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‘Berlin has a domino effect: you meet one person and they introduce you to your new favorite place.’

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Photo>>>Serah Alabi

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Feature by Exceptional ALIEN

Few people possess the bird’s-eye global perspective on culture, art and fashion that Megan Wray Schertler does. Chasing publishing around the world has made Megan an international cultural oracle.

With a career that spans Interview Magazine, CR Fashion Book and Document Journal in New York, Marie Claire in London, Fantastic Man in Amsterdam, HYPEBEAST and now, Highsnobiety in Berlin, Publishing Director, Megan Wray Schertler is at the forefront of the changing face of media and identity culture. Born in Brooklyn, growing up between New York City and an island on Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, Megan has also called London, Amsterdam and, most recently, Berlin home. We chat with the editorial strategist and publisher on culture, building community and her Berlin Travel Playbook.

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On growing up in New York City

I’m struggling to answer it without sounding like, ‘Well back in my day…’, but I think New York changed so much, from Instagram becoming what it is now. That is the really big difference, in terms of going out, how everyone used to dress in a different way, not for Instagram, but just for each other. It was much more of a club kid vibe. The way places would become popular or known was more word-of-mouth. The cool thing is, New York is always New York and there’s always those fringe places, but you definitely see a little bit more of a glossy exterior now.

On finding creativity in New York

It felt like there was a really wide field to play in and there was a nice freedom — you weren’t afraid of whether or not you’d mess it up, so to speak. There were so many other people trying, experimenting and doing — the messy failures. It was almost like a rite of passage, in a way. I remember there was this one girl that was a quote-unquote, fashion designer, but she only made clothes in one color, let’s say turquoise. She was known as the ‘turquoise girl’. Then she had a whole identity shift and it became all about gray, and there was a New York Magazine article about it. I loved that you could fly your freak flag and be creative in whatever way suited you, and people were down for it. New York always has that, it’s something that it definitely hasn’t lost. But that was so freeing when I was younger.

On your career in publishing

It has felt very intuitively-led. I’ve always been obsessed with magazines. In New York I really wanted to be a writer, so I was hustling to make that happen but it’s very hard. I have so much respect for people who are writers, I don’t know how you keep up the stamina! I started work in the Marc Jacobs stores and then connected with [fashion designer] Kai Kühne. I then began assisting [fashion designer] Andre Walker, which was its own fun, creative challenge, and was when Andre was consulting for Marc Jacobs and Kim Jones [currently artistic director for Dior Men’s and Fendi Womenswear and Couture]. After returning to retail, I realized I needed to pivot completely, and so applied to Central Saint Martin’s in London and moved there.

Megan’s creative instinct took her from New York to stints in London and Amsterdam where she worked for some of the world’s leading fashion publications. She then settled in Berlin where she is Publishing Director for global fashion and lifestyle media brand, Highsnobiety. First image by Adrien Aletti, second image by Murat Tost, third image by Charlotte Harrison, portrait shot of Megan by Serah Alabi, final three images courtesy of Highsnobiety.

On where else creativity has taken you

Following that, I went to Amsterdam to do a master’s in fashion theory and connected with the guys from Fantastic Man and offered my services — I had written my dissertation on the magazine. Over time, I went from editorial assistant to managing editor. Then I relocated back to New York after landing a job at Document Journal as their Managing Editor, then to Interview, then to HYPEBEAST, where I shifted into a more digital focus, running all their English language markets, running the dot com, social, magazine and features for online as well. Then, my colleague and partner-in-crime at Interview Magazine, Thom Bettridge, went over to Highsnobiety to be their Editor-in-Chief and I realized he was looking for someone to run their magazine. I started on a maternity cover and wound up as Publishing Director, overseeing news, digital features, the magazine and all of our B2B publishing, and I moved over to Berlin.

‘My experience finding community in Berlin has been a really special and unexpected one. I find that, similar to New York, anyone who has come to Berlin has such a deep-rooted love for it.’

On finding community in Berlin

My experience finding community in Berlin has been a really special and unexpected one. I find that, similar to New York, anyone who has come to Berlin has such a deep-rooted love for it and is so hungry to share their part of Berlin. It’s kind of like a domino effect where you meet one person and they introduce you to one place, which ends up being your new favorite place. Then you chat to the bartender there and that person ends up being a really good friend and giving you recommendations… It really is an open city, from my experience.

On culture shocks

I’d say the biggest culture shock, which is a beautiful thing, is that here in Berlin, everyone is just trying to live their life and not be defined by work in the way that I’m so used to from New York. On multiple occasions in the first few weeks of living here, people in their own way would say, ‘Just wait until you have your time when you’re not working,’ like summer holidays or breaks between jobs, for example. They really value the presence of a person, not tied to their output, which has been a really beautiful paradigm shift for me.

With previous lives in editorial strategy, publishing and research, Megan’s role as Publishing Director of Highsnobiety sees her work across print, digital and B2B. Under her remit is also the Highsnobiety Magazine — a zappy injection of the latest fashion, music and cultural trends. Pictured here is the Summer 2022 issue, with cover star Steve Lacy, an interview with actor Justice Smith and a check in on Kingston’s motorcycle culture. First images courtesy of Highsnobiety, Summer 2022 issue, final portrait of Megan by Serah Alabi.

On Berlin as creative inspiration

Berlin and its culture definitely inspire me in subtle ways. Seeing how everyone really values taking care of themselves has inherently encouraged me to take care of myself. The more you are grounded in that way, the easier it is to be creative. It’s less like direct inspiration but it has changed my relationship to my creative output.

‘Berlin and its culture definitely inspire me in subtle ways. Seeing how everyone really values taking care of themselves has inherently encouraged me to take care of myself.’

On showing friends around for a day

If friends are visiting, I hope they come during spring or summer, because it is just magical here. I would start the day late with a late lunch, probably at Kitten Deli which is my new favorite spot. They have really beautiful salads and fresh hummus, it’s delicious. And then one of my favorite things is Arkonaplatz, which is up in Prenzlauer Berg, and then I would end the day drinking cocktails. My favorite place is Paris Bar. That would probably be the perfect day.

On your relationship with Berlin

It’s definitely growing. I think the fun thing about relocating is that every day challenges your understanding of the city. So it’s so much like a relationship — you go through that honeymoon phase where everything’s amazing and exciting. Then, finding the simple pleasures of like, the difference in the grocery store, or practicing the language — it seems to change every single day.

With a curiosity for exploring identity and consumer culture and a knack for identifying trends before they happen, Megan is inspired by Berlin’s gritty dynamism and its avant garde subcultures. First three images by Fabian Fracchetta courtesy of Har Studio, middle image courtesy of Trödelmarkt Marheinekeplatz, final four images courtesy of ISLA Berlin.

On where to go for off-beat shopping

Marheinekeplatz is a really beautiful square that has a flea market on the weekends, but then there’s also a big food hall attached to it. It’s super fun to go and walk around, see all the vendors, have some lunch, have some wine. It’s a super nice day. ISLA Berlin is an amazing clothing store, but they also do really amazing nail art and little tooth gem applications as well. It’s run by this girl who is so cool, she’s originally from Amsterdam but moved here a few years ago. I think it’s one of the best spaces in the city. 

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‘There’s this restaurant JAJA, which I’m obsessed with. It’s this wine bar and next to it is this bar called Peppi Guggenheim, which is kind of like a jazz and experimental music spot. To me, that is one of the best evenings.’

On finding zen in the city

Har Studio is a sound and meditation studio that I found here and discovered which is amazing, and I can’t rave about it enough. Anyone who’s in Berlin should come to one of these sessions. There’s beautiful gong meditation sessions and breathwork sessions, and just a really cool community of people. I’ve met a lot of cool people through the studio.

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On tops spots to eat and drink

There’s this restaurant JAJA, which I’m obsessed with. It’s this wine bar and next to it is this bar called Peppi Guggenheim, which is kind of like a jazz and experimental music spot. It's very dive bar in the perfect kind of way. They’re literally side by side. So that, to me, is one of the best evenings. Everyone should go to Bar Normal. It’s super cute, super quaint. The food’s really amazing. It’s the perfect spot.

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For Megan, the beauty of moving to a new city is discovering your community through the places you love and vice versa. Her advice for Berlin is to engage with bartenders, shop owners and people in your wellness classes to build friendships and discover the city’s hidden gems. First image by Jonas Tebbe, next two images by Adam Kimby for JAJA, following three images by Gebhart de Koekkoek courtesy of Bar Normal, final image courtesy of Peppi Guggenheim.

On Berlin creatives you are inspired by

There’s two creatives that I am just so in awe of, one being Charissa Chioccarelli who owns ISLA Berlin. The other person I’m in awe of right now who’s based in Berlin is Fania Folaji. She’s an every woman, she’s a talent booker working with a lot of brands to place certain talent with them, but she’s also an incredible DJ who’s totally popping off right now and is completely self-trained. And I think the creative community benefits from both of them being here.

On describing Berlin in one word

I’m going to steal this from someone. Fania [Folaji], when she was trying to describe Berlin to me, she described it as ‘punk’. There’s a very DIY, unapologetically authentic approach to everything here which then results in this creative output. I definitely get what she meant by that, so I’m gonna steal that Berlin is ‘punk’.

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