Ask any aspiring stylist, fashion editor, or photographer who they’ve looked up to over the years, and chances are, they’ll mention Katie Grand’s name. The stylist—who is, in fact, not just a stylist: she’s also one of the founders of Dazed and Confused magazine, the former editor in chief of Pop and Love magazines, and now, the head of her very own publication, Perfect magazine—has worn many hats while simultaneously becoming one of the most influential fashion personalities in the world. Now, Grand is releasing a new book “Tears and Tearsheets,” which looks back on her extensive career. It’s a celebration of her work, collaborations, and a physical manifestation of why she’s still inspiring hordes of young fashion enthusiasts to this day. Below, the Leeds native discusses her process, and shares key memories from some of her favorite photo shoots.
You’ve created some of the most iconic fashion magazine covers of all time—so how did you go about choosing this image of Bella Hadid shot by Harley Weir for the cover of your book, “Tears and Tearsheets”?
It’s a reference to an old Norbert Schoerner shoot I did for The Face magazine around 2000. When I did this shoot with Bella and Harley, there were a lot of references to my older work with the makeup artist Miranda Joyce. Back when we shot this image, maybe five years ago, Bella was still sort of new in the industry, so it felt like a nostalgic image—but not too nostalgic.
Do you consider yourself as a stylist at this point?
When I was starting out, the title mattered more. I remember at one point being credited as wardrobe, and that was pretty awful [laughs]. It’s so much more acceptable now, though, to be an art director, a fashion designer, and all these things. Whereas when I started getting recognition 25 years ago, you had to stay in your lane. That was always quite frustrating. Nowadays, I don’t mind what my title is as much, because…I’ve done so much.
In the book, there’s an entire section dedicated to quotes from fellow industry veterans and friends alike. Kate Moss writes, “It can sometimes be torture, but the results are always worth it.” What’s she talking about there?
Obviously, getting these quotes was weird for me, it’s a bit like reading your own obituary [laughs]. At the end of the day, Kate is Kate Moss, so when you’re going to photograph her, you’re the most prepared you’ll ever be, because she’s been so heavily photographed and there’s a lot of competition in regards to creating a unique image of her. When I work with Kate I always have a specific character in mind, like when I had her become a smoking cat—literally, she was in a black latex suit smoking cigarettes. In the quote, though, she’s probably referencing the first time we ever worked together: It was a shoot with Juergen Teller for Stella McCartney’s first Chloé collection, and Juergen just had her lying in a bush all day.
Flipping through this book, I do see a lot of people multiple times: Kate Moss, Gisele Bündchen, Kendall Jenner. When you’re going into your third or fourth shoot with a model you’ve worked with, how do you keep it fresh?
Recently, I’ve loved working with Zhong Lin and Rafael Pavarotti because you feel like you’re doing something new when the photographers are coming into it totally new. Before I worked with Rafael, he had never really shot someone famous. What I liked about photographing Kate, Raquel, or Lila with him was that he hadn’t done this before. It was enjoyable to present the idea of a familiar model, but through his fresh eyes.
How did you intend on making Perfect magazine different than anything else you’ve done before?
I knew I wanted to make something without limitations. The other thing was to really look at budgets and prioritize the photographer’s vision. For example, Zhong Lin and I were working with this set designer, Andrew Clarkson, and Zhong Lin really wanted this life-size pink crocodile. It was incredibly expensive, but we were determined to make it work. I can’t imagine any of my previous bosses hearing me say, “We’re going to spend the money on the pink crocodile,” and them saying “Oh yeah, that’s a great idea, do it.” But now the pink crocodile lives in our office and it’s a symbol of, if someone really feels passionate about something, you gotta go with it.
Where does your obsession with photography come from?
I remember the day I became obsessed with pictures like it was yesterday. I was in my old house, in Birmingham, in a place called Sally Oak. I had the flu, and my dad had gone across the road to buy me some magazines: The Face and British Vogue. Sade was on the cover of The Face, and that was it.
I was always quite obsessed with clothes, but my head was much more into fashion imagery. When I was fifteen, I met this guy who was obsessed with i-D and Blitz, and I was obsessed with The Face. We formed a friend group that was equally obsessed with style—all the boys had loafers and wore white socks and rolled-up Levi's jeans, and everyone wanted to be Nick Kamen.
I know so many young creatives who specifically cite you as their inspiration for breaking into the fashion industry. Who was that person for you?
There was a fashion director at i-D called Beth Summers I looked up to. When I applied to Central Saint Martins, one of my interview questions was “What will you do if you don’t get in?” I told my interviewer, I’m going to call Beth Summers 10 times a day and I’m gonna work at i-D.
Was there a key turning point in your career? A moment when you knew you were on to something?
When I met Rankin and Jefferson, and we started Dazed and Confused, that’s when it all started making sense. The second moment was when Kylie Minogue asked me to style her for Top of the Pops. I was at Dazed at the time and I was running around the office, so excited that I was actually going to get paid to do this.
After so many years in the industry, a lot of the people in this book (photographers, models, etc.) aren’t just your collaborators, they’re your true friends. Are there collaborators who still feel more like formal colleagues to you?
Miuccia Prada will always scare me [laughs]. Or when I worked with Meisel, I was terrified—I could barely speak. Generally, when you really admire someone’s work, it’s such a privilege to collaborate with them. I just feel so lucky to have met and worked with these absolute icons whose work I love. I’ll never stop being scared of Miuccia, though.
Is there something you’re most proud of in your career so far? Is it this book?
I never felt the need to do the book because it was a bit like, CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award, you know? After this, where do I go? The only way to do it was to just do it, and in a way that didn’t feel too precious. I’m very proud of setting up Dazed and Confused—it’s still so powerful and it has this energy to it. It’s got a brand new roster of contributors and editors, and financially, they’re successful. I look at it and go, “I helped start that.”
Tears and Tearsheets by Katie Grand, published by IDEA books, is available for purchase here.