The September issue of W magazine is all about the future.
The Condé-owned fashion title teamed with the creative technology studio The Mill and photographer Steven Klein to create what is being billed as a “special collector’s issue” that fuses print and digital through augmented reality. Readers are encouraged to download an app, made especially for this project, that scans the printed page to activate video extras and interactive special effects.
“The issue is part of our larger strategy of making every issue of the magazine a unique experience — something collectible, something that is not disposable,” said editor in chief Stefano Tonchi. “I think that this is a great space now that so many of our readers, really I would call them users at this point, experience the magazine on their phones. So why not do it in a more W way?”
For example, scan the cover and watch Katy Perry recite Camus, while standing on a dark, surreal version of a Parisian street. “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion,” Perry dramatically enunciates in the video.
“It’s about rebellion, it’s a call to act, which we love. It’s not one side or the other, it’s about action. It’s a very political moment in that sense. We like that young people are taking action and have opinions,” Tonci explained, of the Camus quote, which, he said, involved a lengthy back-and-forth with Perry and her team.
A second cover was made by creating 3-D scans of Perry’s head. By pressing different facial features after scanning it with the app, users find various extras, such as videos of Perry singing, or Perry dramatically driving. The shoot, which was one of creative and fashion director Edward Enninful’s last projects before leaving W to helm British Vogue, is, in keeping with Klein’s aesthetic, decidedly dark and moody — something that proved a challenge for the technology.
“That [darkness] is difficult in our world,” explained Sallyann Houghton, an executive producer at The Mill. “We like shiny, bright objects!”
The AR technology extends beyond the Katy Perry cover story. In a high-concept collaboration with artist Alex Israel, one of the last chimpanzee actors in Hollywood is photographed among the eerily empty concrete rooms designed by architect Tadao Ando, posing with Bill and Maria Bell’s impressive modern art collection. (Enlisting Israel, Tonchi said, helped convince the Bells to let W use their house and art collection). The arresting photographs illustrates a science fiction story by Jamie Brisick that imagines a world where humanity has left Earth, and art, behind — in keeping with the “Planet of the Apes” meets MoMA vibe. Scan those pages with the app, and watch a video installation. Other stories have similarly multilayered, and multimedia, features.
“More than ever, we want to take advantage of W being the oversized luxury leader, especially in print. We are never going to have the largest rate base because our focus is doing something special and a little more unique,” said Chris Mitchell, W and Vanity Fair’s chief business officer. “We want each one of these issues to feel like a special artistic event. We want to make W ‘printier.’”
“We have to rethink print for sure,” Tonchi added. “And this is just one of the ways we are doing it.”