Biola students launch The 138 Collective blog

A team of Biola students is investing their expertise in a culture blog devoted to “the threads” of Biola.


Mike Villa

Phillip Domfeh is the editor of the new culture, fashion, and art blog The 138 Collective. | Kelsey Heng/THE CHIMES

Felicia Heykoop, Writer

Since the 90s, blogs have been a tool for cultural dialogue, and are responding to trends more rapidly than magazines or the news. Blog fame for an individual could very well be a fluke, or the 15 minutes of fame predicted by Andy Warhol –– but perhaps the reality is bloggers are saying the right thing at the right time.

Blogs influential in culture

Consider some recent obsessions of our generation, like Tavi Gevinson, a 14-year-old Chicago suburbanite who achieved blog fame from her thoughts on fashion published on Style Rookie. Gevinson is both a child prodigy and an annoyance in the fashion world –– but at the end of the day, she takes home a lot of haute couture swag.

Then, there is the ever-sharp former fashion editor Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist, who was recently referenced on “Glee,” and photographer Tommy Ton of Jak & Jil who will put your event photos on his blog for as low as $10,000.

Biola student blogging with vision

The question is: could any blogger have what it takes to become a voice within culture –– or at least score some swag? It’s the question plaguing the mind of senior Phillip Domfeh, who is currently charting a course to those proverbial 15 minutes with his blog, The 138 Collective. Started as a fashion blog to display “the threads” of Biola students, The 138 was inspired by Domfeh’s addiction to various kinds of media and fashion bloggers including Schuman,, GQ and

“I really just like too many things, and they all circle around media,” Domfeh said.

The 138 began to take on more than fashion. Soon, articles about music, films and interviews with other bloggers, such as Christian Lander of Stuff White People Like, emerged. The 138 grew in scope and in staff. The team of writers, photographers and designers total at 15 members, all Biola students, with art major sophomore Kourtney Jackson as assistant editor, now creative director for fashion.

Team forms around the blog

Start-up was extensive. “There were about one and a half months of lunch meetings and pitching, first to photographers and just people I thought might be interested,” Domfeh said. “I say to everybody that they need to be able to dream and the people who have that creative spark eventually came on board.” Jackson had the strongest response. A week after Domfeh shared his idea with her she had so many of her own that she had to join in.

Domfeh, a music performance major who has also dabbled in acting and design, believes establishing “cultural cache” is something he can do as editor-in-chief of The 138. The right to be heard in the conversation on culture is the blogger’s coveted privilege, and the root of the phenomena of being blog-famous.

Blog directs and guides discussion

In Domfeh’s mind, the exclusivity established by what a blog discusses guides the thoughts of the reader as to what is even worth discussing.

“The art community is an exclusive one in the sense that people are aware of it and know who belongs to it –– same as, say, the sports community, but we’re not targeting them,” he said.

For Domfeh, the transition from center stage to behind the scenes has been a double-edged sword.

“The function I serve at this point is pooling talent,” Domfeh said. “Everyone I work with knows much more about their thing than I do.”

Being a cool boss

However, unlike the performance side of art to which he has been accustomed, being editor “is not a source of creative esteem” meaning it does not supply the same sort of gratification playing music or acting can. Even so, Domfeh believes the most valuable lessons learned from this project have been about leadership.

“Leadership is awkward because I don’t want to step on toes. I like leading, but it’s tricky and people work for free because they’re passionate about the project,” Domfeh said. “More and more, I identify with Liz Lemon [of NBC’s “30 Rock”] who wants to be that cool boss but still has insecurities.”

Branding the blog

Domfeh admits the coolness of his blog project has yet to take hold, but he is hopeful. The 138 acts as a third-party link between Biola and student conversations –– of which the crowning achievement is The 138’s coverage of the Arcade Fire secret show.

Currently, The 138 is in the process of becoming a brand. Domfeh believes half the recipe for blog success is a defined look that is encompassed in layout, logo and tone. But, what about the other ingredients? Domfeh has a strategy for all of it, including the name. “The 138 refers to 13800 Biola Avenue. It’s for Biola students, but it feels third party,” Domfeh said.

The idea is that The 138 can have relevance to demographics beyond Biola.

“College is great because you have developed talents, but you’re not established yet,” Domfeh said.

Blog draws together many fields

Jackson agrees. “What I love about 138 is that we have experts in music and film and all these fields and I love to see them come together.” She believes that the higher calling for The 138 is to engage in the cultural conversation where Christians have previously shied away. “We are pursuing excellence and the world listens to people who are great at what they do.”

For now, this blog is a space that allows students to exercise, explore and in Domfeh’s words “dream.” Time will tell how The 138 will contribute to Biola’s cultural diet.

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