Behind Corduroy's Seams
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Behind Corduroy‘s Seams

Cover of Corduroy‘s fifth issue, starring Emily Mortimer, shot by Peter Ash Lee.

On a cloudless Monday off, we sat down with Corduroy Magazine co-editor Tim Chan at the Beaver. On the Tuesday, we met with the online editor of a traditional newspaper for the usual doomsday klatsch. We showed him Corduroy: the not-it girl on the cover and the almost random array of subjects inside; the informal interviews and all-original, gorgeous photography. He looked impressed and bemused.
“What kind of person starts a print magazine in this day and age?”
Chan, 26, wears glasses with half-black, half-clear rims, and they’re the only really cool-looking thing about him. On the day we meet, he’s in a red plaid—but not flannel—shirt that’s more IT department than indie rock. His age (26), his master’s degree in journalism (from Columbia), his former job (a morning TV producer) and apartment (in Brooklyn, of course): all should add up to a much-followed Twitter account and dreams of a dot-com empire.
But he wanted a magazine—not a “vanity project” (he and Lee won’t even include shots of themselves with the editor’s letter), but a simple magazine of interesting, beautiful things. And he, a Toronto expat, wanted to collaborate with another fellow Canuck and New York–based creative guy, Peter Ash Lee. So they did it, putting out Issue No. 1 in October 2007.

Chan really does make it sound that easy. Well, he had some savings from the TV job, a couple of small business loans (from Canadian banks, N.B.), and a pile of contacts in the media and show biz. He had issues of Interview and the sadly defunct Index for inspiration. And he knew what he didn’t want to do, which is half of it.
“I don’t want Corduroy to be about trends,” he says, explaining the sometimes confusing content of his mag—why does the dad from the O.C. get more space than hypester musician Lissy Trullie? What the hell has Moby done for us lately? How did Garance Dore, French street-fashion ingenue and the Sartorialist’s sweetheart, agree to appear on the page after Josh Groban, who, frankly, could not be less bloggable?
“We can’t compete with trendy monthlies anyway, because we’re a quarterly. We do stories about people, not projects. We also do people we’ve always wanted to meet. Like, I interviewed Elizabeth Berkley, my total childhood crush. I was shaking, so nervous, like ‘I’m going to interview Jessie Spano!’ And people were like, what has she done since Showgirls? But it ended up being a great interview, because she was so open about herself and her career. When you don’t compromise, and do people you really like, readers respect and appreciate that.”
Who’s his dream cover? Ryan Gosling. Ah, yes, Mr. Chan. Our hearts beat as one.
“He’s perfect, because he’s talented and cool and he’s a pretty big star, but he stays under the radar,” says Chan. “And, yes, he’s Canadian. We do try to have Canadian content every issue. We’ve done this girl from Degrassi, we did Tom Cavanaugh. Every issue we try to get at least 30 or 40 per cent Canadian content.” (Please note: that’s without the government mandate.)
Speaking of our home and native land, Chan is in the middle of a move back. He’s already sacrificed his New York job—and the work visa that came with it—to devote himself to the magazine. Now he’s leaving the loft-land of Brooklyn to hang out in the 905 (his parents live in Richmond Hill) while finding any excuse to explore downtown—and, hopefully, find Corduroy’s ideal readers: “You know, the kind of person who knows about sneaker collaborations and goes to art galleries, but isn’t a snooty collector.”
“I’m excited to come back,” Chan says, twice. It sounds like he’s convincing himself, but we understand; we’ve got the feeling. “I’m just walking around, just fascinated by the way things are migrating west on Queen, for example. We had our launch party at The Ossington and I didn’t know if anyone would come, but they just wandered in off the street.
“People always talk down Toronto, but I’m finding a lot to do here. It’s really—well, I’m thinking of it, at least, as a new opportunity.”