Less of a zine, more of an accessory, it’s best not to linger too long on trying to define Visionaire – by the time the next issue is released, it will have shape-shifted into something else entirely. Founded in 1991 by a trio of Parsons contemporaries, Stephen Gan, Cecilia Dean and James Kaliardos, they sought to showcase the work of talented young photographers, illustrators, and artists. In 2014, they parted ways, with Gan continuing to edit V Magazine, while Cecilia Dean and James Kaliardos continued their work with Visionaire. No medium, timetable, or topic has sway over the form of Visionaire. Even David Bowie once declared that it was “probably the kind of magazine that I would produce if I had the time.” Its launch parties close 52nd Street, zero advertising features in the publication, and it’s broken the world record for the largest magazine ever – twice. Visionaire 67, FETISH, by Steven Klein, is now available (in a characteristically exclusive run of 5000). While declining sales force other publishing heads to slash staff, switch to digital editions, or rethink their target audiences, Visionaire has existed in a publishing ecosystem of its own making since 1992.
Elegantly boxed, but echoing its founders’ wildest imaginations, a new Visionaire instalment is that rare beast in our digital age – an unadulterated, unpredictable surprise. The Visionaire team dubbed their White issue “the first fashion magazine for the blind”, then delivered an issue solely comprised of vinyl toys (made by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut), a battery-powered light box for Light, and a steel-bound edition for Forever. Chameleon-like and independent, Visionaire shirks all labels, basking in the shock that follows each release. In an industry dominated by deadlines, and feeding endless screeds of inspiration on social media, Visionaire pushes fashion, and its audience, to its limits. To celebrate the newest issue, Mira Mira gives you a guide to Visionaire’s most striking issues to date.
Larger Than Life
Visionaire, with its scented pages, bespoke vinyls, and yards of thread, has always set its scope beyond standard borders – with 2011’s Larger Than Life issue, Visionaire quite literally grew up. Shot by Inez & Vinoodh, and styled by Nicola Formichetti, Lady Gaga graced the front cover in both standard issues (a mere 3 x 4 feet) and the deluxe issues, with a print run of 250, which measured an almighty 5 x 7 feet. While Visionaire’s scope has always laid beyond many of its counterparts, this issue, which required one person to turn the page, and another to read, was fit for a king or queen.
Perhaps as a riposte to critics who question Visionaire’s limits, the Scent issue assumed an altogether different form – 21 sample of vials of perfume. The Visionaire website dubs it the next link in their “ongoing assault on the five senses”. Like sommeliers to their images, Gan, Dean, and Kaliardos asked contributors to pair scents to sensations – Karl Lagerfeld evoked the pall of Paris’ Poilâne bakery, and David Bowie distilled the odour of success into an almost-rancid brew, matched with a photo by Dan Forbes.
While it orbits the fashion world, Visionaire rarely scans its surface – Louis Vuitton remains the sole issue dedicated to the industry. Craig McDean crafted a nine-page, life-size Comme des Garçons fold-out, alongside a Nan Goldin collaboration with Helmut Lang, and many more. Packaged in a LV-monogrammed portfolio (six issues later, Gucci would sponsor Issue 24, replete with a $425 plexiglass light boss), the Louis Vuitton issue, number 18, sold out by the date of its launch party in New York. The furore circling the issue left the Visionaire team wishing they’d “done a limited-edition run of ten thousand,” according to their website. Many fans doubtless felt the same.
Presumably the first magazine comprised of jet fuel and condensed milk, Taste was Visionaire’s 2005 challenge. Dean has stated the issue was “one of the most difficult issues editorially, because many visual artists had a difficult time thinking in terms of taste”. Offering nourishment of a different kind to their previous sense-heavy issues, Taste was a single folder filled with self-dissolving strips, inspired by contributor images. We know taste to be perhaps the most primal sense, and Visionaire challenged this with its pairings – a sample of condensed milk matched with Yoko Ono’s picture of a breast, or a photograph of an insouciant young boy paired with cherry liquorice.
Visionaire’s Chic issue is as amorphous as its title suggests, reading like a magna carta of the 90s fashion industry. Richard Avedon and Gianni Versace, Helmut Newton and Elfie Semotan – each image manifested the decade’s greatest partnerships. A swathe of the actual Versace dress worn by Madonna to her Evita premiere, Paloma Picasso’s lipstick imprint on a cocktail napkin, and a missive to Yves Saint Laurent from Catherine Deneuve – with Chic, Visionaire attempts to define fashion’s most ubiquitous term. Marking Mario’s second issue as a guest editor, Chic puts his rolodex to full use, proving Mario’s maxim that “chic between people finds its ultimate expression in collaboration.”
Featured Image: Visionaire No. 25: Visionary (1998)