200 ISSUES OF THE FACE: It’s 17 years since the first Face hit the newsstands. Jim Davies looks at how the original style magazine became a publishing phenomenon and the leading voice of UK youth culture

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.

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

actually true.



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

elsewhere.’



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

Face regulars.



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

collar.



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

treatment.



The format was starting to look tired and circulation dropped to

73,000.



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,’

he says.



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.’



FACE DISCOVERIES



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

80s.



Neville Brody One of the most influential graphic designers of the late

20th century.



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.



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