The upcoming issue of the art-meets-fashion magazine Garage will be its last at Vice Media Group.
Vice will cease to publish the biannual publication after the release of one more issue this spring, and employees are expected to receive severance starting in March, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.
“As our company continues to expand, it is critical to focus on opportunities aligned with our strategy,” said a representative for Vice in a statement. “The 10th anniversary edition this Spring will celebrate all that the publication stands for. We wish Garage all the best as it moves forward into its next exciting phase.”
The magazine is not expected to shutter, however. Garage’s founder, the Russian-American art collector Dasha Zhukova, is taking back the controlling stake and figuring out its next steps. Zhukova sold a majority stake in the magazine to Vice in 2016 and remains its editorial director.
She is in conversations with European and American publishers to continue operations and is aiming to preserve the staff, according to a source with knowledge of the plans. Another option is publishing the magazine by the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, after which the title was named, and which Zhukova founded in 2008. The current website, which was developed by Vice, will not be part of its next iteration.
“Today, Garage reaffirms its commitment to championing collaborations from the world’s most celebrated creators, and renews its dedication to contemporary art,” said a spokesperson for the magazine in a statement. “In seeking to maintain the magazine’s experimental spirit, Garage will return to its roots as a radical art object, focusing on the production of print editions.”
The closure comes after an especially challenging year for media, as brands cut advertising budgets during the pandemic, creating uncertainty for weak or unprofitable publishers. Many fashion magazines reduced the number of issues they publish or paused operations, like W did before it found new ownership. Others shut down, like many of the international editions of fashion titles in regions like Australia, or cut print permanently, like Condé Nast’s biannual Love after founder Katie Grand left the company last year.
Last spring, like most other media groups, Vice laid off about 5 percent of its total workforce in anticipation of declining advertising revenue due to the pandemic, and senior executives took pay cuts. Garage was initially projected to generate $10 million in advertising in 2020, according to an internal document seen by The Wall Street Journal in April, and was expected to fall short of that target by up to $4 million due to the crisis.
As part of the strategy to divest from Garage, Vice’s other print magazine, the British style title i-D, is slated to get more investment from the company this year, with plans for expansion in the US and Asia.
Often high-concept and irreverent, Garage debuted in 2011 and captured the interest of the fashion and fine art worlds due to its founder, the high-profile Russian art collector and former Pop editor Zhukova. The biannual magazine was named after the contemporary art museum she founded in Moscow in 2008 with her former husband, billionaire Roman Abramovich, and with which she is still actively involved.
From the start, Garage stood out for its bold name contributors and creative experimentation and has been a hub for talented editors, writers and stylists. One of the first covers featured a photograph of an intimately placed tattoo on the lower half of a nude model, covered with a removable sticker. The tattoo was designed by Damien Hirst, and the model was photographed by Hedi Slimane. Other early participants included Joan Juliet Buck, the former Vogue Paris editor, and Jeffrey Koons, who created “virtual” sculptures for the magazine in 2014. Its issues have paired the visual artist Urs Fisher with Beyoncé, photographer Deana Lawson with Rihanna and installation artist Maurizio Cattelan with Kendall Jenner.
Vice Media acquired a majority stake in Garage in 2016 as part of a push into fashion to attract luxury advertisers, just a few years after it also acquired i-D. After the acquisition, Garage’s headquarters moved from London to Brooklyn, where Vice was also based, with the intention to expand the publication online through a website and video.
Zhukova moved into an editorial director role and hired an editor-in-chief. She became less involved with the magazine over the years, especially after Mark Guiducci became the editor in 2017. But after Guiducci left for Vogue last March, and was not replaced due to pandemic budget constraints, Zhukova became more involved. The magazine has been led in the last year by fashion director Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, who joined the magazine before Guiducci in 2017, and features director Laia Garcia-Furtado, who joined in 2019.
A lot has changed at Vice Media since Garage came into its portfolio. A year after the acquisition, it raised $450 million at a reported $5.7 billion valuation, higher than any of its digital media peers, despite growing concerns from investors about the business model. Vice was still not turning a profit, and also had to contend with a workplace culture crisis around sexual harassment that was made public by The New York Times in 2017.
Nancy Dubuc replaced co-founder Shane Smith as chief executive in 2018, and got to modernising the irreverent boy’s club culture, streamlining the business model and expanding its film and television production. As part of that turnaround effort, Vice consolidated all of its websites under Vice.com in 2019, but both Garage and i-D kept their own sites and branding. Vice also cut 10 percent of its workforce and later that year acquired Refinery29, a digital media company that targets women and also courts fashion and beauty advertisers.
Vice still operated on a loss in 2019, though by a smaller margin than in the past, according to The Wall Street Journal. The paper also reported that Vice has costly payments coming due to one of its investors, TPG, putting further pressure on the business.