Strolling Hayes Valley with Natalia Borecka, Founder of Lone Wolf Mag

Sundays are great anyhow, but we love them, even more, when we get to spend them with people we admire, like Natalia Borecka.

W

e stumbled across Natalia in this Refinery 29 interview and ever since we have been huge fans and followed along with her adventures — be it as founder and editor-in-chief of Lone Wolf Magazine or while she traveled the world for six months. Natalia is one of those people you instantly want to be friends with — cool, smart and a good soul. One coffee date with her and you will want to tell her everything about you. Originally from Poland by way of Canada and now it San Francisco, Natalia started her career as a fashion photographer before she went on to create Lone Wolf Magazine — a women’s lifestyle publication focusing on philosophy, empowerment, and education while seen through fashion. Perfectly curated and brought to life by Natalia, Lone Wolf is a culmination of thoughtful stories supported by the power of fashion. From styling to fonts, Natalia’s unique creativity is in every aspect of her work. So you can image, we couldn’t have been more thrilled when she agreed to show us her neighborhood, Hayes Valley in San Francisco and chit-chat with us about all things running a magazine, what she loves about SF and where she finds her inspiration. Come on, read on and join us for an afternoon stroll with Natalia.

In your pursuit to blend fashion and philosophy, you created Lone Wolf – an international print and online publication. Tell us a bit more about the vision and the inspiration behind it.

My life’s purpose is to inspire a sense of wonder about the world in others.
Lone Wolf magazine is really the byproduct of my belief that art is the best vehicle for personal transformation, and that it can heal emotional wounds better than anything else.
Art can be extraordinary transformative, and in a world where we’re primarily connect to one another through computer screens, I think art brings us back to the basics of being human. So, with that in mind, I created a magazine that would serve as a mental refuge for anyone looking for a side of soul with their daily dose of inspiration. It’s really my way of sending love out into the world, in the hopes that it reaches those who need it most.

*Natalia and her cute dog, Milo, at her door stoop in Hayes Valley. 

Since few years you call San Francisco your home base. Can you tell us a bit about your journey to where you are today in your life?

I moved to San Francisco after dropping out of law school in Toronto in favor of a career in fashion photography, and eventually, publishing. That’s the short answer. In reality, it has been a long road to California. Originally I’m from an unpaved little village in Poland, which was under a communist regime at the time. It was a deeply restricted, horizon-less place back then. So my mom convince my dad that leaving our small village life was the only reasonable thing to do. That’s when roots became liquid and we moved from place to place to place.

After we left Poland we lived and slept in our car for a while, and eventually, found ourselves in an Austrian refugee camp with a dozen other families where we all lived in a large room lined with bunk beds and suitcases piled high.
For years we continued to move around like a band of travelling gypsies. Nothing was easy or straightforward or stable.
San Francisco is the first real home I’ve ever had, and so I feel an immense love for this city.

You went last year on six months world trip! We followed along on Instagram to all the amazing places you visited. Did this journey change you? Would you do it again?

It actually felt more natural to be on the road than it now feels being at home!
Travelling that much does something magical to your brain.
Your brain gets rewired to accommodate a sense of continual nowness, an awareness of each passing moment, each meal, each sunset. None of it is to be missed because all of it is happening somewhere new and important. It’s like, on some level, you’re aware that every step you take is going to be part of the story you will one day tell your kids. So you pay hyper attention to everything around you in a way that you simply never do in your regular everyday life.

I honestly believe that travelling like that is a form of meditation. Have you ever noticed how time slows down when you travel? The hours expand as if by magic. A single afternoon could be so full and hold your entire attention so much that it fills what would usually take a whole week of your normal life. Once you feel that kind of centeredness, it’s hard to go back to a regular life where days go by without you noticing. I think it’s impossible not to get addicted to endless travel because what you’re really getting addicted to is that feeling of being fully present in your life.

Natalia looking for some new pieces at Oak+Fort on Hayes Street. 

What would be your #1 tip for someone traveling the world for so long?

Pack light! Traveling around the world comes with a unique packing problem because you are looking at being prepared for every possible type of climate and social situation, so there’s definitely a temptation to over-pack. Just don’t do it! Bring only the very basics, limit yourself to the things you know you’ll need and that will easily fit into a backpack (don’t even think about traveling with a suitcase!!).
One pair of jeans, one pair of shorts, two dresses, two tshirts, three pairs of shoes, rain coat, sweater and you’re done.
If you find that there’s something else you really need, you can always buy it along the way and ship back home what you are no longer using in order to make room in your backpack. This way you can actually allow yourself to buy the beautiful treasures you find on your journey with such limited backpack space.

Back to your magazine, like every job, being an editor and founder, it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. What is great about it? And what not so?

Oh where do I start haha! Ok so let’s begin with the good stuff.
Nothing is as personally, creatively or professionally rewarding as taking a product from vague idea in your head to something physical you see in stores all over the world.
That part is just awesome in every way.

Alright, now for the not so great stuff, like finances (i.e. the other F word).
Let’s be honest, no one goes into the publishing industry for the money and glory. Period.
You do it because you love it, and because it allows you to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. You do it because it lets you to live the creative life you need to live in order to be happy. Magazine publishing is an extremely difficult industry to get into, one that requires you to be creative about how you generate money. When I first started I thought print advertising was still a viable business model for magazines, and that’s just no longer true. Not as long as you’re indie.

The other thing that’s definitely the opposite of rainbows and unicorns is the way print magazine distribution is structured. It’s kind of a tired old dinosaur. Magazines are still largely distributed through big bookstore and newsstand chains, but when was the last time you drove to Barnes & Noble just to buy a magazine? Most people don’t do that anymore. These days magazines are more successfully merchandised alongside fashion in cool little indie boutiques like Le Point or Rand and Statler in San Francisco. But the system just isn’t built for that. As a publisher, if you want your magazine distributed anywhere other than a bookstore, you have to hustle to get your publication in those retailers yourself. And that can take an extraordinary amount of time and energy.

 

What is the biggest challenge in running a print and online publication? Anything you would do differently or try to change?

Yes, absolutely, tons! As with any business, you learn so much just by going for it and making mistakes along the way. The first and most important lesson is never ever go it alone.
Be a lone wolf in terms of innovation, vision, design, pushing the status quo, but definitely do not be a lone wolf when it comes to your team.
It may take some time and patience, but if you really want to launch a magazine or a successful blog, don’t walk that long and difficult road alone, it will only slow you down and make you less creative. You really and truly are only as good as the people you collaborate with, so getting out there and connecting to as many people who share your vision as possible becomes essential.

Having said that, I think it’s also critical to be on your guard. Be professional and open to collaboration, but don’t be so open that other’s can take advantage of you. I’ve been endlessly surprised by how ruthless people can be in the business world, particularly in fashion. It’s an important life lesson to remember that some people will go to great lengths to undermine and take credit for other people’s work.

Lunch time at one of Natalia’s favorite spots, 20th Century Cafe on Gough Street.

You feature topics that make one think or rethink their current situation. And your articles are all well researched. Can you tell us a bit about this process?

I take a very intuitive approach with writing. Often times I’ll feel my best articles long before I even think them through in any clear way.
Every single thing I write about has affected my life in some way, it’s usually something I care deeply about and want to share with people.
The underlying motivation is always the question, if I had read this five years ago, would it have helped me? Would it have lifted the burden? Made things clearer? Eased the pressure? Inspired me? If yes, then I’m all in. And then I start building my article, brick by brick, until I feel that the structure of my argument is solid and can withstand most logical questions.

 

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I think my favorite thing about this job is that I get to speak with authors and artists I admire whenever I want. Every time I read a book I get to ask myself, do I want to have a conversation with this person about this amazing thing they’ve created? Is this something that would be valuable to my readers? Every single one of those conversations blows me away. I love getting a front row seat to the creative process of these brilliant minds.

 

Any advice for someone looking to get into magazine business?

Yes, definitely!
The most important thing is to do your research and know your target market before you dive in.
Understand how financing a fashion magazine differs from financing other more niche magazines like the ones that focus exclusively on yoga or diy or bridal or a combination of these. The more niche your magazine is, the easier it will be to appeal to a super specific demographic and lock down advertisers. This is true of blogs as well. The other thing I would urge would-be magazine publishers is to have a long-term game plan because, generally speaking, publishing businesses take up to four years before you start seeing a reliable revenue stream. So buckle down and get ready for the long-haul.

What is next for Lone Wolf?

Right now, besides expanding Lone Wolf’s digital presence, the thing I’m most excited about is the coffee-table book I’m writing! I’m taking the very best of Lone Wolf, everything I’ve learned from the brilliant artists and authors I’ve spoken to, the countless hours of research and writing, and pouring it all into this one little work of art – an inspired fusion of photography, art, fashion and philosophy that together will make the ultimate guidebook to life. The idea is to use art as a vehicle for exploring what it means to be alive. It’s going to be unlike any art book you’ve ever seen!

 

What inspires you at the moment?

So many things! Right at this moment it’s Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, feminist Germaine Greer, Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, every piece of clothing by the brand Paloma Wool, Montreal based artist Alexandra Levasseur, and fashion photographer Charlie Engman.

 

 

What is your way to unwind from a stressful day or week?

I just finished setting up my epically perfect reading nook, complete with wing-back chair, large stack of books and mermaid blanket! But seriously, it’s my favorite corner of reality that reading nook. Stressful day? What stressful day, amirite?

 

Ok, and now few questions about California…

 

The thing that makes you happy about where you live?

I love Hayes Valley so much, I usually find little reason to ever leave it.
I love its tree lined streets with charming pastel Victorian houses and cafes with plenty of outdoor seating.
Hayes Valley has everything a girl could need – a tight community, plenty of chatty dog owners that congregate at Patricia’s Green park every morning and swap stories about their pooches, fresh ice cream courtesy of Smitten, excellent coffee thanks to Ritual, the perfect croissant via Arlequin Cafe, gorgeous clothes provided by Rand and Statler, Reliquary and Fort and Oak, journals, books and other treasures at Lush, and a solid girls night out courtesy of Two Sisters and Riddler Champagne Bar. I could go on and on. I love this neighborhood. 

San Francisco’s cool champagne bar, the Riddler

What is your favorite road trip in California?

This is a tough question, California has so much to offer road-trip wise. For me, I always love going north along the coast to Bodega Bay where Hitchcock’s movie The Birds was filmed, and where you can eat fresh oysters and watch dolphins playing in the waves. For oysters I highly recommend a place called, what else, The Birds. Driving north I love spending the night in Bodega Dunes Campground, where you can pitch a tent on soft sand inside a beachy coastal forest, and watch falling stars around a fire. From there, you can take a surreal hike towards the beach over beautiful sand dunes covered in tall golden grass. It feels like a dream.

 

Where should we go for a weekend getaway?

Carmel by the Sea! It’s my favorite weekend getaway. After the devastating earthquake of 1906, a massive number of artists moved from San Francisco to Carmel, and built this incredible little creative community there. You’ll notice that historical legacy in the sheer number of art galleries on every street. It’s a beautiful place with nooks and crannies that look like they were taken straight out of a storybook. Definitely book yourself a massage at Refuge while you’re there, and enjoy the serene outdoor spa. It’s where I go when I’m completely burned out and need to recharge.

Proxy Project in the middle of Hayes Valley. 

How would you spend your perfect Saturday?

Pack some chopsticks and a blanket and get some takeaway dim sum at Hing Wang Bakery on Judah St. or Wing Lee Bakery on Clement St. and have a morning picnic in Golden Gate Park. I like doing this in the courtyard facing de Young Museum, the place has excellent acoustics and there’s always some young Mozart that wheels their piano right into the center of the courtyard and fills the space with the musical equivalent of sparkles.

 

After you’re done chomping dumplings, head over to the museum and hunt down my favorite painting there, by Frederic Edwin Church called “Rainy Days in the Tropics” and marvel at how one person could capture so much light and magic within a canvas. I swear you’ll think the painting is lit up by some external light source. If you are a photographer, this masterpiece is going to blow you away.

 

After that, walk over to The Booksmith bookstore on Haight and Ashbury, the famous intersection that gave rise to Woodstock and the summer of love, pick up a couple of indie magazines and a book, then head over to Stanza coffee shop for some good brew and heavy reading.

Once fully recharged, walk over to Bi-Rite and buy yourself a bouquet of beautiful wildflowers, before heading home and placing them on your coffee table. I’d then take my dog Milo to my favorite dog park in the city Fort Funston, and watch the paragliders over the pacific ocean. I’d probably end the day with cocktails at the world famous ABV on 16th Street in the Mission.

Your three go-to restaurants in San Francisco?

Rich Table on Gough St., this place is so innovative with their ingredients and serves simple but exceptionally good food without a pretentious “fancy restaurant” vibe.

Suppenküche on Hayes St., because I can’t live without a good wiener schnitzel and theirs is top shelf.

And lastly, Arlequin Cafe on Hayes St., because they don’t just serve a breakfast burrito, they serve THE breakfast burrito (also, they’re the only place in SF where you can get fresh pretzel croissants, and those are second in importance only to air in my books).

 

Best brunch without a line in SF (at least not a long one)?

Generally I swear by the old wake-up-before-everyone-else trick and show up right when a restaurant opens. But as far as short waits go, Maven on Haight St. is about as short as they come (ten minutes or less, zero if you’re ok eating by the bar). And their duck-hash breakfast special is perfect. Also, make sure to order a Paloma, that cocktail is a game-changer.

 

Where should we shop in SF?

Ok, so I love Le Point on Valencia St. and 14th. Pauline Montupet, the shop’s owner and seriously talented wardrobe stylist, has the most amazing taste and the space itself is really beautiful, all modern and pristine-white. I also love the General Store for their wide selection of pretty things, from journals to clothing. Another favorite is Reliquary on Hayes St. where you’ll find a lovely curated selection of unique jewelry and beautiful, comfortable, breathable fashion.

 

A hotel, you cannot wait to stay at?

Hotel Lautner in Desert Hot Springs, it’s just a short drive north of downtown Palm Springs. I’m all about that mid-century Frank Sinatra meets the desert vibe over there.

 

If we have only 12 hours in San Francisco, what should we do … Where do you take out-of-town friends?

To start the day off, I like to grab coffee at Ritual in Hayes Valley’s Proxy Project. It’s a great place for sun and people watching. Then I like to take guests for brunch at the Trident restaurant in Sausalito because you get to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge to get there, it’s dog friendly, overlooks the entire San Francisco skyline and it’s right on the water, so you kind of feel like you’re brunching on a boat. You get to watch the sailboats go by and it’s just really lovely. After that, we drive to the Marin Headlands for the most spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s definitely a very touristy thing to do, but well worth it if you’ve never been. Then I’d head over to Baker Beach for some sun and relaxation. I particularly love this because to get there you get to drive through the Presidio and see at all the beautiful homes tucked away behind towering eucalyptus trees, which is always really nice for visitors. Then I’d grab some gelato in North Beach on the way to the historic City Lights Bookstore, which was the most important American publisher of the 50s. A really exciting place for literature geeks like me. Then I’d hurry over to the birthplace of the burrito, the Mission District, for some excellent Mexican food courtesy of El Farolito (bring cash). I’d end the day at ABV bar, because they have the best cocktails in the city.

 

Best kept California secret…

I’d say Tourettes Without Regrets, it’s a variety show that takes place every first Thursday of the month in Oakland, and it’s kind of impossible to explain what the show is about because it’s a wild mix of everything. It just feels quintessentially Bay Area. An underground indie art show that features totally insane slam poetry, rap battles, break dancers, comedians, and just about everything else you can imagine. The talent is amazing, and the crowd is really cool and eclectic. People of all ages and backgrounds are there to enjoy the weirdness. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

 

What do you love most about California?

Oh god what’s not to love? The ocean, the golden hills, the hippie culture that’s still everywhere you look, the architecture, and the general optimist held by everyone. The idea that anything is possible is very much in the air here. I sincerely believe that anyone who can’t see that California is paradise has been living in California too long and forgotten what the rest of the world is like.

Make sure to follow Natalia and Lone Wolf on Instagram. And read Lone Wolf here

Thank you, Natalia!

*All images by Ana Kamin for California Weekend. 

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