LONDON, United Kingdom — Katie Grand’s presence at the men’s shows in Milan over the past few days sparked conjecture among the more astute — or paranoid — of her front-row peers. Was the super-stylist/editor thinking about launching a men’s magazine? Well, no. She has her hands full with LOVE. So full, in fact, that she has brought on board a collaborator to share her editorial load, while potentially doubling the reach of her 10-year-old baby. And, coincidentally, he’s also fresh from a 10-year anniversary.
Ben Cobb left Another Man in October after a decade at the magazine. At LOVE, he will share the masthead with Grand as Editor-in-Chief (Men). The mere thought of this twosome in editorial tandem is tantalising to anyone who knows their magazine work. Grand’s LOVE has long been a vibetastic playhouse of willful, wayward womanhood. “St Trinians,” says Cobb with a filthy laugh. Under his direction, Another Man was a sensual slow dive into pop culture’s darkest undercurrents. “Just weird,” says Grand, no filthy laugh. The very idea of these two strands woven together under the same cover is provocative to a fault.
The seeds were sown during the talk show that Grand, her husband Steve Mackey and his business partner Douglas Hart (who produce together as Call This Number) conceptualised for LOVE during the summer. Ben Cobb played the unflappable host, confronted by guest Rami Malek as a self-absorbed auteur. The whole thing was fun for everyone. It also clocked an impressive 18 million views on LOVE’s Youtube channel.
Time for Part Two, which was filmed in New York at the end of last year. That’s when Grand and Cobb had a conversation about turning their collaboration into something more substantial.
She’d already been thinking about sharing LOVE in a significant way: “Biannuals are so big now that you can’t have just one opinion anymore. It gets to the point where it is so boring doing it on your own. Who wants 400 pages of one voice?”
But, like everyone else, Grand assumed Cobb had a plan when he resigned. Not so. “I was in this weird place and I didn’t know what my next move was,” he says. “As soon as Katie proposed this, I didn’t have to think twice.”
Parse LOVE of late and you’ll notice the male presence is more…present, reflecting the general trend to inclusivity that has changed the face of the fashion industry. The magazine’s anniversary extravaganza even featured Brad Pitt as one of its multi-covers, though you were out of luck if you expected to find the actor inside somewhere. “That was a whim,” says Grand. “One of my favourite magazine covers that wasn’t mine was the Steven Klein 'Fight Club' cover for W, so I asked Steven for an outtake from that shoot.”
As soon as Katie proposed this, I didn’t have to think twice.
Surprisingly for someone who is usually so supremely confident, she admits that the men’s side of the industry is a challenge. “I did a lot of men’s shows, and did far more work on them than I did on women’s shows because I always felt out of my depth. I’d arrive with masses of research. I think there’s that thing with women stylists doing men’s shows. It does look like a load of girls looking at men. I do like looking at them, but you can’t beat a man’s point of view. And Ben’s is infinitely better than mine on menswear. I think it’s good to have an expert.”
Cobb’s expertise as it was expressed at Another Man was very particular. He’s appreciative of the fact that there will be fans who find the new gig an odd fit. “But I’m lots of different things and have lots of different passions and obsessions. Another Man was a very specific channel for that, very much about the romantic rebel anti-hero. We always orbited around that.”
“Your taste has always been quite peculiar,” Grand interjects. “I love an ironic idea. I never had the confidence to do that myself.” For Cobb, LOVE is a wider screen in every way. The box office is bigger, the stars shine brighter. “I don’t know if it was a psychological thing but before this happened, I felt like I was ready to grow into something else. And this aligns perfectly with that. Certain things were off-brand at Another Man. Here, there’s more freedom to play.” I wonder though. Cobb is congenitally curveballs and oddballs. How does Grand see the fit? “That’s the work we’ve got to do. Commissioning is the next bit we’ve started talking about. Another Man was very good at championing young photographers. The logistics of working with famous photographers is that you get caught up in a lot of processes and then you’re just working with the same people.”
I want to make something you cannot ignore.
Following on from that point, what does each player bring to the table for the other with this deal? Cobb says freedom. Grand is more nuanced. “Ben knows how to deliver a magazine, all the logistical backend stuff that I’m really fastidious about. It’s not like there’s a team of elves who take the magazine over before it goes to print. It’s me who’s sitting there over Christmas signing off on art. I know Ben’s like that, I feel very safe with the idea of working with him. And I do think what’s important about working with him is he is a journalist with a very strong visual point of view and I’m a visual person with a strong journalistic point of view.”
Grand has always benefited from the strong editorial support of writers like Paul Flynn and Murray Healy. Still, she concedes, “I can commission great photographers and stylists till the cows come home — and deal with the politics of that — but I do think you need this very strong idea of what the world is. Otherwise, what’s the point? You just look at Instagram.”
It should gratify the hearts of print fans everywhere that what she is talking about is ultimately the survival of the magazine as an art form, however often digital Cassandras insist on tolling its death knell. “At the end of the day, no one wants to do a digital project unless there’s a paper project,” Grand says reassuringly. “You don’t get these megastars saying, ‘I’d really like to do a 30-minute documentary with you.' They come to say, ‘I’d really like to do a cover.' And that evolves into other things. But definitely with celebrities and photographers, it starts with paper. The paper needs to be super, and the other stuff shoots off it.”
“Super” is how she pitched Cobb. That word alone sold him on the proposal. “I want to make something you cannot ignore,” he declares. “And we’ve got an amazing production manager at Conde Nast named Louise Lawson who really does let us do anything,” adds Grand.
Oh Lord, here I am with my niggling again. How does the LOVE Woman (aged 24-34), meet Another Man, (lost track)? Grand’s gang is Hadids and Jenners. Cobb favours grizzled cultists. That’s some crazy Tinder. “I think it’s good when people discover things,” he says. “The LOVE girl will be exposed to interesting cool stuff,” she says. “It will be stranger in a way, but I was brought up on Ingrid Sischy’s Interview and that was what I wanted every magazine I ever worked on to be, great visuals and great words.”