Tomorrow, Condé Nast – publishers of Vogue, Tatler and GQ, among other glossy titles – launches LOVE, its new fashion magazine. At the helm is Katie Grand, most recently editor-in-chief of Pop magazine, a biannual that she created; Grand was also co-founder of Dazed & Confused. For months, the fashion world has been abuzz with rumours of what readers can expect from this addition to the newsstands. For her part, Grand has emphasised a sort of “back to reality” approach: she’s promised a ban on size zero models and a shift away from hyper-airbrushed images.
Appropriately, Beth Ditto, the fleshy, outspoken frontwoman of The Gossip, poses on the cover, naked but for what looks like a giant, pink, pompom preserving her modesty. Apparently, the picture has proved controversial on high-street shelves, though it isn’t the first time we’ve seen Ditto like this; NME put a similar image on its front page two years ago, some say with more aplomb.
The first thing that strikes you is the sheer number of adverts. At a time when fashion advertisers are playing hard to get, LOVE has managed to sell vast amounts of advertising space. By the time we get to the contents page, we’re already 47 pages in; by the time the first piece appears, we are on page 81.
Once the commercials are done, the first 100-odd pages of editorial is occupied by an A-Z of “things LOVE loves, in alphabetical order,” starting with the not-noticeably-curvy model Adriana Lima, running through Diane Von Furstenberg, Jerry Hall, Pixie Geldof and, finally Zanottie (the shoe designer).
The pictures are gorgeous but they’re accompanied by vaguely cringe-worthy love-themed questionnaires: “What’s love got to do with it?”, “What have you sacrificed for love?” etc. Even worse, Amy Winehouse was too busy “sorting out her divorce” to respond, so her questions are answered by an associate called Amy.
Eventually, almost 200 pages in, the real features start. There’s an interview with Ditto, accompanied by a Grand-styled photo shoot. The pictures, by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, are moody, vivid and bursting with colour – not a million miles from those hyper-stylised shoots featured in Pop, despite the insistence from Grand that LOVE represents a departure from the “redrawing and retouching” days.
More representative of that revolutionary aim, surely, is the, “Days of Wine and Roses” fashion story which, with its dusty, almost monochrome tone and notably imperfect models, conjures the Nineties fashion bible The Face. Similarly pared down are Alas and Piggott’s pictures of Kate Moss taken during a night out in Paris – though they are so over-exposed that Moss might as well be air-brushed to oblivion.
The Nineties emerges as the most obvious source of reference. Typefaces and the paint-brush effects of the headlines – look distinctly retro. As for features, well, there isn’t much text. Besides the Ditto interview, there are profiles of Kelly Brook, Pam Hogg, Iggy Pop and Anjelica Huston as well as a piece on the soon-to-be-vacated Charing Cross campus of Central Saint Martins, where Grand studied. Whether this debut issue is the first salvo in Grand’s big fashion revolution, well, you have to look very hard to see the difference between LOVE and similar fare on the newsstands, but the advertisers think she’s on to something.