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Meet the stockists: Under the cover

Under the cover shop

When Lisbon-based Luís and Arturas first opened Under the Cover they were brand new to independent retail and Portugal was suffering a financial crisis. Despite that, they achieved their dream and their beautiful gallery-style space is home to a curated selection of magazines from around the world, and has a dedicated following. We spoke to Luís about how they hunt for the best titles for their shelves.

What inspired you to open Under the Cover?
Me and my partner Arturas have always been passionate about magazines and we had this dream of opening a store together, but at first this seemed like a very scary idea. We had no prior experience and were coming from a totally different background – we were both working as health professionals at the time. It took us a year to plan everything and to set things in motion before finally opening in 2015. Under the Cover was envisioned amid a global financial crisis, which struck Portugal particularly badly. Adverse moments like these tend to show us what truly makes us happy and not be afraid to take risks.

What’s the indie magazine publishing scene like in Lisbon?
The publishing industry in Portugal is definitely bubbling. This is noticeable through the number of people coming to the shop looking for inspiration for their own projects. Just in the last couple of years we witnessed the birth of several contemporary magazines based in Portugal: Farta, Lisbon Insiders, Eighty Degrees, Wrong Journal, Electra, Contemporânea, Portico; besides the established ones like Attitude or Umbigo. From food, travel and design to creativity, art and culture, these are great examples of magazines pushing the boundaries of the Portuguese publishing scene and becoming important international publications. It’s also inspiring to see young kids pursuing the idea of publishing an independent magazine or a small zine that eventually ends up on our shelves. It’s great to see things come full circle like this.

What makes Under the Cover special?
The curating makes the place, we believe. It speaks our voice – playful, dynamic, high quality, provocative and sometimes even surprising. The magazine world is huge and sometimes it is difficult to keep up with all the new projects popping up. This is why we also listen to our customers’ interests and suggestions.

Another important thing that we’ve taken into account from the beginning is how the titles are displayed. We didn’t want overlapping publications and overcrowded shelves, instead we went for a small but carefully curated selection with gallery-like exposition. We had precious help from talented friends like Italian architect Alex Bocchi and Berlin-based graphic designer Valeria Benner to give a clean and contemporary feel to the shop.

How do you choose the magazines that go into the shop?
We are constantly on a treasure hunt, whether it’s by going through Instagram feeds, crowdfunding platforms, or by visiting other countries’ magazine shops. We are always looking out for new and interesting titles. When we get really excited about a project we can’t wait to bring it to our store in Lisbon and present it to our customers. Editors often reach out to us with new magazines, giving us the opportunity to support new independent projects, and this makes us really happy too. The hardest part in all this is choosing what goes on the shelves. We try to systemise it according to different criteria: design, layout, quality of the paper, concept, content, originality and approach. But there’s no universal formula and we end up using our intuition a lot.

Also, we are lucky to have this lovely relationship with our returning customers to the point that we know their names, so we try to learn their interests and meet their expectations the best we can.

What are your current favourite magazines?
It is hard to select one, but we would like to mention one of our favourites: Real Review. It’s an UK-based journal with an odd format that folds four times, published by Jack Self. The whole idea behind the publication is to investigate what it means to live today, by touching subjects like architecture, design, society and current affairs.

What does the future hold for Under the Cover?
We are trying very hard to keep it small and local. We believe that expanding or opening more shops could potentially make us lose our identity and focus. We feel like we are part of a special community and we try to honour it as much as possible by organising small events where editors and readers can meet, share experiences and strengthen this very important network.

A slower, more reflective type of journalism”
Creative Review

Jam-packed with information... a counterpoint to the speedy news feeds we've grown accustomed to”
Creative Review

A leisurely (and contrary) look backwards over the previous three months”
The Telegraph

Quality, intelligence and inspiration: the trilogy that drives the makers of Delayed Gratification”
El Mundo

Refreshing... parries the rush of 24-hour news with 'slow journalism'”
The Telegraph

A very cool magazine... It's like if Greenland Sharks made a newspaper”
Qi podcast

The UK's second-best magazine” Ian Hislop
Editor, Private Eye
Private Eye Magazine

Perhaps we could all get used to this Delayed idea...”
BBC Radio 4 - Today Programme