Surprised & delighted

When Jefferson Hack and Rankin Waddell started their college fanzine three years ago they never expected it to become the magazine of the Nineties. Melanie Rickey meets them
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The Independent Online
Three and a half years ago some students at the London College of Printing put out a black and white fanzine they called Dazed & Confused after the Led Zeppelin track. It cost pounds 1.50, was sponsored by Blackbush whisky, and consisted of three pieces of A2 paper printed on one side with poster-size images of half-naked models. The other side was dotted with poems, quotes, photos, and the plea "Don't hesitate to contribute to Dazed & Confused. This is an open access magazine - for your ideas and your hopes. Please send written details, photographs, illustrations, video etc to...". Issue two didn't appear for eight months, but with sponsorship from Levi's, a second poster-format mag was published: the first true Nineties magazine was born.

Today D&C officially celebrates three years in print with the publication of issue 33, a 144-page bumper fashion issue. The cover price has been reduced for its usual pounds 2.50 to pounds 1 And while other style mags such as G Spot and Blow, which attempted to fill the gap left by The Face's and I-D's move to the mainstream, have been consigned to magazine heaven, D&C seems to have gone from strength to strength. This celebratory issue features a novelty cover, originally intended to be edible until it was proved logistically impossible. Instead you can scratch off an Instants- style panel with a 50/50 chance of revelaing Helena Christiansen's breasts. The cover price has been reduced from its usual pounds 2.50 to pounds 1 and the print run of 48,000 increased by 10,000 as a one off circulation-booster.

In its short life, Dazed & Confused has been derided and praised in equal measure. It has been called the first honestly named fashion magazine of the Nineties, and has been described by Laraine Ashton of IMG Models as "rubbish, and I hope it goes out of business"; she objected to a photo of a model licking fake blood from an axe. Indeed, every issue has contained challenging material: from a squalid photo documentary about life on a Northern council estate, to fat models in lingerie, to Helena Christiansen's scars in the new issue. D&C forces you to sit up, rub your eyes, and take notice.

The people behind the magazine are young. Editor Jefferson Hack is 26, and photographer/publisher Rankin Waddell is 31. "Most of us have only ever worked on Dazed," says Hack. "We have taught ourselves the magazine business from scratch, which is good I think because we've never had a proper formula to work from." This not-quite-a-formula consists of attracting artists, photographers, musicians, writers, art directors and stylists to produce their most creative work, usually free of charge, for the mag. This means you may find Alexander McQueen interviewing David Bowie, Radiohead's Thom Yorke interviewing himself, a fashion shoot that shows the tan marks left by a string vest - but no string vest - and a lingerie shoot called "Beavers and Butts".

"The whole philosophy was inspiration, not aspiration," says Hack. "We're not selling people a new life, we're showing that anything goes, and anything's possible." In D&C's Old Street offices Rankin's stark black and white portraits are blown up on the wall, there's an old sofa in the corner and rails of clothes everywhere. Fashion editor Katie Grand runs around on her way to a shoot, and writers tap away on their PCs while music pumps out in the background. It's not a pretentious scene, unexpected from a magazine that initially comes across as very much so. Instead there's a kind of passionate vigour - and a touch of healthy arrogance.

Rankin, whose career as a photographer has taken off considerably thanks in part to Dazed, is also a serious businessman whose company, Waddell Limited, which he co-owns with his dad, publishes the magazine. "We're completely self-sufficient, we don't answer to anybody." Except advertisers maybe? "No," he says, "they come to us obviously, but we only do major collaborations with brands we believe in." The boys at D&C have made a speciality of garnering sponsorship and putting together events. Last summer the magazine put together Dazed & Confused Live!, a week-long series of events in an old East End tramshed that brought the contents of the mag to life (and included an impromptu appearance by Radiohead).

At the end of October this year they are throwing a big party with Polo Ralph Lauren to mark the launch of Polo Jeans. Companies including Kodak and STA Travel receive credits in return for help with production costs.

In addition, D&C is beginning to get big fashion companies, such as the Italian firm Missoni, to advertise with them. Missoni's advertisemnets are usually seen in high-profile glossies, whose circulation is at least four times that of Dazed's 48,000 monthly sales (a third of The Face's); it's a far cry from 18 months ago when Dazed's major advertisers were lager brands and record companies. They even expect to start making a profit soon.

Both Hack and Waddell put this down to increased international awareness of the magazine. "We're read in New York and LA, and we get people ringing us up from there to tell us how much they like it," says Hack. "Last week somebody rang to say they had met Tim Robbins at a dinner party in LA and he was talking about D&C."

Clearly the magazine has become a byword for the "London is cool" hype that's been around just a bit too long. Hack agrees that it ghas hjelped their cause but maintains somewhat sniffily that it has no influence on their editorial. "We've been over that trendy London thing for ages." That won't top them being pigeon-holed as irreverent London media kids, whose aims (some say) is to stick two fingers up at more established magazines which Hack, incidently accuses of being "like session musicians who play note-perfect but with no passion".

What next? Corporate strategy is hardly part of the culture at Dazed, but they exude a sense that the sky's the limit. Why not Dazed Radio or TV Hack muses. Book publishing, certainly, is on the cards.

The issue that hits the stands today is dedicated to fashion. In typical D&C style, they have replied to the critics who accused the magazine of creating the Heroin Chic look with their own version called "Heroine Chick" - a dedication to Joan of Arc, Patty Hearst and Spider Woman. Here's to the next three years of shock tacticsn

Editor Jefferson Hack, 26,

Publisher- Photographer Rankin Waddell, 31

Fashion editor Katie Grand, 26

Katy England, 30, contributing fashion editor, and now

creative director for Alexander McQueen

Phil Poynter, 24, photographic director

Alister Mackie, 27, senior contributing fashion editor