Style: Nice 'n' sleazy

Is it a style mag, a club mag, a porno mag or a fanzine? With a name like Sleaze Nation, it's hard to tell, and the unusual covers make it even harder to guess what's inside. A sun-lounger, garbled graphics, and even an old car have adorned the cover in the past, but Sleaze Nation, despite being pigeon-holed as Dazed & Confused's younger sibling, is nothing of the sort.

It started life as a Camden-based free fanzine two years ago. It then turned into a free London club magazine, and now describes itself as a national style (or anti-style) magazine, but one which retains solid elements from all of its past incarnations.

The editor is a bearded grunge-master called Steve Beale, who has a laugh as infectious as his one-liners. He doesn't subscribe to the trendy-mag school of thought, and baulks at any comparison with Dazed & Confused, which - although he likes it for what it is - is not what he is trying to achieve with Sleaze Nation. "I think our readers are a bit more substantial," he says, probably meaning that they read the magazine rather than look at the pictures.

"Magazines are always trying to niche you. To that I say, `You can't pull the wool over our eyes!' We're fed up with book reviews, gallery reviews and fashion designers who are just into playing the game. We do stuff that people might actually want to know about."

For "What we really want to know", read the comprehensive club section, with a listing of what to do every night of the week in every major UK city, complete with unbiased reporting from journalists who operate under pseudonyms, and reportage club photography that "tells it like it is". The music listings are compiled by people who are given money to go out and buy records to review instead of being sent freebies by record companies. The fashion is also interesting. Like everything else in the magazine, it works on the assumption that we've been shamelessly niched by every other magazine out there..

In April, the magazine featured voluptuous model Sophie Dahl in a fashion shoot. She was squashed into old-ladies' underwear and a stretch floral boob-tube so that every curve was exaggerated to the point where she looked like a parody of the beautiful-big-girl niche she represents. Her agency hated the pictures. Steve Beale thought they were perfect, because they didn't act as a vehicle to sell clothes, and made a statement about our expectations of an acceptable fashion image.

Sleaze Nation is currently going from strength to strength. Beale says his readers are "hard to define because they don't define themselves".

On Monday, a bumper double issue is published for the summer clubber/armchair critic/culture vulture, and there will be much celebratory partying, as well as a small exhibition of their club photography in new fashion shop, The Pineal Eye on Broadwick Street, W1 (see these pages next week), which will then tour the country. A monthly club and a website are next on the cards.

When the mag went national in March, its first major stockist was WH Smith, a move which pleased the magazine's publisher and sole investor, Jon Swinstead, and seriously annoyed Auberon Waugh, whose Literary Review was refused by Smith's on the grounds that it was unsuitable. Waugh, suitably outraged, said Sleaze Nation sounded extremely sordid. It does, but despite the odd pierced nipple, it isn't at all. It just wants to challenge people by putting the word "Sleaze" on the front to see who will dare to pick it up.

Sleaze Nation, pounds 2, from WH Smith and good local newsagents

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