Mix two parts music with two parts fashion, add a dash of politics
and popular culture, sprinkle generously with attitude and you’ve got
something approaching the potent editorial cocktail of the Face. It took
a few years, plus a designer of the stature of Neville Brody, to perfect
the formula but it quickly became the model for a host of glossy titles
that spawned in its wake. But the Face got there first and its influence
on the UK publishing scene can’t be underestimated. Today, with a
circulation of around 113,000 and a confident young team in place, it
remains the pre-eminent commentator on youth culture.
This month’s Face comes bagged with a replica copy of the very first
issue; it marks the occasion of the publication’s 201st issue or, as the
magazine describes it, ’Volume 3 Number 1’. Apart from a couple of minor
changes (such as the discreet logo on the front cover for Paul Smith
Jeans, the project’s sponsor) it is a faithful reproduction. In fact, it
was printed from the original film, pulled out from the garage of
founder/editorial director, Nick Logan, where it had been lying for the
past 16 or so years.
Clearly this is an open invitation to compare and contrast the Face of
May 1980 with the Face of February 1997: 66 pages against 142 pages; 60p
then: pounds 2.20 now; saddle-stitched versus perfect-bound. But the
thing eagle-eyed adfolk will notice about the first Face is the paucity
of ads - just five full-page black-and-white efforts, all touting LPs
(from Madness, Burning Spear, the Undertones, Magazine and the Only
Ones). The current issue, on the other hand, is an orgy of conspicuous
consumption: full-colour ads for upmarket fashion houses such as Paul
Smith, Moschino and Cerruti; hip streetwear labels including Nike,
Stussy and Fila; smokes and booze in the shape of Marlboro, Silk Cut and
Caffrey’s, and page upon page pandering to every youthful urge: clubs,
condoms, CDs and anti-drugs helplines.
When he drew up his blueprint for the title in the late 70s, Logan
didn’t want to sully his pages with ads. He didn’t want to touch those
messy half- and quarter-pagers - as far as he was concerned, editorial
and design considerations came first. And when the magazine was up and
running, rumour had it he actually turned advertisers away because their
artwork didn’t pass the aesthetic standards he’d set for the magazine.
’I like the legend,’ Logan says, with a wry smile, ’but it’s not
However, if someone approaches us with an ad we feel is inappropriate to
our readership, we will advise them that they might be better off
For years the Face has been every media planner’s ticket to the
lucrative but notoriously fickle youth market - and for good reason.
With the honourable exception of the defiantly sub-cultural iD, the Face
has managed to see off all comers. How? Simply by consistently high
standards in the holy trinity of editorial disciplines: design,
photography and journalism.
Undoubtedly this has something to do with Logan’s background. A
self-confessed East London mod, he worked on a local paper before
graduating to IPC’s New Musical Express, where he stayed for ten years.
During his five-year tenure as editor, he hired the hopefuls, Julie
Burchill and Tony Parsons, championing the punk movement as well as a
radical new style of music journalism. Burchill and Parsons later became
In 1978, Logan interested Emap in his idea for a magazine aimed at the
younger music fan. Fearful for his street cred, he agreed to edit it
under the pseudonym, Chris Hall. In six months, Smash Hits was shifting
166,000 copies a week.
Logan soon got itchy feet and began plotting his next venture, an
upmarket monthly music and fashion magazine to be called the Face. ’We
aspired to the paper and printing quality of Vogue or Tatler,’ he said
at the time. ’Dressing up could be seen as a sign of pride instead of a
sign of decadence.’ Unable to enlist the support of any publishing
house, he withdrew the pounds 3,500 he had in his building society
account. In May 1980, issue number one of the Face was printed. Compared
with today’s Face, the editorial parameters were narrow - it was almost
entirely music-based apart from a film review page.
What does Logan think of it with hindsight? ’It was slightly
self-conscious,’ he says. ’I came up with all the editorial ideas
myself. I still think most of the photography stands up well. I must be
reasonably pleased with it or I wouldn’t have had it reprinted.’
Though the launch issue sold a creditable 56,000 copies (from a 75,000
print run), figures for the next few were disappointing. ’It was really
hard graft,’ Logan recalls. ’I didn’t think it would last so I thought I
might as well have some fun with it and broadened the subject matter,
moving sideways into fashion.’ He chose the word ’style’ to denote the
new fashion pages, a description the Face has been stuck with ever
since. ’Many atrocities have been committed in the name of style
journalism,’ he explains. ’At times I objected to the tag being applied
to the Face.’
In 1982, Neville Brody became the magazine’s art director, and it’s
probably no coincidence that the title’s fortunes changed dramatically.
He forged a distinctive aesthetic for the Face, based on his passion for
Constructivist typography and a flair for art directing young
photographers. ’That’s when it all started coming together,’ Logan says.
’He took the magazine to a different level ... I’ve come to appreciate
what he did more and more.
The way he combined photography, type and white space was so good. Many
people have tried to rip him off but they can’t manage it. It’s
outrageous he never won recognition from the PPA for his work on the
Face.’ At this, the usually measured Logan becomes warm under the
Design came to assume a pivotal role on the Face. The subsequent art
directors, Robin Derrick (now at Vogue), Phil Bicker (who works for a
range of top fashion houses), Boris Bencic and the incumbent, Lee
Swillingham, have all brought their particular graphic slant to pages
that have remained a touchstone for contemporary editorial design.
But it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Logan admits the Face ’lost it a bit’ during the late 80s. Logan was
seriously ill and had to take eight months off for hospital
The format was starting to look tired and circulation dropped to
When Logan returned from his recuperation, he was thrown straight into
the Jason Donovan libel action, the costs and damages of which came to
pounds 120,000 and almost forced the magazine’s closure. ’It was hell,’
In the meantime, Sheryl Garratt took over the editorship and reinvented
the title, aiming it fairly and squarely at 18- to 25-year-olds and
increasing the coverage of dance music and club culture. ’We lost a lot
of readers who’d grown up with the magazine,’ Logan admits, ’but it was
a very successful move.’ Richard Benson, Garratt’s deputy, moved into
the hotseat in November 1995.
Although Conde Nast bought 40 per cent of Wagadon, the Face’s parent
company, in 1989, it remains a family affair - Logan’s wife, Julie, is
the business manager, and his son, Christian, the accounts manager. The
Farringdon offices are basic; scuffed floors, wobbly tables and just
enough Macs to go round.
Does Logan envisage another 200 issues? ’I’ve only been interested in
magazines with longevity,’ he says. ’As long as they touch a chord with
their readers there’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue. Yes,
there’s enough subject matter out there for another 200 issues.’
Kate Moss The Croydon superwaif was a Face regular in July 1990, long
before she achieved superstardom.
Sade (Helen Folasade Adu) The cool songbird who made it big in the
Neville Brody One of the most influential graphic designers of the late
Julie Burchill Sharpened her poison pen on the Face before becoming the
scourge of the chattering classes.
Juergen Teller Fashion photographer renowned for his gritty style.
David Sims Fashion photographer whose portfolio includes work for Calvin
Klein and the Gap.
Jean Baptiste Mondino Multi-talented French photographer, pop promo and
commercials director, notorious for his X-rated videos for Madonna.
Melanie Ward and Corinne Day Stylist and photographer team who
introduced dirty realism to fashion.
Oasis The first ever cover story on the notorious Mancunian supergroup
appeared in August 1994.
Ecstasy Face readers knew the score years before the tabloid frenzy.