Creator Tessa Lerbekmo says it started as a 'passion project'
The glow from her silver Mac computer illuminates one side of her room – the screen showing a half-finished magazine layout.
With a quirky smile and twinkling brown eyes framed with square-shaped glasses, she begins pointing out pieces of her artwork around the room.
Lerbekmo, 25, who earned her degree in electronic publishing from Mount Royal University in 2011, has been creating her own magazines since her teen years.
By age 13, she was spending at least 20 hours a week cutting out models, shoes, dresses and makeup photos from Glamour magazine.
Holding up a thick handcrafted book, slightly smaller than a standard piece of paper, she says: "I used to cut out fashion headlines and write up all my own stories to go along with the pictures I chose. This is the first magazine I created as a teen."
For Lerbekmo, playing with publications has been a pertinent part of her life since she was a small child.
A collector of print patterns, jewelry and textile designs, she says the process of cutting and gluing her own photos into scrapbooks ultimately led her to magazines.
"I loved how magazines were these big books we could carry around, with unique layout designs and photography in them," she says.
"The way images and text are placed on a blank canvas to fit a computer screen or print copy is so appealing to my eyes."
A hobby turned into reality
Twelve years later, Lerbekmo is the creator and artistic director of Fashionsign Magazine.
"The publication started in October 2010 as an online blog site about anything fashion-related. People who were reading and following my blog started wanting more," she says.
Her "passion project" followed soon after – with the first issue of Fashionsign appearing online in February 2011.
At the time, only six people helped produce the publication. But it wasn't long before things started taking a more serious turn: the second issue launched in September 2011 with 1,812 active readers.
"Yes we add Photoshop effects to make the photo style creative but we do not change the models body, or correct blemishes."
Fashionsign Magazine creator
Lerbekmo now has a volunteer staff of 24. Currently the March 2012 edition is available online – the magazine comes out four times a year and covers fashion trends for each season.
"My goal is to eventually pay all my writers, photographers, and graphic designers full-time salaries.
"Right now everyone works on a volunteer basis, purely because they love what they do," she says.
Currently, Fashionsign's blog site receives 5,500 hits weekly and boasts a number of advertisers such as White Cedar Photography, True Elegance Salon and Lola Lashes.
While concealers smooth over imperfections and shiny covers catch the eye, Lerbekmo says she uses very little Photoshop on her magazine. That's one characteristic that sets the magazine apart – she refuses to use Photoshop to alter models' appearances.
"Yes we add Photoshop effects to make the photo style creative but we do not change the models body, or correct blemishes," Lerbekmo says.
The magazine also supports emerging talent and artists in Calgary, focusing much of its content on "normal, everyday people" rather than "big-time celebrities."
Lerbekmo and her business partner, Nicole Willis, realized that Calgary needed more avenues to present the creative resources it has.
"There are some great fashion shows, music and art in the city. We just wanted to blog about it and have the information available for everyone," Lerbekmo says.
The magazine focuses primarily on informative and fun layout designs – "candy to a reader's eye."
On the horizon
Jess Bobbyn, editorial photographer, says that "Tessa's work is inspired by everything that surrounds her.
"Our drive runs off her drive. She is doing this purely out of her love for art and fashion."
Bobbyn adds that Lerbekmo spends countless hours building the business. "It's a 24/7 job."
"I am a full-time photographer and work by myself most of the time. Fashionsign, on the other hand, allows me to shoot creatively for myself."
She explains that it can be lonely working on your own and says that being involved with a creative group means cool stuff happens. "I love it."
The fall 2012 issue of the magazine is particularly important to the Fashionsign team. It will be the first edition to launch 10,000 print copies in Calgary and central Alberta – Edmonton, Cochrane, Red Deer and Lethbridge.
The fall issue will have an online and print release date of June 2012.
The magazine is a free publication and the summer issue is currently available online at: http://fashionsignmag.com/
Lerbekmo says that her ultimate goal is to offer people in the age group of 25-35, a juicy, fun and informative publication. "Once it grows in Alberta, we would love to grow nationally as well."
- By April Ip