The Face is back in print, but the British magazine is not trying to go back to its heyday.
The covers for its first print issue in 15 years — 100,000 of which are being printed and will be sold on newsstands and online through The Face web site — are the first clue that the magazine is uninterested in capitalizing on the fond memories many in fashion have of its initial iteration. For its first new quarterly issue, the very 2019 pop stars Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, Tyler the Creator and Rosalia are each getting their own cover.
There were a lot of names tossed around for the relaunch, according to editor Stuart Brumfitt, who is fully aware of the magazine’s place in the pantheon of Eighties and Nineties fashion and culture. This is the magazine where male androgyny was embraced early on; where a young Sade appeared on one of her few covers; where a 16-year-old Kate Moss broke out as a hippie beach child. But triggering sentimentality is not the goal of the new The Face.
“We didn’t want it to be a nostalgia trip,” Brumfitt said simply. “We wanted it to be very now.”
As for why the magazine should go back into print at all after a relaunch of the web site in April, managing director Dan Flower took a line he said he heard first from an unnamed competitor, comparing different platforms for content to air travel: “The web and social is economy, the magazine is first-class.” Another reason is that the team is simply fans of magazines. “We hate this whole print is dead vibe, because it’s not.”
Of the magazine’s target audience of culturally savvy and creative twentysomethings, brand director Jason Gonsalves admitted that they all get their information online and on mobile but that they, too, “really love magazines.” In doing some research, he found out that The Face is the most requested magazine from the archive at FIT in New York.
“There’s a whole generation of kids with a real passion for magazines,” Gonsalves said. “And unlike a lot of other stuff out there, which is basically a big Instagram, Stuart has put together a magazine that you want to read.”
Although much associated with fashion, Brumfitt explained that going for music cover stars first honors the magazine’s big place in that culture, too. And its leadership is adamant that The Face is “not a fashion magazine,” rather a general interest title covering everything from sports to tech.
“When we showed up in Milan and Paris at the end of last year, the first thing we said in every meeting was ‘We’re not a fashion magazine,’” Flower said. “Everyone was like, ‘Thank God.’ Because there are a lot of fashion magazines.”
But the magazine and its related business ventures have gotten a lot of support from fashion brands. Some are to be expected, like Gucci and Celine and Saint Laurent, but The Face also will be showing ads from much less frequent advertisers like Supreme, Palace and Stone Island, alongside big consumer brands like BMW and Sonos. It was still a sell to get everyone involved — “It’s a game of poker, this business,” Flower said — but they all ended up responding, in one way or another.
The Face of 2019 is not aiming to be dependent on just selling pages in a magazine, which was the case when it closed print in May 2004, the advent of the modern Internet but with none of today’s constant accessibility. There’s now a studio/brand consultant element which has already worked with Adidas, The North Face and Gucci on campaigns. There are current discussions of how to branch out into TV production with a slate of ideas developed. There’s e-commerce, with a handful of brand products in an online store. And on the content front there’s push into video and also audio, offering even more opportunities for ads and branded work.
“From a content perspective, diversity is very important, but it’s just as true of our business model,” Gonsalves said.
With that, the magazine is also experimenting with a pop-up of sorts this week in New York for the launch of the magazine. Called The Apartment, The Face is hosting three weeks of events this month, from fashion presentations to tie-dye class to dinners to performance art pieces, at a space on Bleecker Street. Curated by influencer/photographer/consultant Margaret Zhang, also The Face’s Asia editor at large, she said the space is meant to “embody the persona” of the magazine.
“We wanted to give people a chance to interact with something that isn’t just a party or a logo or a magazine,” Zhang said. “Let’s take a second to come in and go through the record collection, have a coffee.”
But everything in the space, down to the prints on the wall and the linens on furniture, is for sale. While it’s still an experiment, the goal is to take a version of The Apartment to different locations, although Zhang said, “There’s no rush.”
All of this build-up, including the relaunch of the web site in April, took new investment. While the company didn’t disclose how much money was raised, Flower said that owner of The Face Jerry Perkins “put together a very tight syndicate of investors,” people who were fans of the magazine and who are involved in the larger media industry, no venture capital or private equity allowed. One investor is Emma Banks, co-head of CAA talent agency in London. Another is Ian Flooks, former manager of bands like The Clash, The Talking Heads, The Police and U2. The Face in 2017 was brought under the newly formed publisher Wasted Talent, owned by Perkins.
With so much action and work over the last six months, the team is now simply looking forward to the magazine being out in the world. But they all know times have changed and with the Internet turned permanent peanut gallery, there’s some level of preparedness for dissatisfaction.
“I wish I could say we’re not expecting anything, that I’m walking down the streets of East London clicking my heels,” Flower said. “But no, I’m expecting people to say what we should have done.”
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