Fashionista contributor Long Nguyen is the co-founder/style director of Flaunt.
The images projected onto a tan brick wall on the back of New York's 48th Street Holiday Inn showed a blond guy wearing a dark blue cotton jumpsuit, mopping the floor of what seemed like a manufacturing building. It wasn't a preview for a new movie release. It was surely not a commercial for the latest detergent or all-powerful mops.
Instead, it was a screening of the short film "Romance Language" by Jarrah Gurrie. The movie centers around an encounter between a blue collar office cleaner and his female counterpart during a late night work shift. Without exchanging any words due to language differences, he shares his meals with her.
The blond guy playing the cleaner is model Travis Lee Hanson. And the people gather on the roof watching him were there to celebrate Crush Fanzine’s Obsession # 5: Travis Lee Hanson.
Unlike any other publication, CrushFanzine’s entire issue--there have been five thus far--focuses on one subject. Travis is the newest topic; others have included actress Charlotte Rampling and model Arthur (who starred in the first issue.) It’s not about fashion as in: "a report on what’s new this season." It's about fashion as it's seen through the eyes of an individual. Above all, it’s about the pleasure and the enjoyment a print product can have on its readers.
Less than two years ago, the death of print was cemented by media pundits. For a time, it seemed certain that these experts were correct; that the severe cuts in advertising budgets would surely at best hamper magazines and at worst threaten some with extinction. But magazines are making a comeback. And it's the small circulation ones that are gaining strength as collector items, rather than mere commercial publications on newsstands.
Indeed, 2010 has seen the launch of Grey, which is principally photography, Test--where creative teams composed of the best talents in fashion, design, art and film produce an issue--and Candy, which features transgender fashion. There's also Twin, a bi-annual art and fashion cloth-bound book, and Glass, a "collaborative intersection of art, fashion, music and design." Most of these magazines are based in London.
But there's hope in New York, too. Sixteen months ago, Nicolas Wagner, a photographer, and Khary Simon, a freelance art director, launched a publication they call a fanzine instead of a magazine. Crush Fanzine, to be exact. Printed locally in New York utilizing rough, uncoated paper, the run is exactly 1,000 issues. Once distributed, it's gone. There are no reprints nor online postings of the contents. The first issue, called "King Arthur," was all about the model Arthur. The cover was a black and white image of Arthur wearing his own Y-3 black sweat pants, standing against a white backdrop.
Inside was an extensive collection of photographs that Mr. Wagner has taken of Arthur over the course of several seasons, from personal shoots to unedited and rejected frames from magazine-commissioned works. The subtitle to the fanzine reads "Obsession #1: King Arthur."
In the Charlotte Rampling issue, there was a fashion shoot styled by the young French designer Sebastien Meunier, various drawings, a prototype dress made by Costello Tagliapietra, artworks by Jwan Yosef, and old letters from one of Ms. Rampling's admirers. Everything was inspired by Rampling and her roles in different movies.
"Travis Hanson: Obsession # 5," features various voices and various mediums: photography, artwork, and a series of original short films. There are 100 special collector's issues with a DVD Sue de Beer and Alissa Bennett's short film "Room 13C." In the print issue you'll find stills from the films, along with the scripts. Each collector's issue also features a custom Polaroid by Tim Goossens, provided by The Impossible Project. Each of the photos is titled after a Depeche Mode song.
My favorite part of Crush, though, is the fictional sequences written by four different people about a flight taken from JFK to Buenos Aires Ezeiza airport. Each is seated in 12-B, next to Travis, who is seated in 12-A. Each story portrays a longing and a memory--the sound of Travis's breathing when he was asleep; a peek at his torso and unseen six-pack; a napkin to remember a conversation that didn't take place; and a wishful moment of physical contact at 40,000 feet. At the very least, the issue conveyed emotions and feelings so devoid in today's surrogate world of fast fashion.
Before the big launch party, Nicolas and Khary came by my apartment with their latest obsession, Travis Lee Hanson.
Long Nguyen: How did you guys meet? Nicolas Wagner: We met by working on several projects together and we realized that we share a certain aesthetics. We find ourselves shooting the same people, movie directors, models and actors and so forth. Like Charlotte Rampling or Isabel Hupert. Khary Simon: The whole book is dedicated to one obsession. I organize the materials and make the flow of the issue readable. NW: For the first issue, i just had so much material on Arthur. I mean from so many shoots and tests. It was really from having that range of selection that the idea for the first issue came from. KS: We didn't know if people would be interested in this project. NM: Originally, we were doing a year's worth of pictures on one dancer. In the end, he changed career and no longer wants to dance. So I was stuck with all these images. That, in a way, was "the Crush issue that never was." But it gave me the idea of concentrating on one subject at a time. KS: We print locally and we only do exactly 1,000 issues. Colette picked up the first issue and since we are at Opening Ceremony, Printed Matter, Gagosian Gallery, Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Each issue is $10. We have a teaser website but we do not put the content of the issue online. It's about a physical product that you can touch and have. NW: It's a tiny project. It's like a collectible object. When i approached Charlotte Rampling, she understood the immediately. She knew that she had to play a character in a movie and she knew that we were giving something back to her in a way.
LN [to Travis]: Have you seen any of her movies? Travis Lee Hanson: The Night Porter--who hasn't?
LN: Magazines need to foster relationships with readers. That bond is what’s really missing. NW: We are honest about what we like. It's about pleasure and intimate details. LN: What’s lost now in magazines is this sense of discovery and surely a sense of pleasure each time open a magazine. Today it's commerce to death.
LN [to Travis]: Why did you agree to participate? TLH: I knew that this would not be about me as a fashion model. I'd have to be myself but also act out different roles. We did like 12 sittings, including videos. LN: Why did you pick Travis? NW: For me, Travis represents an archetype of masculinity. TLH: At each of the shoot and filming, I would arrive and just be myself. To me, modeling is like single frame acting. I try to do different things to come across well on film because films is different. I did three films with a significant amount of dialogue. Each director wanted me to be something different--get into character. It was really challenging and enjoyable. LN [to Travis]: Where did you grow up? TLH: I currently live in Wisconsin, but I grew up everywhere because my father was in the military. So I got to experience many different things growing up. LN: Would you take advertising in the future? KS: We would rather work on partnerships. For example, we needed money to print issue #4 so we approached Converse with the idea of doing a one day pop up store at the Ace Hotel. Converse donated 100 pairs of limited edition shoes and we sold them all in a day. NW: It's more about a partnership than buying an actual page. We have never had a party before--it was usually just a one day show of photos hanging at Envoy.
In the age of Twitter, Facebook, Four Square et al, Crush Fanzine is a push back against everything that has robbed us of our privacy and our ability to be intimate, to share intimacy with others. And yes, even magazines have lost touch with their readers. Crush is like reading a love story that you can pick up and browse and read again and again and it never feels old. Just as the internet is an arena to exchange news and ideas in a fast pace cycle, these small publications trade realm where readers take time to enjoy the product. It's also what magazines used to be.
The issue sold out in one week, proving that the enjoyment of a physical magazine still matters.