TEN MAGAZINES THAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE CLOSED
Every once in a while, a magazine come comes along that so catches the now that were you to choose between breathing or missing an issue you’d go with the not breathing. After all, if you’re dead, you can always be buried with an issue. If it sells out, life as you know it might as well be over. And just as quickly as it came it disappears from the shelves of newsagents the world over. Why? Who knows. All you know is that they were the greatest things to have ever existed and, like, totally changed your life. Who will understand you now?
The first cover featured a bedroom with walls plastered with rows and rows of magazine covers of Farrah Fawcett. Its owner was an Ikea stylist who had on his neck a tattoo of the bar code from a bottle of Fabergé’s Farrah shampoo. Welcome to Nest: A Quarterly of Interiors. Started by Joseph Holtzman, it focused on “the obsessive collectors, the eccentrics, the artists and the excessively house proud”. Other now-infamous spreads included the interior of a prison cell, an igloo, the home of an adult baby complete with crib, as well as a Barbie dream house, photographed with the same dedication devoted to an actual real-life home. When it comes to interiors no magazine has celebrated the concept of dwelling more faithfully. The only criterion needed for being published within its pages was that it was an actual dwelling. Who or what inhabited that dwelling was totally irrelevant. It wasn’t just the content that endeared Nest to its readers, the art direction of the magazine itself was totally different from anything out there. It was designed by Holtzman, who approached it, as he had no formal training in graphic design and could barely turn on a computer, in the same way he approached interior decorating. The result was most definitely different. There was an issue with a cross motif burned through all the pages, another was printed on paper that had been cut into a trapezoid, while another had scratch-and-stiff nudes on the cover and yet another came in a zip-up transparent multicoloured jacket. He did these things, as he said, “just to keep from being bored”. It was as much as for his own amusement as his readers.
In 1980, Nick Logan told the Evening Standard, “I’m looking for the kids who participate in the music scene. The ones who have a good time rather than just sit at home listening to the hifi. I’m a fan and I know the excitement of being caught up with something new. I need a magazine.” And so he created The Face. “It’s important to remember,” says Richard Gray, who was barely a foetus back then, “that unlike today where you are bombarded from every medium – television, the web, magazines – that, back then, there was a dearth of fashion imagery.” The Face, along with i-D, were the first to promote the idea of street style. You ran to the newsagents each month and just sucked it all in. They became a breeding ground for new talent, starting with Neville Brody, who made the typography as important as the image, creating new fonts for a single issue, playing with the interaction of text and image. Every issue would feature a new graphic innovation. They launched the careers of the Julie Burchills, Tony Parsons, David Sims, Juergen Tellers, Melanie Wards and Corrine Days, giving them free rein to do whatever they chose. They became a calling card for new talent. Really, it was all about cool kids showing off and everyone who read it wanted to be a part of it.
Started by David Bailey and David Litchfield, Ritz was the English answer to Interview. It ran from 1976 to 1988, closing temporarily before re-launching a year later and closing again in the early 1990s. Printed on newsprint, it was described by Litchfield as “the Lou Reed of publishing” and was bitchy, glamorous and superficial, but then aren’t most magazines? Its nod to Andy Warhol’s Interview was only enough to annoy its then editor Bob Colacello. Of Ritz’s content, Litchfield said, “Celebrity is ‘fame without talent’. We only did people who did things. We did gossip, bitch and parties so that we didn’t have to pay for our own champagne and cocaine.” They ushered in the idea of paparazzi and celebrity journalism with their highly irreverent party pages and q&a interviews in which they would ask highly probing questions such as “You look very fit. Do you follow any health plans?” and “Have you been at the crossroads of your life yet?” They even put Clive, Clint Eastwood’s orang-utan on the cover. According to Litchfield, “Ritz was about ‘vanity, avarice and malice’.” It was also the funniest, but also most intelligent, publication of its time.
In 1988, Rei Kawakubo explained to The New York Times her reason for releasing her very own magazine: “High fashion has to have a mystery about it. This is the next step – visual representation of the collection, purely for image.” No designer label had used a magazine to promote their clothes, nor have they really since. Catalogues were the more-accepted promotional tool. Six was published bi-annually between 1988-1991, eight issues in all. The Six stood for sixth sense and was said to be a reference to Kawakubo’s intuitive instinct. Oversized and loose leafed, the magazine featured mainly photographic essays from the likes of Peter Lindbergh, Arthur Elgort and Robert Frank. Where models were featured, they wore Comme des Garçons. But not exclusively. Jean Paul Gaultier and Issey Miyake were famously featured, too. The clothes, though, were not the point. The magazine was more a stream of consciousness than anything else, as though the contents of Rei’s head had been tipped onto the page. Informed by her surrealism and zen influences, the magazine pushed to extremes the idea of what a magazine should be and the concept of promoting fashion. The clothes were totally unimportant.
Speaking to The Independent in 1998, Matthias Vriens summed up his attitude to editing Dutch thus: “I do what I do now, simply because I can. Let’s face it, everything has been done, so I want this magazine to be different. Why make a Marie Claire, a Vogue, a Face or an i-D? They are there already.” At this point Dutch was four years old. In that time it had grown from a small bilingual Dutch publication to, on appointing Vriens to its helm in 1997, what was probably one of the most talked about magazines of the decade. Never ones to shy away from controversy, they famously published what was then the longest-ever fashion editorial – 83 pages, of nudes shot in black and white by Mikael Jansson. The nudes all featured fashion captions, each image representing a different designer, from Prada to Jil Sander. Missoni, for example was represented by an image of a girl with plaited hair, the plait being symbolic of Missoni’s knits. Another issue featured a pull-out portfolio by Mario Testino that was so popular he based his book Any Objections? on it. They also somehow managed to convince both Kate Moss and Yves Saint Laurent to collaborate on issues devoted entirely to them. The editorial policy was best described by Vriens himself: “I am Dutch. We are a very open-minded race, and this magazine is for open-minded people.”
“When I was at The Independent, I worked with a really fabulous girl called Tamsin Blanchard. At the time we were like, ‘We should just do an art magazine’,” recounts our own editrix-in-chief Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou. “So it was myself, Tamsin and Gary Cochran, the art director we worked with at The Independent. We launched this product called It, almost like an English Visionaire, loose leaf. We had artists and poets – almost like a culture rather than a fashion magazine – and basically, what we did, what we wanted to create, was this experience that wasn’t like a magazine experience. It was a book, like an old LP.” There were only ever four issues, well, five if you count the mini special edition, of It produced over a three-year period, with the first being published in 1998. The idea was simple: come up with a theme such as innocence (issue 2), and let your contributors go with it. The result included a visual diary of model Rebecca Harper’s pregnancy by Robert Wyatt and a series of images featuring a group of young girls eating chips post their holy communion. Each story was published in poster form that would unravel concertina-like from a flat square box, giving the impression that you were getting many very exclusive mini publications rather than just your typical magazine. It was about using art and fashion as a means of self-expression rather than a way to pay the bills. “The idea with the magazine is to give people a free rein and to encourage them to do something that is about more than just fashion,” the Greek Wintour said at the time. “To be honest, when we first started, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but we did know that the glossies – which have just become advertising vehicles – needed challenging.”
This title came out around the same time as Pop. Where Pop was glossy and super luxury with a view to setting itself up as the barometer of all things cool (its first cover featured Liberty Ross, Phoebe Philo, Stella McCartney and Luella), The Fashion was awkward, a little off-key. It didn’t care about being cool and appealing to the fashion set, it cared about being interesting. And it was the most interesting magazine out there at the time. Helmed by Sarah Mower, it sent Fay Weldon to Paris to cover couture, filled its front of book with Polaroid portraits of designers in their own products pulling funny faces, Carmen Kass submerged underwater in a cage surrounded by sharks, looking a little petrified, and Omayra wandering around the bars of Edgware Road, smoking shisha in animal-print kaftans styled by “intelligent” stylists. The likes of Lucy Ewing and Nancy Rohde. There wasn’t any retouch. Everything looked real, relatable. Mower even referenced Krystle Carrington in the editor’s letter of issue 2.
First published in 1996 by the artist Peter Halley and Bob Nickas, Index’s aim was to fill the void left by Interview. Not that Interview had closed down. It had just become too celebrity. Too mainstream. No longer interesting. Index, on the other hand, embraced the idea of personality. It was a magazine of independent culture. As Halley said at the 85th annual conference of the College Art Association in New York, “More recently, dissatisfied with the periodicals that discuss contemporary culture, I decided with my colleague Bob Nickas to start a cultural magazine of my own. In music, cinema and the phenomenon of fanzines, this practice of doing-it-yourself is becoming more and more widespread in the United States. And I find it a very effective form of criticism.” Cover stars weren’t chosen on the basis of being able to sell a magazine. The first three were Alison Folland, Udo Kier and Mira Nair, all shot by Wolfgang Tillmans. There were no taglines to explain who they were and why they had been given such distinction. The only words were the magazine’s name, in small print, in the top right-hand corner. To be honest, it didn’t need to do much more to stand out in a sea of glossy, over-hyped nothingness.
Just last year, for their fall/winter issue, Self Service put Joe McKenna in the guest editing spot. The result was a magazine full of his relaxed and effortless style. It made you long for him to release another issue of Joe’s. Unfortunately that’s unlikely to happen. As he told 10 around the same time, “I’m not sure we need another printed magazine out there right now.” So far there are only two issues of Joe’s, published six years apart, in 1992 and 1998. The magazine seems to have been borne out of creative frustration due to the limits placed by working for more popular publications. As McKenna told Index in 1998, just before the publication of the second issue, “You know, it’s become tougher to work for fashion magazines and to have a lot of freedom. Everybody has requirements when you work for magazines, and if it’s fashion, you’ve got to show certain things. I tend to work with the same two or three photographers, and it was just by having conversations with them about how great it would be to do pictures where you didn’t have to worry about anything. The only way photographers can really do that is if they’re working on an exhibition or a book of their own, which not everybody has time for or wants to do. That’s why I thought it would be really great to take the few people that I knew and give them a chance to do something that you really wouldn’t be allowed to do… You wouldn’t be indulged by a fashion magazine into doing stories like that. That’s sort of where it came from.” Featuring the work of his regular collaborators Bruce Weber and David Sims, as well contributions from the likes of Miuccia Prada and Azzedine Alaïa and pages devoted to the likes of Wallis Franken, with its outsize format Joe’s was and is like nothing that has come before or after it. More book than magazine, it effortlessly achieved his goal of creating something with a bit of longevity, something that isn’t of the moment it was created.
Of all the magazines that began in London in the 1980s, Blitz was probably the most closely associated with the Blitz kids. Running from 1980-1991, it picked up the mantle of Interview and Ritz, which were slightly losing sight of chronicling the emerging youth scene. A pop-culture monthly, it focused on the new romantics, bringing to a wider audience the faces, music, fashions and clubs that formed the movement, imbuing them with a level of notoriety that hasn’t really been matched in quite the same way since. It was, in many ways, like the Face and i-D, a place where, for the first time, fashion was not dictated by the houses that created it, but a creative playground, a way to express yourself. It didn’t matter what you wore as long as you made an effort, and for the first time here was a forum where you could show off. It was also known for its honest and bitchy writing, which was often bitterly funny, and as a hothouse of talent, launching the careers of people such as Nick Knight, Susannah Frankel, Iain R Webb and Kim Bowen. It felt more like a party than something merely to read.
by Natalie Dembinska