What's in a September Issue in 2019?
The newest Editor-in-Chief of ‘i-D’ Alastair McKimm walks us through his vision for the magazine.
Fashion magazines seem to be playing musical chairs with their editors-in-chief as of late — not unlike the merry-go-round of creative directors at fashion houses. W, Nylon, GQ, Esquire, among others, have all seen their share of departures and arrivals at the top of their mastheads in the past year. Among those new arrivals is Alastair McKimm, who became i-D’s editor-in-chief in June of this year when his predecessor Holly Shackleton departed for Vogue International.
It would be wrong to say that McKimm, with two decades in the business, is representative of something new in fashion. And when HYPEBEAST visited McKimm at his New York studio for a first look at the September 2019 issue of i-D — his first issue as editor-in-chief — he was quick to point out that he is not masterminding a “relaunch” of i-D, but starting a new chapter.
“You never lose the DNA of the brand, but you have to think about what we need for 2019 and for 2020.”
“You never lose the DNA of the brand, but you have to think about what we need for 2019 and for 2020,” McKimm told HYPEBEAST. “What should the magazine be? Because in a way it’s easy to just keep making the magazine the way that we always have.”
McKimm is, however, representative of a new kind of editor-in-chief who comes from a visually-driven background, rather than the traditional EIC who rises their way up the editor ranks. He’s styled everything from Saint Laurent campaigns to Supreme editorials, and has a long history with i-D itself, having served under former fashion director Edward Enninful early in his career, before assuming the same position himself from 2013 to 2018.
The gift of an experienced fashion director is the ability to bring all the necessary components together to create an image. “It’s about personal relationships. Having relationships with the photographers, with the talent, with the models, and all the teams that kind of make the imagery, and make the magazine come together,” McKimm explained.
And bring people together McKimm certainly did, as despite only starting on the issue in June he managed to put out no less than six September covers, starring FKA Twigs, Kevin Abstract, Mona Tougaard, Fernando, Zoë Kravitz and Tyshawn Jones. The magazine itself totals 450 pages and exemplifies McKimm’s wide-ranging tastes in fashion, with editorials covering brands from Patta to Alexander McQueen and features giving an inside look into a London barbershop and Denmark’s Roskilde Festival.
“It was from people in the street,” McKimm said of i-D’s roots. “And that’s what I’ve always been really inspired by. People in the streets. Street style. That’s why I think my styling has always had a bit of a crossover between streetwear, and sportswear, and high fashion because that’s just all the elements I’ve been interested in.”
“My styling has always had a bit of a crossover between streetwear, and sportswear, and high fashion because that’s just all the elements I’ve been interested in.”
Despite his many credentials, McKimm did not expect to ever take on the editor-in-chief role. But Enninful’s successful tenure thus far at British Vogue has proven that there is a great deal of value in hiring outside the usual chain. “I think that sort of opened the doors for people who think about it in a different way. That is, you don’t necessarily have to come from a journalistic background to be able to edit a magazine,” he said.
Readers are interacting with fashion magazines in a different way than they were 10 years ago. They don’t need to rely on a traditional monthly issue for news — that comes from a bevy of other sources, like Instagram, Twitter and blogs. It would be premature to say that fashion magazines are irrelevant, but they are certainly no longer gatekeepers to information. Instead, they need to set forth a creative vision that extends to all channels of a publication.
“One of the first things that I really wanted to do when I took the position was something we’ve been talking about for a long time, which we weren’t able to do, was really to bring the digital, the print, the video, the socials, the commercial,” McKimm explained. “All those things together, because I’ve been working in all those different fields for so long now.”
Even the word “magazine” is something of a misnomer, as those components McKimm pulls together — video, social media, print and digital — form as a whole what looks more like a brand than a publication. And if magazines are more of a brand than ever, does that mean that in 2019 a fashion director and stylist is more suited to the editor-in-chief position than the traditional writer/editor?
It’s impossible to say which path is “better,” but hiring an EIC with a background in styling and directing as opposed to writing and editing undoubtedly allows for a different approach. Take for example the ad pages in McKimm’s first issue. While most of the 100 ad pages in i-D’s September issue feature the same brand campaigns that will appear elsewhere, it also contains a Revlon ad starring Adwoa Aboah styled by McKimm, which is exclusive to the publication. Such a move further blurs the already fuzzy line between editorial and advertising in fashion, but it also allows i-D to present a more cohesive product, with all parts serving McKimm’s vision.
There are of course still the usual gritty fashion editorials one would expect of i-D, including a Supreme editorial shot by Ari Marcopoulos, featuring Jason Dill hamming it up for the camera in the brand’s traditional skate gear. “Because it’s their 25th anniversary as well, we wanted to do something that really represented OG Supreme, so who better than these two? It’s really slapstick comedy at its best,” McKimm said of Dill and Marcopoulos’ collaboration.
“It’s been said a million times, but punk is the attitude.”
In 2019, some readers might look at Supreme, with its Carlyle Group backing and CFDA approval, and even i-D itself, with its glossy Revlon ad, and think they are no longer representative of the punk ethos they were founded on. But for McKimm, punk isn’t defined by something as tangible as money. “It’s been said a million times, but punk is the attitude. It’s not necessarily the size of the magazine, or the paper quality, or the printing quality, which I think should be very elevated because we’re trying to create this product that people want to hold on to,” he said.
There are portions of the magazine where McKimm is firm that commercialism shouldn’t be present, however. For September 2019, McKimm used the magazine’s “Eye” section, found towards the end of the magazine far away from ads for McQueen and Birkenstock, to highlight London’s homeless crisis. The story features photographs of tents throughout the city by Jermaine Francis, who also wrote the accompanying article. “Some of the team were nervous about how we were going to do this in the context of a fashion magazine or a style magazine, but to me, i-D is a culture magazine,” McKimm explained. “So if this is going on, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be talking about it.”
McKimm’s ambitions as i-D’s EIC go beyond the magazine’s pages, as he also wants to create a sort of “i-D academy” to nurture up-and-coming talent in media. “‘Learn and pass it on,’ was always this phrase that [i-D co-founder] Tricia Jones really put together of giving advice to the next generation. And I think i-D always stood for that, so I want to make sure that we continue in these mentorship programs,” he said.
There is one part of McKimm’s September issue which is glaringly traditional. Even while the covers stars themselves are representative of a new generation of talent, all six images credit white male photographers — Willy Vanderperre, Gus Van Sant, Mario Sorrenti and Mert & Marcus — whose work has dominated magazine newsstands for decades.
“It’s about personal relationships. Having relationships with the photographers, with the talent, with the models, and all the teams that kind of make the imagery.”
This dynamic is not unique to i-D. It should not be forgotten that it was only a year ago that Tyler Mitchell became the first African-American photographer to ever shoot the cover of American Vogue, when he photographed Beyoncé for the September 2018 issue. The way we interact with magazine covers has certainly changed — far more people will see i-D’s September covers on the brand’s Instagram page than at a physical newsstand — but the machinations of who is allowed to create those images is slower to evolve.
There is however a new guard of creatives inside i-D’s September issue, if not on the cover. Take for example Hanna Moon, who photographed the new collection from Rihanna’s game-changing Fenty line; there’s also Deirdre Lewis, who photographed pieces from LUAR, the gender-fluid brand from Hood by Air co-founder Raul Lopez; concluding the “Eye” section is a story on Venezuelan migration at the Colombian border shot by John Guerrero. As time goes on, maybe that new guard will get the chance to shoot those prized cover images. McKimm, like the many other newly-minted editors-in-chief, is only just getting started.