No smoke without fire
Whether you hate, love or are indifferent about it, almost everyone has some sort of a relationship with cannabis, especially nowadays. Several states in the US have legalized it for recreational use, in Canada it’s legal for medicinal purposes and a massive amount of scientific research has been done evolving the public perception of the infamous plant.
Anja Charbonneau, former creative director at Kinfolk, is the founder and creative director of Broccoli, a magazine created by and for women who love cannabis. Offered free of charge, Broccoli explores and shapes modern weed culture by looking at cannabis through an art, culture and fashion lens.
Where did Broccoli begin and why did you want to create this magazine?
Broccoli was started to help push forward normalization of cannabis, and to engage with the subject on a totally new level by focusing on art, fashion and culture. We wanted to make sure that women have a clear voice in the evolution of cannabis culture, and part of this was recognizing that for many people, cannabis is just part of the bigger constellation of their lives, not always the sole focus. We represent this balance through the way we discuss cannabis in our pages, and by highlighting interesting women who reflect this reality. There’s so much more to cannabis than strain reviews!
What kind of experience do you want to give to your readers – both visually and textually?
We love exploring the creative, sensory side of life, including the cannabis experience. We love texture, layers, depth, and try to bring this multi-layered feeling into the magazine’s art and the writing by focusing on the details, and by not being afraid to step away from reality from time to time. We encourage our contributors to get a little weird, to have fun and to play with the ways they express beauty. Reading a magazine should be fun, it’s a personal, somewhat private experience, and Broccoli is something you can weave in and out of, or take a deep dive into… We just sent our summer issue to print, and my favorite articles are a translated essay from a Japanese woman on the cultural and spiritual meaning of hemp in Japan, and an imaginary trip to space (paired with cannabis-related souvenirs).
Why has it been important for you to portray the positive sides of cannabis use and cannabis culture?
Cannabis is still very heavily stigmatized (and illegal) in most places. One of the first steps to changing the stigma is to share the stories of how and why people use cannabis, and what it means to them personally. Weed is an incredibly nuanced subject, and by looking at it from a variety of angles we’re able to connect it to parts of life that our readers are already familiar with, like music and art, or the idea of self-care and personal rituals.
The visual expression of Broccoli differs a lot from the universe you established at Kinfolk. How conscious were you about creating something different than what you have previously worked on?
This is one of the most satisfying parts of creating Broccoli. During my time at Kinfolk, I worked to evolve the art direction beyond the stereotype of the “latte on a coffee table” image into a richer, more timeless exploration of art, history and fashion. Kinfolk’s visual DNA was built within a strict framework, so it has been incredibly freeing to step outside of that box and express all the weirder parts of my visual fantasies. I can finally publish the color pink, and there will never be enough flowers.
Cannabis-focused magazines in Norway are almost nonexisting, but my impression is that the market in the US is flourishing. What steps have you taken to separate yourself from the other magazines?
We have the benefit of being the first cannabis magazine to approach the plant with a focus on art, fashion and culture, and our women-led team (and contributors) really speaks to a specific audience. One of the most exciting things for us is that our community is so global, we send the magazine to readers all over the world. Broccoli is helping to connect people on an international level, and that’s really unique movement that we are grateful to be leading.
Broccoli is a free magazine, where do you find the money to sustain it, and why did you want it to be a free magazine?
It was important to us to make Broccoli free because we want the magazine to be accessible. This way, we have a greater chance of connecting with people who are curious about cannabis, but might not be ready to spend money on a weed magazine. We’re working with brands in the cannabis, fashion and design industries to support the magazine through advertising and partnered content, events, etc and are working with some really wonderful entrepreneurs and businesses to get the magazine out into the world.
Can you tell me a bit about your background and the road that lead you to this point of your career?
I spent a few years working as a freelance photographer, shooting for indie boutiques and fashion labels, but I always had various side hustles going on at the same time. Eventually photography led me to art direction and publishing. Photographers are often their own art director, producer, marketer, etc, so switching to the other side of the lens was a fun and natural transition (even though I continued to shoot for myself). I worked with Kinfolk making books and magazines for the brand for 3.5 years, and now I get to focus on the business side as well with Broccoli. I used to think that I lacked focus, because I’ve always found it hard (impossible) to focus and commit to only one thing, like just being a photographer. It took years to accept that my path is winding, and that my love for multifaceted work is something I can really run with, which is why Broccoli has been such a fulfilling project to bring to life.