Unusual means succesful
10 years of La Loupe! Interview with Benjamin & Julia Skardarasy
In December of 2011 the first edition of La Loupe – the unusual magazine Lech Zürs – was published. A ground-breaking moment for a success story that has lead to one million printed magazines and a total of 54 La Loupe editions from Lech Zürs all the way to Sylt. Sensitive, with an eye for detail, attractive, and certainly unique – all this goes for the covers, interviews, stories, and recommendations with which La Loupe wins over its readers. A “best of” of extraordinary personalities, hotels, restaurants, and activities which, however, is by no means be exhaustive. “Quite simply: it’s about moving the beautiful things in life into the limelight – with sensitivity and an eye for design”, explained Benjamin and Julia Skardarasy, the two editors, during an award ceremony in 2020. Speaking of which: La Loupe has won numerous design and brand awards that have been a worthy reason to celebrate together. Now it is time for a peek behind the scenes. On occasion of the anniversary, the editorial team asked the Skardarasys for an interview during which they answered questions on the Why, the How, and the What behind La Loupe.
T. L.L. / Ten years of La Loupe. A success story?
B.S. / Yes, definitely – though it also depends on how you define success for yourself. During La Loupe’s first years we were in our mid to late 20s and not completely convinced but still very proud to be able to publish a beautiful, all-new print product for in Lech. Over time when the readers and customers had connected us with the place and La Loupe had become an established name we became more daring. We even became courageous enough to approach celebrities and talk them into doing an interview with us. The interview with Niki Lauda in the autumn of 2013 really is the ultimate example here – we really were a bit weak in the knees there and felt like we needed to pinch ourselves afterwards. What we see as an actual success, however, is the fact that La Loupe has become an important companion for many – be it before, during or even after their holiday. For some the comfort of their own home has also proven to be the perfect place to leaf through the beautiful stories and restaurant tips around the Arlberg, which means we’ve even made it into people’s living rooms.
„Es geht einfach darum, die schönen Dinge des Lebens mit Design und Feingefühl in den Fokus zu rücken.“
T. L.L. / There used to be a facts & figures section. Can you give us some La Loupe facts & figures?
B.S. / La Loupe’s content has always been shaped by influences from fashion, design, art, or music – our passions. Much like we as a couple and as individual personalities developed, the magazine’s style, shape, and colour constantly changed and improved over time. The current version, for instance, offers more space and logical structures the readers profit from and which have been honoured with well-known awards. A kind of interim goal because it cost us a lot of courage, strength, and stamina to publish 54 editions over ten years. 19 of which were for Lech Zürs, with more than 6,000 pages of content, 300,000 printed copies – some of which readers even ordered to New York, Australia, India or Dubai. And since La Loupe is now available in bookstores in the DACH region and online book sales have increased over the past years a startling total of one million editions has been printed and read. However, without the faithful readers and radiance of Lech Zürs this would never have been possible. Regular guests became regular readers, La Loupe a popular addition to many bookshelves, and we became increasingly well known in the industry.
"Es sind tatsächlich schon 54 Ausgaben und eine Million Stück, die gedruckt und gelesen wurden."
T. L.L. / What is that special ingredient in La Loupe?
J.S. / It’s all in the mix! Benjamin is from Lech Zürs and a trained tourism manager – a job that led him to the Côte d´Azur, to Villar or Market Harborough. Because of his passion for trade journals which still keep him close to the market and the industry’s trends today, he wanted to leave his own mark in his own way – not as a hotel owner or consultant. With me by his side taking the path towards our own magazine was easy because as soon as one of us has an idea the other one is immediately on board. As an art historian I adore colours and good stories, I’ve always enjoyed discovery tours and adventures and I’ve studied in Vienna, New Orleans, and Beijing. Still, I never lost my roots in Swabia and Burgenland which gave me accuracy and enthusiasm. Neither of us enjoys walking down the trodden path, we’d rather take a winding road and indulge along the way – after all La Loupe is our life and more than just a nine-to-five job. The actual name is Skardarasy’s La Loupe – we are La Loupe and if things are a bit less colourful and cheerful sometimes it is our name that obliges us to deliver good quality and make our readers happy. We are best compared to one of our editions: there is plenty of colour, a couple of really good tips, and a lot of balance.
T. L.L. / Do you have a motto you stay true to?
J.S. / It’s important to us to never stand still, to keep developing the magazine – not necessarily with the goal of offering the readers more and more pages with each edition, but rather with more depth. Copying something can be tempting, we see it all the time. And sometimes that’s hard to avoid, but we usually prefer to let ourselves be inspired. So, in 2015/2016 there was a turning point which was probably caused by our six-week tour of the United States – our honeymoon – a so-called game changer. Of course, the trip was romantic, too, but first and foremost it taught us to trust in ourselves and our style because we are an item – we are the Skardarasys.
"Eigentlich heißt es Skardarasy´s La Loupe – wir sind La Loupe und auch wenn ein Tag mal weniger bunt und fröhlich abläuft, verpflichtet uns unser Name, gute Qualität abzuliefern und die Leser zufriedenzustellen."
T. L.L. / Interesting format, extraordinary covers, brilliant articles – award winning, you achieved everything! How can La Loupe keep developing?
B.S. / There possibilities are endless! True, the visual aspects are unlikely to change much in the future – recognition is very important; but since we keep moving around between different countries, industries, and interests, simply anything can influence La Loupe. For instance: it was a shop window with jeans in Rome that inspired the colour of the cover of the 7th edition. An elegant dark green with camouflage highlights. In the future we will be no less attentive when looking at our surroundings, current trends, and – most importantly – the people around us, that’s what keeps us up to date. We love both change and tradition equally, we adore street food and a good Sunday roast, we listen to podcasts and records – the list is infinite (laughs) but it shows just how versatile and colourful we are. All these characteristics give us the freedom to work creatively and find topics that might be easy to miss at the first glance.
T. L.L. / How would you describe your daily work routine?
J.S. / No day is like another – that’s why we love our work so much. The most everyday aspect is that we do everything together, sometimes even parallelly. In the morning we discuss the day’s schedule over breakfast, we tinker on ideas at our shared desk and for us to spend our lunch breaks or afternoon coffees apart is a very rare exception. For many – and we hear that a lot – working like this with their spouse would be absolutely unthinkable, but for us it’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Each of us has their own areas of responsibility that complement each other perfectly to form the magazine. It’s basically a family-run business where each of us can rely on the other. La Loupe is inextricably bound to our lives. Which is why it was edition no. 9 in 2015/2016 that saw the unofficial rechristening to Skardarasy’s La Loupe. Whether it’s on a cloud, a house, or a car, each cover bears this and other small messages.
"Diese Qualität zu liefern ist zeitaufwändig und wird immer seltener, doch La Loupe ist eine Sammlung aus handverlesenen Kleinigkeiten – eben von uns persönlich."
T. L.L. / A magazine is more than its cover. How do you come up with the content, where do you find the ideas?
B.S./ That actually makes us laugh a lot because finding topics is really very easy, maybe because we’re so nosy. Well – not the worst character trait when your main job is to publish a magazine; but we’ve often had to increase the page numbers. Which is totally worth it because good stories must be told and printed. Aside from the great encounters we’ve had as a result of our curiosity, the interviews and stories also get a very personal touch because of it. Creating that kind of quality takes a lot of time, time that is so rarely invested nowadays, but La Loupe is a collection of hand-picked treats – selected by yours truly. Now let us share a little secret here: as of 2018 Julia sketches out every single cover – with a pencil and paper, a cup of tea and an eraser. Each one is unique.
T. L.L. / You are zeitgeisty, you know your way around trends in fashion and on dinner plates but would you say the way you work is contemporary?
J.S. / All of our internal processes, with a team of up to ten freelancers, are communicated exclusively via a project management tool; no e-mails, no paper. Our team is almost exclusively made up of women, by the way – superwomen whose input, enthusiasm, and passion for La Loupe equal our own.
Just before the printing deadline, before everything is approved and finally sent off to the printer’s, things sometimes need to move swiftly, or we may need to work late into the night – these things bring us closer together. We all have the same lump in our throat, we’re equally exhilarated and relieved to see that the work we’ve put in over the past three or four months has once more resulted in a beautiful magazine we can all be proud of. This well-oiled team strengthens us a publishers. And time and again young talents and start-ups contribute their fresh ideas and skills to La Loupe or help as a backup. We may not share an office in the conventional sense, with a cosy coffee bar or a meeting corner, but we do meet online and share aspects of our private lives in Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, Dornbirn, Turin or Berlin. At this point we should like to praise our core team members Julia, Lisa, Katrin and Judith; you are amazing.
"Das alltäglichste ist, dass wir alles gemeinsam – fast schon parallel machen. Für viele – das hören wir oft – wäre diese Form von Arbeit mit dem Ehepartner ein Ding der Unmöglichkeit, für uns ist es das Schönste auf der Welt."
T. L.L. / What stories did not make it into the magazine?
J.S. / The stories about us, all the others have been printed. All the content may be based on our personal interests, but we are not at the focus, and we do not function as tour guides. La Loupe is not supposed to be a small template for the perfect holiday to copy, but rather a selection of the most beautiful spots and amazing places like Lech Zürs. At the end of the day, you want to arrive and start indulging without having to rely on some stranger’s rating or having to hunt for a restaurant when your tummy is already grumbling. Maybe we even speak from experience here because we are no travel-pros ourselves. But we do enjoy the hunt – or rather the find and that’s what we need to share with everyone.
T. L.L. / During the past year travelling and indulging became pretty much impossible. What was your personal way of coping with the situation?
B.S./ We have been focusing on La Loupe for ten years and that was always the intention and never questioned. Suddenly, however, everything stood still, and other things rather than travel magazines became important. As hopeless optimists with a collection of 54 La Loupe editions and the major design awards on our shelves we knew quite soon that we would wait, cut back a little, and pick up where we left off as soon as possible. Giving up is not in our nature and even if we didn’t get to travel as much as we usually do and couldn’t check out restaurants and hotels like we usually do we did not have to cut back on our indulging. I (Benjamin) am a passionate chef and Julia likes to use her talent for design at home, too. We generally look closely at our surroundings, at what and who influences us. We prefer less rather than more.
"Die Covers werden seit 2018 von Julia per Hand vorgezeichnet – klassisch mit Bleistift auf Papier, einer Tasse Tee und Radiergummi. Immer ein Unikat."
Readers of La Loupe will find everything they need to know for a beautiful holiday in this award-winning pocket magazine. The Guide in English and German takes a close look at some bigger cities and, in particular, Austria’s well-known tourism destinations for summer and winter holidays. There is a total of 54 La Loupe editions for a variety of destinations, all of which are available free of charge in the respective locations for readers and locals alike. “Continuously asking questions and developing our La Loupe magazine has been our daily bread for ten successful years”, says Benjamin Skardarasy. Now, all those looking for tips on restaurants, hotels, day trips, sports activities, and art should just go and pick up their copy of this design guide with ingenious illustrations and glittery applications on the cover. By the way, the print magazine is complemented by the website www.laloupe.com which is also divided into a magazine and a guide section. La Loupe has an international standing and access to a large, global network with excellent taste.
Overview of the figures of success:
La Loupe destinations so far: Lech Zürs am Arlberg, St. Anton am Arlberg, Stuben am Arlberg, Kitzbühel, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Salzburg, Munich, Kampen/Sylt, Zillertal, Innsbruck, Berchtesgaden, Bad Reichenhall, Lower Austria
Special editions: Generali München Marathon, Zürs Jobs on the Rocks, Kampen & Lech Zürs
Awards: Red Dot Award 2020, German Design Award Winner 2020, German Brand Award Gold 2020, German Brand Award Winner 2020, IF Award 2020, ICMA – International Creative Media Award 2017