Slow journalism, fast medium: Bart Kiggen & Magali Elali’s Coffeeklatch

Back when Magali (31) was looking for a graphic designer to help on a book project, someone introduced her to Bart (32). Fast-forward two years later and the two are a couple, living together in Antwerp with two cats and hot on the heels of the one-year anniversary of their project ‘Coffeeklatch‘, a website that documents their chitchats with Belgian creatives and includes everyone from fashion designers to painters. That book, by the way, never got finished.

You’re a couple, you live together and you run Coffeeklatch together – is it even possible to keep things separate?

Bart: Not really, but we’re not as on top of each other as you might think, because we also have our day jobs. I work in a design agency and Magali as a freelance fashion editor.

How did you get the idea to start the project in the first place?

Magali: It happened quite organically. I was doing an interview series about fashion graduates for an online magazine and one day I took Bart along to take the pictures. People really liked it and so we thought about a way to continue working in that manner. That’s how we came up with Coffeeklatch.

B: Exactly. We wanted to continue the collaboration but independently. We have total freedom now, which is really nice. We can take our time and do whatever we want, no pressure.

So the tasks are clearly divided, does that make it easier to work together?

B: I guess. I take care of the photos and the art direction and Magali does the writing and takes care of the content. She finds interesting people and does all the talking.

M: I think our secret is that we really respect each others work and don’t interfere when the other is doing their job.

I’m sure it’s not always peace and love – what’s been your biggest disagreement so far?

M: I always want to change things and Bart wants to keep everything as it is. When something is successful, I want to develop it further. Bart keeps reminding me that it is what it is and that’s why it’s working so well. That’s really our biggest point of conflict.

B: I just think it’s nice to have something simple and clear and clean, something easy to read. Why change a winning team?

What do you like about each others ways of working?

M: I love Bart’s methodology, his analytical approach when it comes to work. He has a certain way of doing things and whenever I question it he always has the perfect explanations ready and is always right in the end. He’s very pragmatic and I’m the chaotic one. I also like how he builds up energy sometimes. Just the fact that he’s there with me already motivates me. It makes me want to do my best!

B: Really? I didn’t know that…

M: Yes, I don’t want to disappoint you! I want to show how good we are together, you’re the eyes and I’m the mouth, basically.

B: And I really appreciate Magali’s honesty. She will not hold back; when something is not good she’ll say it. I’m impressed by how she always finds interesting people to interview and gets really interesting facts out of them. When we arrive they’re always skeptical but she makes them feel at ease and gets them to talk.

M: Thank you!

Is there nothing that annoys you about your partner?

M: Actually we are very similar, also when it comes to our faults. We both are amazingly stubborn.

B: We are self-critical when it comes to that, so it’s not really a problem. We are alike on so many levels and forgive each other really quickly.

Let’s talk a bit about your project, Coffeeklatch. How do you select the people you interview?

M: We really need to be a fan of what these people do. We don’t just interview anyone; quality is really important to us. Additionally, the interviewee should have a nice living space, because the interviews always take place in their homes and Bart photographs their surroundings. We’re pretty selective, actually, and not everything gets published in the end. In the beginning we asked our friends if they knew interesting characters, but we didn’t want to stay in the same circle, so we also started asking the interviewees for suggestions. It’s like a snowball effect.

B: We also pay attention that the mix of people is right, that there is variety and not only fashion designers for example. Coming back to the living spaces: we’re not an interior website and no one needs to have a designer home or anything like that. It just needs to be special in a way, show personality. We’ve done everything from museum-like designer houses to the crazy artist studio with cats running around.

You’re not making any money with this project and dedicate lots of your free time to it – what motivates you?

B: This project opens up my mind and makes me learn about so many things. It makes you discover a lot, meet people, listen to different opinions…

M: The project is about inspiring people. The people we meet inspire us and we want to pass on this inspiration to the reader. And it makes me so happy every time we get an email from someone saying they love what we do.