Ever wanted to know what your favourite designers, creatives or podcasters thought about? Excellent, us too. It turns out there is a newsletter that has all of that and more. Perfectly Imperfect are a twice-weekly newsletter that features some incredibly talented people, lifting the curtain on everything from the footwear they’re feeling to the wild behaviour they’re endorsing.
Guests have included up-cycling sensation Nicole McLaughlin, Blackbird Spyplane’s Jonah Weiner and A24’s Creative Director Zoe Beyer. We got hold of Alex, Serey and Tyler to tell us more about Perfectly Imperfect, how New York is the centre of cool, and how newsletters might just be the new media format we all need.
Words by: Robert Seneschall
G: Hello! It’s great to get to talk to some people that have been involved in the meteoric rise of the newsletter over the last couple of years. For the readers unfamiliar with who you are and the format of what you do, could you please introduce yourselves?
At its core, Perfectly Imperfect is a newsletter about what cool people are into, and twice a week we ask guests to share some recommendations with our readers. It’s a great resource for intellectually and culturally curious people wanting to expand their taste and find something new.
The newsletter was started in August 2020 by Tyler Bainbridge, Alex Cushing, and Serey Morm, and has grown quite a bit since. At first it was just the three of us sharing recommendations, something we’d already been doing in a group chat for years, but eventually we expanded the concept to include friends and people we found cool or interesting. These days we only share editor recommendations once a month.
G: Often mocked and much maligned, the Comic Sans typeface is a key part of your visual identity, becoming completely integral to your visual output since starting. What was your reasoning behind using it, and is it plausible that using Comic Sans could hinder your growth by putting people off what you do, based solely on a superficial assumption?
Totally. But the Comic Sans actually acts as a litmus test in the best way possible. If you don’t think Comic Sans unironically rules, or is at least funny, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not going to like the newsletter. And for those people, there’re plenty of other “serious” recommendation sources with “cool” branding. But if you want to hear what cool people are genuinely into and have a sense of humour, Perfectly Imperfect is there.
G: I became really aware of you guys round about the time I discovered Blackbird Spyplane, another recommendation newsletter, albeit totally different in style to yourselves. What does the newsletter format allow you to do that a more traditional media outlet doesn’t?
In mid-2020 newsletters (and podcasts) really started popping off and the pandemic spawned some of that growth. Everyone was cooped up inside which meant we were more online than ever and finally had enough time to watch that movie or impulse buy that thing.
The newsletter format isn’t held to the same standards as traditional media outlets which is a pro & a con I guess. It’s great because we can run any recommendation we want, let our contributors express themselves with a conversational tone & slang that’s familiar to readers, and play around with the format on a whim. But the flipside is that some people don’t take us (or the medium) seriously, but maybe that’s for the best.
fun and weird."
G: Another noticeable trait of yours is all your newsletters are free and available to anyone who wants them, unlike many other subscriber-based outlets. Moving forward, will Perfectly Imperfect always be free to access or will it move wholly or partially behind a paywall?
It seems like all the highest quality podcast episodes, newsletters, websites, etc, are paywalled these days. I totally get it though; these things take a lot of time and hard work... especially at our twice weekly cadence. However, we like to keep the newsletter totally free since we (the PI editors) all have boring day jobs that pay the bills. I really like that it lets everyone access our content and be a part of Perfectly Imperfect without restricting to those with expendable income & fat Patreon budgets.
If we do make any income on the newsletter it’ll be through things such as merch, which doesn’t limit access to our site or dilute the quality of recommendations. We did some back in November and it was a lot of fun, so we’ll definitely do more soon.
G: It seems like many of your guests are New York natives, recommending a whole host of restaurants, bars, shops and things to do across the 5 boroughs. How do you connect with all these people? Are you now at the stage where word of mouth gets around and people know about you before you approach them?
When the newsletter first started I had no connections in New York City, or anywhere haha, but now that people are starting to know about Perfectly Imperfect it’s gotten a bit easier. My moving to NYC earlier this year and making a lot of genuine friends through the newsletter has been a big help. At this point we’ve featured a lot of people’s friends or friends of friends, so it feels like a big community and they genuinely want to be involved.
G: On the flipside of this, there’s this sort of hyper-localisation that occurs when speaking to people that inhabit the same sphere as you. Is that something you’re conscious of? Or is it something you’re happy to stick with because New York is the centre of cool?
Oh, for sure. But I think right now it’s better for us to focus on one scene or region we know well and cover it deeply. I like to think that when this era of New York and the people we cover are looked back on someday, Perfectly Imperfect will be a great anthropologic record of who and what was cool.
G: Some of the recs your guests give can totally move away from tangible products into everything from behavioural aspects like podcasters Throwing Fits recommending ‘Attention Seeking Behaviour’, to Walter Pearce from Wet Brain’s incredible but definitely fictional ‘Cold Cut Diet.’ Have any guests ever pushed the envelope too far in what you think is either comedically too off-piste or just unbelievable?
Honestly, those are the best ones! I love when the recommendations veer into the weird or intangible. Of course, I want to know the skin care products I should try, which pants I should check out, or what my favourite person’s favourite movie is. But I find it really special to read about Leia Jospe’s praise or “manifestation”, hear Dean Kissick describe this most magical view in Paris, or learn about Walt’s kitchen habits. They’re tiny but intimate glimpses into the lives of others.
So don’t knock the cold cut diet until you try it!
G: You also get together frequently and publish your own recommendations of what the Perfectly Imperfect crew are into at any given time. As taste curators, do you feel there’s more pressure on yourselves to be constantly into something?
100%, there’s definitely a lot of pressure to put the spotlight on some cool shit every month. But in the end, it’s OK if the editor recommendations aren’t earth shattering. If you tune in consistently you may find that you’re more of a Tyler, Alex, or Serey, and can have confidence in that person’s taste. To me that’s the real value in our editor recommendations… and it’s a lot of fun.
G: Perfectly Imperfect is a newsletter based on real people recommending real places, products or experiences. Does it sometimes feel like Perfectly Imperfect could or should exist as a more physical read?
That’s something we’ve been interested in for a while. I don’t want to say too much, but you can expect some type of print from Perfectly Imperfect in 2022.
G: I'm sure you get asked for recommendations all the time, and we’ll ask you to select a few products from our store you’re into, but, going into 2022, is there anything you’d like to recommend us to see, do, or be a part of in the New Year?
Tyler: Stop being an asshole. Be kind. Start listening to Jonathan Richman. Wear your scarf as a babushka. Drink your Martinis dry. Buy an old point & shoot. Eat a good croissant.
Alex: I recommend writing. Write a book, a poem, a journal, a newsletter, a list, a stream of consciousness, anything.
Serey: Step away! No matter how much you love or hate doing something, go hiking, play some tennis, cook a nice meal, free your mind!
To celebrate the arrival of cosy new winter collections at Couverture, we invited brand consultant and digital creator Brittany Bathgate to pop by the store for a catch-up and coffee whilst she was visiting West London from her hometown of Norwich.