LONDON, United Kingdom — “I remember when I was a kid, I got a copy of National Geographic and they had done a hologram cover. It was totally three-dimensional. I was so mesmerised, it really made me dream; it transported me to another place.” Sitting in a loft space on London’s Old Street, Jefferson Hack was days away from unveiling a digital magazine cover which he hoped would deliver the same sense of wonder he remembered so well from this childhood encounter.
In lieu of a hologram, the cover is made of a custom-made LED screen, featuring a high-definition moving image of Rihanna shot by Inez and Vinoodh, slickly integrated into a limited edition version of AnOther Magazine’s Spring/Summer 2015 issue (a special on Alexander McQueen). The visual is accompanied by a soundtrack by longtime McQueen collaborator John Gosling. “It all feels very zeitgeist to me. But the cover still had to have that ultimate luxury feel,” said Hack. The digital limited edition magazine, which retails for $125, is set to debut on Thursday morning at fashion superstore Colette in Paris.
The early prototypes just looked kind of ugly duckling. But eventually you work around the problem.
The project almost didn't happen. The idea for the digital cover had been percolating in Hack's mind for over a year, but only became a reality when he found himself seated across the table from Irish entrepreneur and supply chain guru Liam Casey at a dinner in Dublin. “We were talking to a number of different companies about how to execute this, starting last January. But by November I was defeated. I honestly said I'd given it my best shot to make this happen... Then I’m at this dinner and this guy sitting directly opposite from me was no other than Liam Casey, who I had just been reading about.”
Casey is the founder of PCH (named after California’s Pacific Coast Highway), which counts Apple and Beats by Dre as clients and operates a San Francisco-based hardware innovation center, as well as offices in Cork, Shenzen, Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo. “It was like all the sound in the room had suddenly shut off and for 45 minutes we just went through everything. The project was reborn,” said Hack.
“Jefferson, when I met him, had absolute clarity about what he was trying to do. He explained what the desired outcome was,” said Casey. “For us, that was exciting, because we understood the challenges of trying to do this.”
This was November 2014. The timeline was near impossible: develop and deliver a magazine with a digital cover by March. But after a flurry of emails, scoping out the feasibility of the project, PCH agreed to take on the challenge and Hack found himself on a plane to San Francisco.
PCH operates a San Francisco-based accelerator programme for hardware entrepreneuers called Highway1 and Hack arrived on demo day. “I'd never been to a demo day before. It was a breakfast thing and there were eight companies and they were making all kinds of things, from wearable technology to things that were going to influence health, home security… I saw that there was this new culture where [hardware] entrepreneurs could go from the back-of-a-napkin sketch to market within a year.”
Hack spent a day with the team at PCH, who then went through multiple rounds of prototyping. “Trying to get the cover as thin as possible was a real struggle,” Hack recalled. “The early prototypes just looked kind of ugly duckling. But eventually you work around the problem. We got really lucky in connecting with PCH. But as Robert Evans says, ‘There's no such thing as luck. It's the point where preparation meets opportunity.’”
“I'm really interested in how the industry responds to this gesture,” said Hack. “Colette's the launch lab for the industry and we'll be engaging with a wider audience with a Selfridges launch, where we are doing windows. It will be interesting to see how people react across territories, how people react culturally, how the technology side of the industry reacts and how the consumer reacts. The virtual circle of all that is, hopefully, going towards more innovation in this space.”
“I think the timing is interesting. There is also this whole convergence of fashion and technology in the wearables space,” said Casey, whose company works with a number of wearables start-ups. “I think it will be a much better space if the fashion industry really embraces wearables and embraces technology — not just following technology companies but leading,” he added.
“What really interested me in working with Jefferson was the fact that he was somebody in the industry who had a great voice. It was a one-off project to really try see what was possible and excite the market.”