A roaring success: LOVE for a true fashion bible

Five years on from its launch with Beth Ditto as curvaceous cover girl, Katie Grand’s biannual LOVE continues to challenge. Alexander Fury lionises a true fashion bible

There’s an animal in just about every issue of LOVE magazine, the Condé Nast bi-annual with super-stylist Katie Grand as editor-in-chief.

I was editor alongside her for the last two issues, during which time I saw horses, rabbits and huskies grace the pages. Nothing, however, compares with the latest – Atlas the lion,  drafted in for a Tim Walker extravaganza to mark the 10th issue and fifth anniversary. Just like the tome itself, the animals seems to be getting bigger and bolder.

So, how does one decide to shoot a lion? It’s quite straightforward, according to Grand.

“I had said to Tim we were celebrating our fifth anniversary and I wanted a cinematic quality to the images. He came in to the office and said: ‘I’d love to shoot a lion,’ and I said ‘Great’.” Fast forward a few weeks, add a few hundred thousand pounds’ worth of Dolce & Gabbana and you have a set of those extraordinary images Grand is known for creating. “It all seemed to work, the lion, Edie, Karen and the grandeur of the clothes,” she says.

Although lion-taming is obviously not without it’s scarier moments. “Much, much more terrifying than you can imagine,” is Grand’s direct description. “On the last day we were all sitting on the stairs and Atlas was in the hall, we were behind this huge scaffolding and he charged at where we were sitting. Me and Karen (Elson) ended up hiding in the airing cupboard!”

“There was a moment when he tried to escape and everyone locked themselves in the bathroom out of fear,” recalls Edie Campbell. “And then had to have a calming moment with Nelson, the one-eyed giant rabbit!”

Wildlife aside, it’s difficult to imagine any other publication taking quite so irreverent and imaginative an approach to its pages as LOVE. That is one of the hallmarks of Grand, who launched the magazine back in 2009 with an award-winning cover featuring Gossip lead singer Beth Ditto naked bar a strategic ruffle of organza.

“It all just seemed so right,” is Grand’s take on that seminal Ditto debut – although it’s by no means an isolated incident. LOVE’s covers have continued to garner headlines, even in the attention deficient fashion industry: Kate Moss and transsexual model Lea T in a clinch; a gatefold of Miss Moss, Cara Delevingne and actress Chloë Moretz, writhing in soapy bathtubs; and the three lead actresses of ITV costume drama Downton Abbey in frills and furbelows at the height of the programme’s popularity.

That’s what Grand is great at: nailing the zeitgeist. She also helps to create it, styling the Marc Jacobs show in New York, and Louis Vuitton in Paris, effectively book-ending the  season with her creative stamp. In London, she’s the hand behind the shows of Sister by Sibling, Jonathan Saunders and Giles Deacon.

Speaking from my experience, there’s something almost alchemic about Grand’s ability to decipher what everyone will be thinking before they actually start thinking it. It’s one of the things that make her invaluable to brands, such as Hogan, who enlisted her to design Poppy, a range of shoes and accessories that’s fun and light-hearted. It’s doing swift business.

The same three epithets could be  ascribed to the latest LOVE covers, continuing in a ten-issue tradition of arresting developments. This time they’re inspired by Minnie Mouse, the LOVE masthead chicken-pocked with polka-dots and Minnie’s trademark ears recreated by Prada, Loewe, Louis Vuitton and Gucci and photographed by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott.

It’s a light-hearted way to celebrate a magazine that’s bucking declining print-sales and advertising revenues: at a hefty 475 pages, it’s the biggest edition of LOVE to date, and the largest issue Grand has ever edited.

Despite that weight, and heavyweight talent, when I ask Katie Grand what she wants LOVE to represent, the answer is simple: “Good fun!”

Once again, she’s nailed it.

LOVE 10, The Sweetie Issue, is  available from next Monday

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