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Student creatives collaborate to create, fund, distribute RAW Magazine


(Left to right) RAW Magazine Editor-in-Chief Rachael Thomas, Creative Director Nick Sullivan and photographer and model Haley Ayotte stand for a group portrait Dec. 2 in Wightman Hall.

In 2016, a group of 10 fashion merchandising and design students from Central Michigan University set on a mission to merge edgy and editorial. Two years later, RAW Magazine has doubled its staff and raised production to two issues per school year; a milestone for the student-organized magazine.

RAW Magazine is not a registered student organization, nonetheless, students of all majors are invited to collaborate. Members meet on a weekly basis to construct content. 

“We wanted to join an organization that was more hands-on and could provide skills that would be beneficial for employment. However there was not an organization on campus at the time that suited our needs.” 2016 CMU graduate and RAW Magazine founder Kaityln Lauer said. 

Lauer is currently a product coordinator for Gucci. 

To style and shoot RAW Magazine, student organizers use their own clothes, equipment and funds. Printing costs are covered by advertising and donations. 

The group's goal is this: to reinvent runway looks college students of Mt. Pleasant could see themselves wearing.

“RAW is streetwear with an urban edge. We shoot in a lot of oversized garments, but with a softer, minimalistic approach,” Editor-in-Chief Rachael Thomas said. 

Thomas was involved in RAW's founding in 2016 and joined as a fashion writer.

“‘Edgy’ is a little abrasive in nature,” Creative Director Nick Sullivan said. “We are a fashion-oriented magazine, but beyond that we bring societal issues to the main focus and discuss them alongside our fashion content.” 

Sullivan has also been involved with RAW since 2017. 

“We want to be raw in our approach telling people’s stories through our print, online and social media handles,” he said.

The magazine’s content is organized into three sections: lifestyle, beauty and style. The lifestyle section of RAW is its podium used to navigate subjects concerning people of diverse body types, skin colors and social standing in society. The magazine aims to generate an outlet for those who might not experience representation otherwise.

Over the past two years, RAW has transformed from a group that creates a single, 50-page issue focused entirely on fashion to one that creates themed issues of 80+ pages addressing mainstream culture’s collective systemic problems within the context of fashion. In past issues, RAW has elaborated on the topics of men in society, anxiety, women’s rights, perspectives of people of color, fashion sustainability, religious ideology and more.

The latest edition of RAW, “The Growth Issue,” features a piece titled “Raw Bodies.” The piece aims to speak to the male viewpoint of soul-searching and self-love within a society that values emotional detachment and masculinity as intellect.

“I don’t feel pressure to meet stereotypes, but I do feel pressure because I don’t meet them,” Saginaw model Tyrek Johnson said in “The Growth Issue.”  

Magazine leadership said securing financial sponsorship for RAW can be challenging. 

“The cost of finishing and printing our issues varies from semester to semester. We determine how many (magazines) we will have printed based on how much we are able to raise over the course of the semester,” Sullivan said.  

This semester the team targeted local businesses to pay for advertisements in the magazine to help cover printing costs. 

“We’ve done ads in the past, but now we have an advertising team that goes out into the community, seeks advertisers and makes connections with the local community.” Thomas said. “The goal moving forward is to continue connection with businesses who advertise with us and connecting with more businesses in the community and beyond.” 

The current Fall 2018 issue has sold nearly 120 copies. The organization is planning to reveal the magazine's Spring 2019 theme this upcoming January.

“People are impressed with the overall talent of the students and how much work goes into the magazine” Thomas said. “We’ve been commended for how inclusive our publication is, which is one of our top goals.”