It comes as quite a surprise to find an arch-fashionista such as Katie Grand in flat shoes without a trace of make-up on her very youthful 36-year-old face. She is bouncing round Emap's offices on Shaftesbury Avenue in London, putting the finishing touches to the 16th issue of POP magazine, which occupies a cosy corner office within the large publishing house, wallpapered with maps of the London Underground and strewn with proofs of the latest cover, of the actress Lindsay Lohan styled to resemble Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra. Lohan's tiny porcelain face is shrouded by masses of tousled hair which tumbles down her naked back against a vivid purple background; the image is light years away from the dishevelled party girl we're accustomed to seeing on the cover of POP's Emap stablemate, Heat.
This unusual and distinctive styling of very famous faces to belie their public image is Grand's "thing" and POP's USP. Earlier covers to win the style magazine headlines in the mainstream press include one of Victoria Beckham shorn of her WAG trappings and portrayed as a screen icon in the mould of Barbarella. Another revealed a sleek Liz Hurley transformed, just weeks after giving birth, into an "Alpha-vixen" in a cutaway black swimsuit and improbable heels.
Both these women helped to lay the foundations for the current cult of celebrity worship, in which Grand acknowledges a role: "I was always quite into the idea of putting a celebrity on the cover, at a time when it wasn't so normal. I liked taking those girls, who weren't necessarily high fashion, and making them very POP," she explains. "My head is quite commercial."
It must be, because POP has survived these past seven years where other style publications have failed. Grand's baby – she launched the magazine in 2000 after a stint on The Face and retains, as editor-in-chief, tight reins over proceedings – has gone from strength to strength. It expanded from a biannual into a triannual last autumn and has a print run of around 70,000, not far behind Dazed & Confused, the monthly she helped to launch.
It was announced last week that Grand is the also new creative director of Mulberry. This is a sought-after design role for a woman who turned to styling shoots for magazines and the catwalk after studying design at college. Mulberry must consider the Grand brand alone weighty enough to sell its collections. She will join the ranks of other, far more household, names who have lent their status to a clothing range, such as Kate Moss (who appeared on POP's October 2006 cover, a bestseller) and Lily Allen (who features in the current issue). Perhaps Katie, like her cover stars Kylie, Kate, Drew, Madonna, Liz and Lindsay, will soon be on first-name terms with her public.
Grand has her friends to thank, in part, for making such animpact with POP. A quick callto Madonna from StellaMcCartney persuaded theinterview-shy megastar to appear on an early cover.
Despite its élite roster of cover stars and friends, Grand insists POP is far from exclusive. The "gang mentality" is more about bringing readers in on the joke than keeping them out. "It's for my friendsbut I hope that students readit and people who like nicepictures read it," she says. "I think we've always been completely mainstream."
POP is not, Grand concedes, mainstream in the way that Vogue or Elle are. She is content not to have to create a magazine for so many different types of reader, but operating within the Emap juggernaut assures her magazine enviable distribution channels and solid financial backing, as well as other titles to measure her own against. The image of style magazines sent up in the 2005 television comedy Nathan Barley satirised a group of Shoreditch twats putting together an irreverent publication with no reference points whatsoever outside their insular world. POP's feet are closer to the ground.
"The best relationship I have with any editor in this building is with Mark Frith [editor of Heat]. He publishes a massive, massive magazine so I'll always respect his opinion."
She describes the latest issue as "pretty meaty". It carries interviews with Lindsay Lohan and Beth Ditto, Lily Allen, Yoko Ono, Lovefoxxx from the Brazilian band CSS and sibling pop duo CocoRosie. None of these would look out of place in a mainstream magazine, but the 38-page Steven Klein shoot of Beth Ditto in her underwear and modelling clothes made especially for POP by Prada, Gareth Pugh and Louis Vuitton, might. We are used to hearing soundbites from the mouth of Lindsay Lohan; here we get over 5,000 words of Lohan's rambling perceptions, where she admits to having an affair with a married man and uses the C word.
Grand is calling all the women in this issue "sirens" and has evoked the spirit of Isabella Blow, the legendary stylist and muse who committed suicide in May, as the fairy godmother of POP's 16th birthday party.
Grand downplays her entry into the world of magazines. She met Rankin and Jefferson Hack, founders of Dazed & Confused, in a bar while she was studying design at Central St Martins. They said, "Let's start a fanzine," and she found herself working on Dazed & Confused without ever having had a "proper job".
She moved to The Facebefore starting POP "out of a cupboard". The introduction of a fourth issue is under discussion and she says bullying Emap into providing the money for digital expansion is on her agenda.
As her role at Mulberry proves, Grand has impeccable fashion connections, which have helped to make POP a hit with advertisers. She has worked as a stylist for Giles Deacon (aformer boyfriend), Prada and Louis Vuitton, and as Mulberry's creative consultant for the past year, where she has been "quite involved" with the design process. Is it difficult to have such a close relationship with hermagazine's subject matter? "We're in a climate where advertisers like to work with stylists who have a magazine backbone," she says.
Though it has turned a profit since the first issue, which had Stella McCartney, Luella Bartley, Phoebe Philo and Liberty Ross pole-dancing on the cover, POP will never make its publisher rich. Nor does it fund Grand's high-fashion lifestyle – she says about 5 per cent of her income comes from editing, which takes up around 70 per cent of her time.
She confesses to being "furiously ambitious" but "not to the detriment of others" and makes a convincing girl's girl, in the Fifties-style pink Miu Miu dress she has just bought after a "complete trauma" at the dentist.
Grand won't admit to having a career plan, but does sayshe has accomplished whatshe set out to do with POP. "Ialways wanted it to be a very positive celebration of women of all ages. I think we've pretty much done that."