom in Vol. 2 and he featured on one of our covers. This was a special shoot, and likewise to when myself and Matt Ben Stone photographed David Trimble, we walked away feeling like we'd had the chance to do something very special. It just so happens that both of these covers sold out so maybe our readers sensed that, I don’t know. But I had the same feeling after a recent shoot for Vol. 3, so here’s hoping that trait continues!
What story from The Domestique are you most proud to have published?
A big part of The Domestique is giving contributors something they can have an influence on, be really proud of, and hopefully open some doors too. There’s not one particular piece that really stands out to me, but what I would say is that I’m proud to have worked with the talented photographers, writers, and designers that have contributed to The Domestique so far.
For me, it's also the feedback we receive from each volume that makes me feel really proud. The comments on Instagram or the returning reader. To see or hear that someone enjoys what we are putting out into the world really keeps me going and means so much. Volumes 1 and 2 were a huge learning curve and I feel we’ve hit our stride with Vol. 3, so I can’t wait to get it under some noses!
As something that started as a passion project, do you have the hope that this will one day become your full-time job? If so, what are the biggest stumbling blocks for you in getting to that point?
It would be ~the dream~ for The Domestique to really take off and become my full-time job. However, there is a lot that needs to be done before we get to that stage.
First things first, I’d really like to be able to start paying contributors for their time and work. That's a key ambition for the coming year. And then I'll look towards taking that leap of faith and really committing one hundred per cent of my time to The Domestique.
But I think that in order to be able to do that, TD needs to be more versatile in what we are doing i.e. producing film, events, merchandise etc. Doing these things would offer more opportunities for brands to have their input and is something I’m keen to get off the ground.
Finally, as our name suggests, here at Mantra we’re curious about what keeps our favourite creatives driven and pushing forward. What’s your personal mantra, Josh?
I don’t really have a Mantra as such, but I think Nike have summed it up pretty well; Just do it.
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