Mathieu Roy and Alicia Maclaren arrived late to lunch because of “outfit troubles.”
Mat is wearing a black varsity jacket over a black shirt, Alicia a white top clasped in the front and cropped white trousers. Around each of their necks lies a silver necklace with a pendant like the wax seal you’d find pressed on a letter. Alicia’s seal is a bird and branch, which she explains stands for creativity. Mat’s is a crest adorning a wolf, standing for compassion and strength. In heraldry, a wolf can denote someone who is a brave strategist, or an individual willing to gain their objectives no matter how hard the enterprise nor how long the siege. Alicia and Mat are the minds behind Victoria’s Creators community and its flagship Creators Mag. Only six months after the release of its first issue, the magazine is receiving international acclaim.
Mat leans across the table. With his hands echoing his salesmanship, he says, “Essentially, we want to destroy every norm.”
Mat followed his RCMP parents in 14 moves across Canada before settling in Victoria in 2017. A born entrepreneur, Mat hadn’t yet found his calling when it came time to make his own way in the world. “My biggest fear is complacency, and not wanting to change or grow. When I was given the opportunity to take a ticket and go to Victoria, I jumped at it. People back home always told me not to aim as high as I would, or I’d get my dreams smashed. I’m not afraid of that.” Mat was 20 years old and in a new city with no friends. Searching for a community of creatives and entrepreneurs like himself, Mat took to local groups and forums. Finding Victoria’s assortment of networking groups on Facebook unsavory, he started one of his own: Creators Victoria. It started with Mat and a handful of people he’d met while working at Starbucks and Shopify. The group grew from six to sixty to six-hundred in only a few months.
At the same time, Alicia was pursuing modelling. A year out of high school, she signed with an International Agency in Vancouver. The agency offered little for her efforts, so Alicia decided it was time to take it in her own hands to find work, her own shows, and develop her own portfolio. Alicia’s modeling developed quickly from creative expression to a fully developed business with her working with many notable brands and businesses across Canada. She realized quickly that she wanted more than what the modeling industry would provide her and decided to start building connections through creative communities. It was in her search to network and grow within Canada’s creative scene that she was introduced to the Creators group and met Mat. The two found themselves on a walk through Goldstream Park a short while later.
“Alicia was the first girl I had ever met who operated just like I did, she had a five year plan and ambitions big enough to make anybody think she was naive. She wasn’t in the least, she had grit, incredible skill and talent when it came to creativity and adapting to change. She’s different—that’s what made me want to go all-in.”
A year later, the Creators group was flourishing under Mat and Alicia’s guidance. Members of the group wanted an Instagram page for their work to be featured on—a place to promote top talent. Mat says, “We thought that was great—but it’s been done before.
We thought, ‘Is there any way we can one-up this?’”
Mat reaches for a brown leather sleeve he set on the table. Unbuttoning its clasp, he draws out two magazines and slides them across the table. A quick flip through reveals stunning portraits printed on caviar-fine paper—a sturdy, premium feel in hand. It’s as much a photobook as it is a magazine: a sharp collection of imagery and essays with not a corner cut. Seeing my reaction, Alicia says,
“It took the entire summer.”
Alicia had spent every moment when she wasn’t serving at a restaurant learning how to use InDesign. She started with no knowledge and no educational background on how to run or create a magazine. There’s an expectation of what a prototype should be, and she wanted to shatter that. After months of preparation finding content and artists to feature, the night of printing came. The magazine was brimming with a robust and elegant array of content and design. A publisher had been selected. Everything had led to this.
Alicia takes the magazine from my hands to dissect.
“Nothing worked out. Our first issue—which was sent out to people—the pictures were distorted, the cover was chopped in half, I have no idea what happened at the publishers. It was a disaster.” Alicia turns page after page, pointing out where images had been skewed, cropped, or misprinted entirely—all on the same expensive paper. In the end, Alicia and Mat hand-delivered a revised edition to their local subscribers before returning to their basement suite exhausted. They did what anyone in their situation should do.
Mat turned to Alicia and said, “We can still do this.”
The second issue eclipsed the first, and the third bettered the second. The couple—unbeknownst to their families and friends—quit their jobs to pursue the magazine full-time. Alicia says, “That’s when so much untapped potential came out. We have so much more creativity with our minds freed—we’re constantly bouncing new ideas off one another. Mat will yell at me from another room and I’ll shout back, ‘Great idea! Let’s do that!’”
Creators Mag just launched its eighth issue—printing at two editions per month and featuring 40 unique photographers and models apiece. The magazine has rapidly garnered international attention, and now features artists from Russia, Germany, the US, and beyond. Each brings their unique aesthetic and story to the magazine, which Alicia and Mat are eager to publish. They described one story in particular about a photographer who found himself knee-deep in quicksand while shooting in the desert.
What was conceptualized as a feature page for Victoria’s photographer and model communities has rapidly developed into an international arthouse—though not without some growing pains. Throughout our meeting, their phones sprang to life with the 50-odd submissions they receive every day.
Mat says, “The fact that we’ve built what’s soon to be a six-figure business from our basement is ridiculous. People send us emails and say, ‘Can you send this to your Media department?’ like we’re some corporation. I think it’s hilarious—like yeah, let me pass that off to myself, there’s only two of us running the entire operation.”
Hot on the heels of their ninth issue, the couple is discussing a move to Vancouver to support their creativity and lay a better foundation for their continued growth. And while they may be leaving Victoria, Victoria certainly won’t be leaving them. Her hand resting atop Mat’s, Alicia says, “We were founded here. we wouldn’t have met one another, I wouldn’t have pushed myself, and the magazine wouldn’t have started without here.” Though their goals are to globe-trot and meet creators worldwide, the magazine will remain distinctly Victorian.
Sharing the stories of aspiring artists, promoting their work, and in the future acting as an agency for many; granting Victoria and the world the feature-page and helping hand that so many once needed, Creators Mag is by the people and for the people in it: whether they’re from Vancouver Island or the other side of the world. Alicia says, “I want to meet up in LA or Japan—just like our community does in Victoria—but all over the world. I want to create a space for people to be creative. Even if it takes ten years.”
Mat leans back in his chair and fiddles with his necklace—the wolf crest.
“I’d say it’s doable in five.”
This article was written by Hunter Oliwa @loverboy_hunter, Fashion Photographer located in Victoria BC. Photo of Alicia & Mathieu photographed by Hunter Oliwa.