LONDON, United Kingdom — Last Friday, Katie Grand quit LOVE, the magazine she’d birthed and raised for 11 years. On Saturday morning, she leapt out of bed at 7 am and started typing names into Instagram. Down the rabbit hole she went. Fifteen minutes later, she had it. The Perfect Magazine. By 7:20 am, she’d got the Twitter handle, by 8 am, TikTok. By the end of the day, she’d nailed the URL, the domain name and YouTube: “By Sunday, I was sat in my kitchen with Catherine Russell, my old publisher, now my new CMO, and my lawyer Amy and it was all happening.”
Grand insists she doesn’t believe in fate. “Still, I thought it was fate that all those things were available,” she says wonderingly during our zoom, which allows me to see that she’s looking casually, blissfully tousled, like Jerry Hall in an old Bryan Ferry video. Happy, in other words, which is not necessarily the state of mind you’d expect to find in someone who has just walked away from the consummate achievement of a long and very successful career in fashion.
I’m talking about the last issue of LOVE: two hard-backed volumes, 600 pages in total, which will stand as an enduring monument to this wretched year. If you’re going to quit your job, leave on a high. That makes sense. And that’s exactly what Grand did, easing out from under the umbrella of Condé Nast, her magazine’s publisher, into an environment that could scarcely be more different from the one she has always functioned in, not just as editor but also as super-stylist for brands such as Marc Jacobs and Prada. But her sign-off at LOVE addressed the new world in a way that no one could have predicted, utilising the relationships she has established over the last 30 years to create a 360-degree portrait of a world in tumult. Sharpening its impact was the fact that she and many of her staff were laid low by Covid-19.
“That last issue was very personal,” Grand says. “I’d been so ill, people around me were so ill, it was very intuitive how we did it. I don’t want to let go of the sentiment that the issue was put together with. It was so full of each person’s own experiences. I was thinking about where I’d come from, my own upbringing, my class, the demos I went on as a kid. I want to move forward on where we got to with that. It’s a perfect place to start.”
Perfect is a word that has been tickling Grand’s fancy for years. Marc Jacobs named his new perfume Perfect. She was its creative director. She was also thinking back to an old LOVE cover by Mert and Marcus, black and white with that single cover line. Earlier, there was a Courtney Love cover. Perfect.
But you need time to put the pieces of a puzzle together — and who had time when they were on planes and trains and automobiles to endless shows and shoots and meetings with advertisers and editorial powwows? Fashion ate our lives, and then the pandemic spat them out. “You love what you do but you don’t have time to question it,” Grand reflects. “Then, this year everyone in every industry had more time to think about what they do, which bits they like, which bits they want to continue with.”
Go to The Perfect Magazine on Instagram and there’s a single post, a photo of Elizabeth Taylor, because Grand has launched more magazines than Liz had marriages. But this is a bigger platform than anything she has attempted in the past. “The appetite for beautifully crafted magazines is as great as ever,” she reassuringly declares in her announcement for her new venture. “But print is not the best medium for every idea. So rather than twist the magazine format to changing times, we are starting anew.” In other words, as she tells me, “It’s not just another magazine. The idea is it’s much more of a content agency, creating content for brands on screen, on paper, in an exhibition, or a party, if we’re ever allowed to have parties again.
"It could be anything — or everything — I’ve ever done coming together,” she said.
As a lifelong print junkie, I’m stuck on that notion of beautifully crafted magazines. So, it seems, is Grand. “Put a hardback on something, or special paper, or manifesto, and it stops it being disposable,” she says. Her last LOVE is an obvious case in point. Its hardcovers are reassuring, consoling, celebratory. “It covered a monumental period of time,” she agrees. “Put it on your bookshelf. Let’s keep this. We’ve all been through a lot this year.”
Print is not the best medium for every idea. So rather than twist the magazine format to changing times, we are starting anew.
There’s an idealism in her thinking that tracks back to the beginning of her career at Dazed and Confused. It’s been that spirit of independence ever since. Even the physical extravagance of LOVE came from a collective. That will continue with The Perfect Magazine. The core team is the same as LOVE’s, with the initial addition of Bryanboy because Grand sees his mastery of social media as an asset. But she says it feels different this time because she will be the one driving the bus. No Condé Nast overlords. And she’s changed, too. “During the Black Lives Matter marches in June, I was thinking I used to do this in Birmingham and that emotion coming back to me was so pivotal," she says. "And I was thinking, ‘Why haven’t you been on marches for 30 years?’ I want to work with people differently. And brands want to work differently, too. It’s impossible now to have a nice fashion shoot with a famous model.”
There’s no doubt the distinct political stance of Grand’s last LOVE issue will find its way into The Perfect Magazine. She compares the early '90s in the UK — poll tax riots, Section 28, AIDS — to the evolving nightmare of now. “No one really knows what’s going to happen, all people know is how they feel.” Monday morning, there’ll be the first editorial meeting and maybe there’ll be more shape to it all then. But she’s excited by the risk she’s about to take. It’s that old poser: Don’t ask, 'Why?' ask 'Why not?'
“I didn’t realise I had the guts to do this until 7 am last Saturday morning,” Grand says. “But there are a few things I know how to do and I don’t want to stop doing them.”