Hello, and happy Friday! Today, we’re digging into:
🖨️ Teensy, a new Brooklyn print publication written by a Bourem Hill high schooler — and, more broadly, the future of youth media
👩🎤 DTC DIY Gen Z (how’s that for buzzwords) hair dye
👛 How Alibaba could overtake Shein in the hearts of teens globally
Usually this Friday edition is for paid subscribers only (ily guys), but because Teensy is a small business devoted to promoting small businesses, and I want everyone in the whole world to know about it, no paywall today.
That said, if you enjoy this letter, please consider supporting me 😇 my landlord thanks you in advance.
🖨️ The future of youth media
Meet Esme Neubert, the Boerum Hill high school student behind Teensy, a new local “print magazine created entirely by aspiring journalists between the ages of 13 and 17, with the stated aim of supporting Kings County’s small businesses struggling amid the pandemic.” As a noted teen magazine obsessive (not to mention Kings County diehard), I freakin’ love this.
Great mission, feel-good funding*, flawless execution
*i.e. this is the rare youth publication that Bryan Goldberg is not bankrolling
According to their Kickstarter, Teensy is “a youth-culture magazine, written and created by teens, to support local businesses, small storefronts, and community driven organizations in Brooklyn, New York. Teensy is a celebration of mom-and-pop culture, from a teen point of view.”
The first issue — which came out in September — had a 1,000 copy run that was funded by $4,400 in funds raised on Kickstarter. The publication was distributed for free in Brooklyn businesses like beloved book store Books Are Magic.
The design is playful and joyful and interesting and everything you could want from a magazine. What I loved about teen magazines back in the day (and, ahem, still) is that they’re so damn fun. There used to be quizzes and cut-outs and funny, rambly asides. There was humor and personality! They were the opposite of ephemeral (as evidenced by my boxes and boxes of teen magazines under my bed).
While the content of Teensy is hyper-local and not necessarily produced with mass audiences in mind, the limited-run nature of the issues will work in their favor (tapping into Gen Z’s drop-obsessed mindset) — plus, when your topic is New York City, localness doesn’t exactly hold you back from appealing to readers outside of the city. (See: New York mag.) That’s to say nothing of the fact that this is created by Brooklyn teens, who are by definition the coolest teens in America. If I, a teen in rural Missouri, caught wind of an exclusive print mag that Brooklyn teens were putting out, I’d do anything to get my hands on a copy.
The state of youth media in 2021
Last month, the New Yorker asked: Could the Teen Magazine Rise Again? Reporter Kate Dwyer talked to a number of experts and enthusiasts (including me!), and the consensus was…uh maaaaaybe? The media landscape is vastly different than it was in, say, 2002, when there were a dozen teen magazines on the market. These days, there isn’t a single corporate teen magazine publishing a print edition regularly.
Yes, Teen Vogue is still doing its thing, publishing articles about police brutality alongside beauty news. (See for yourself.)
And there’s Kyra Media’s TikTok fashion publication Rag Report that, per WWD, plans to “become Gen Z’s Vogue.” Which I think is cool and all that, and so does the account’s 1.4 million followers. But TikTok content lasts on the brain for like 30 seconds and then it’s on to the next.
As I’ve written before, I believe there is a future for teen magazines, it just looks different than the teen magazines you and I grew up with. More evergreen than the publications of yore, which devoted most of their pages to new product launches, movie and album teasers, and celebrity “exclusives,” and more fun.
All of that’s to say: I can’t wait to see what Teensy does next.
👩🎤 DTC hair-dye startup Hally is coming for Gen Z
At-home hair dye saw a quite obvious spike during the pandemic. (I fell victim to a drugstore box dye, and it ruined my hair beyond repair, leading to a drastic chop that has taken an entire year to recover from — but that’s neither here nor there).
“How to color your hair at home” was one of Google’s top search trends of 2020. Madison Reed, an at-home hair dye company that’s been around since 2013, doubled sales and raised $52 million because of covid. In May of 2020, they sold a hair dye kit every five seconds. The pandemic altered the way we dye our hair, and according to Allure, those changes will last.
Hair dye startup Hally, which launched in Feb 2021, narrowly missed the pandemic box dye heyday. But they’ve nonetheless managed to become a category leader, particularly among young consumers. As of this week, the DTC brand announced its first retail partnership: Ulta.
Why not Target? Or Walmart? Or Sephora?
Teens obviously like all of those retailers, but teens love Ulta. In fact, Piper Sandler’s fall 2021 “Taking Stock with Teens report” reported Ulta Beauty was listed as the No. 1 beauty shopping destination for Gen Z.
Ulta’s also rapidly expanding, which can’t hurt. Yesterday, Ulta announced plans to test small-format stores. They’re also speeding up curbside pickup and adding same-day delivery.
What’s different about Hally?
The dyes are foam-based and ammonia-free. The formulas are “demi-permanent,” meaning color lasts for 4-6 weeks. Hally is marketing temporary hair dye as a fun experience rather than routine maintenance.
And like most brands that are getting traction with Gen Z, they’ve been super strategic about partnerships:
Since its initial launch with three colors, it has released three additional shades: a blue shade with 19-year-old YouTuber Ellie Thumann (2.2 million subscribers), a purple shade with Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe’s daughter Ava Phillippe (994,000 Instagram followers), and a black shade for Halloween promoted via its “Hally-ween” campaign on social media.
Hally hits on two important aspects of youth culture: 1) it allows for experimentation (and, like the disappearing ink tattoos that are taking off, it’s not permanent experimentation) and 2) it’s extremely social media friendly.
👛 How Alibaba could overtake Shein in the hearts of teens
OK, this has been a whole lot of words and em dashes for your eyeballs to process on a Friday afternoon, so let’s just get to it as quickly as possible: Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding recently launched a fast-fashion retailer — called allyLikes — aimed at North American and European markets. This is a very obvious attempt to beat out rival Chinese shopping site Shein.
I think they have shot! A few reasons…
Speed and variety: allyLikes adds new styles fast and frequently, with over 500 new arrivals each week; Shein, by contrast, adds nearly 5,000 new items a day.
Influencers: They’re recruiting popular creators to promote the brand with perks including sponsored gifts and 50% commissions.
Data: They’re leveraging Alibaba’s “rich e-commerce data processing abilities.” And they do mean rich: In Q1 2021, Alibaba’s China retail marketplaces had 925 million mobile monthly active users and 811 million annual active customers. In 2020, revenue increased 37% year over year to $33.8 billion. (Shein’s revenue was closer to $10, but they’re also very new compared to Alibaba.)
If anyone can really take on Shein, I do believe it’s Alibaba. A company this massive has supply chain issues on lock, they’re able to source a huge amount of stuff to sell, and they’re able to make people buy said stuff. So…stay tuned! This will be a fun one to watch. (Except for all of the fast fashion that will inevitably end up in landfills. That part will not be fun.)
Everything I am reading, buying, watching, hearing, etc.
Reading: “Am I Emo?,” Dirt; “Think of it as a Kickstarter tote bag but much, much better”: Dirt, an entertainment newsletter, is funding itself with NFTs, not subscriptions,” NiemanLab; “Lil Wayne Lives Twice,” The Ringer; “Young Thug Finds A New Galaxy,” Stereogum; “It’s time for Americans to buy less stuff,” Vox; “How Amina Akhtar Changed Her Life at 40,” Gloria (this newsletter — for women who still feel 25 unless they’re standing next to a 25 year old” — is required reading)
Buying: Salonpas, in hopes of beating an excruciating neck pain that came from — of all things — two hours spent podcasting; a completely seasonally inappropriate dress that I technically don’t need, but it’ll be good for ~wedding stuff~ (ugh, sorry to be that person) and I nabbed it on sale; with great effort, a pair of plain black tights. I ran into a Westfield mall in San Francisco this week on a mission to buy a single pair of black tights as quickly as possible (it was much colder than I expected, but isn’t that always the way in SF?). It took me like 6 stores and 40 minutes to locate a pair. Why are malls…! Finally, at Nordstrom — 6 floors connected by approx 2 escalators — I came across the saddest selection of hosiery. The saleswoman blamed the supply chain; I ended up with a perfectly fine pair of tights.
Hearing: “Bound,” Wet and Blood Orange; “Neo Surf,” GENER8ION and 070 Shake; Weight of the World, Maxo Kream; Kawhi Leonard Presents Culture Jam Vol. 1 (the Uzi Vert song is a standout); also, I listened to Punk for the better part of a 6-hour flight, and then I listened to this really fantastic Young Thug mix for the rest. (If you’re sorta meh on him, hear me out and watch his SNL performances, especially the one with Nate Ruess, formerly of Fun. and — more importantly, at least to me — The Format.)
Watching: Like literally everyone else, Succession and You. Also, I caught a bunch of old episodes of Friends in my hotel room for the first time since I was a teen and I thought it was…pretty bad?? Does the show simply not hold up, or was I just being crabby (extremely possible; see persistent neck pain)?
One last thought:
Lincoln Michel @TheLincolnOur society devalues art and creativity across the board, and then people assume that writing is extra easy since there's no "technical" side. They can't pick up a violin or sculpt marble without training but think everyone can type on a laptop. https://t.co/LGD9VYme6B
As always, if there are any typos, I sincerely apologize. Blame Bryan Goldberg for not subsidizing *this* youth culture publication.