Katie Grand Talks Us Through Her Debut Book ‘Tears & Tearsheets’

For those of us who grew up in small towns that feel worlds away from bright city lights, the age-old ritual of ripping pages from magazines and Blu-Tacking them to your bedroom wall was a way of temporarily escaping the shackles of grey mundanity.

Whether the pages are from fashion editorials or are the centrefolds of your favourite bands, such images serve as markers of who you are or who you want to end up being. It’s a collaged utopia you strive to one day explore through your own eyes.

The last 30 years have seen teenagers up and down the country wallpapering their own little universes with the work of Katie Grand. One of the fashion industry’s most influential stylists and magazine editors working today, Grand has navigated with flair the state of British style publishing from the moment she was named fashion editor of a then-startup Dazed & Confused magazine (now just Dazed) at the beginning of the Nineties.

Grand’s comprehension of fashion, celebrity, style, and how each are interlinked, has positioned her beyond being merely a tastemaker. Her work is raw, witty and irreverent, with the ability to shape how we view and immerse ourselves within pop culture, whether that’s in the pages of magazines, in fashion films or sashaying down the catwalk (Grand has famously styled shows for Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu, among other industry heavyweights, throughout her career).

“The reason I got into magazines, other than loving them, was being a part of youth culture,” says Grand from behind a pair of oversized specs. We’re meeting in her east London studio, joined by a third guest – her dog, Red – to chat all about her first book Tears & Tearsheets: a limited-edition collection of Grand’s finest work ripped from the pages of the magazines she’s steered to success over the last three decades, compiled and published with IDEA Books.

Like the rest of us, the Leeds-born Grand spent her teens chopping up beauty pages from Cosmopolitan and, with the permission of her lenient father, would use the tears to decorate the entire roof of the loft conversion in her family home in Selly Oak, Birmingham, where she grew up.

Now taking the shears to her own work, the book tours through the days of “making it up as we went along” with Rankin and Jefferson Hack at Dazed; her stint at The Face; co-founding her first magazine, Pop, in 2000; the now-shuttered Love magazine which Condé Nast asked her to create in 2008; and Perfect, the bi-annual publication she launched at the height of the pandemic, alongside recent work featured in W and Vanity Fair.

“I’ve been asked before to do books before, but I never felt confident that a coffee table book was right for me,” she says, namechecking Grace Coddington and Carine Roitfeld, who’ve both released fashion tomes she admires. Grand is always in forward motion, hungry to discover what exciting new thing lurks behind the corner. She’s never been fond of looking back, “but David Owen [co-founder of IDEA Books] just made the process so easy and comfortable,” she says. “I could do something that was quite free and didn’t feel like ‘I’ve reached the end of my career’, you know? It’s not a tombstone.”

She never imagined the book as “this big hardback thing”, instead going for a paperback finish without overt glossing. Lensed by Harley Weir, the cover features Bella Hadid, who wears hot pink, leather, lace-up trousers; her slender frame is stamped with Tear Sheets in a slimy, in-your-face typeface. The last thing Grand wants for it is to live on your bookshelf under a blanket of dust. Carry it with you, let it get dog-eared or “chop it up!”, as she excitedly proclaims.

Days prior to our conversation, Grand celebrated the release of the book with a signing at Dover Street Market in London. Amid a tide of celebrities and industry heavyweights – many of whom came up alongside Grand, or under her wing – it was the presence of fashion students which left her feeling particularly giddy. “When we started Dazed and AnOther we were all kids, none of us had worked for anyone and we didn’t know what we were doing,” she says. “I have this nostalgia about the early years, and how difficult but easy it was. I thought: if some fashion students pick this up, it does make things seem possible. When you look at the book, the clothes are kind of cheap, or something made out of a bit of leather and gaffer tape or spray paint. It was really great getting to speak to these kids at the signing and just being like, ‘You can just go and do it. That’s what we did.’”

Admittedly dreading the task of piecing the book together, it was Grand’s long-term collaborator, Phoebe Arnold, who helped gather the tears. Much came from Grand’s own library, while some of the earlier works were sourced from Rankin and Gary Wallis, a friend of Grand’s from her days at Central Saint Martins. After Arnold made an initial edit – “We have worked together for 15 years, she really understands my taste and what images have been important to me” – they spent “no more than three hours” picking what they wanted inside. Within half a day, the book was compiled and sent over to the book’s editor Dominik Pollin and David Owen, who made a further edit. Grand popped back in a few pages that were left on the cutting room floor and voila, that was it.

Throughout the process, Grand was drawn in particular to her early work. Like working with Norbert Schoerner for The Face in 2000, before the photographer became a go-to for Prada. “I remember the shoot so vividly, I literally had nothing but a carrier bag of scraps of leather,” says Grand. Or the time she headed to LA with Rankin to shoot Kylie for Dazed: “We were going to photograph a superstar and I didn’t even take a suitcase full of clothes: I took one McQueen jacket and two outfits from Hussein [Chalayan]. There was a girl called Becky Earley, who I was at St Martins with, a print designer, I’d taken some of her stuff, and I took a Paul Smith suit. We photographed every single thing we had taken, no more than 10 looks, including some hotpants.”

Flicking through the book, which is curated chronologically, Grand’s influence is palpable. She has helped to carve out new fashion norms, like photographing older women and including plus-size models in editorial – Love’s first issue famously featured a naked Beth Ditto from Gossip on the cover. She’s even been able to drag fashion’s biggest designers in front of the camera, too, including Miuccia Prada (who describes Grand as “a force of nature” in the book’s foreword), Marc Jacobs, or Phoebe Philo and Stella McCartney (Grand had the pair pole-dancing on the cover of the inaugural issue of Pop).

Yet, where Grand’s power really lies is her ability to position pop culture within a high fashion context. Putting Miss Piggy on the cover of Love alongside Hailey Bieber, for instance. Her loyalty to her muses has also catapulted the careers of models globally – most recently Amelia Gray, daughter of Real Housewives star Lisa Rinna, who walked major shows this season, including Balenciaga and Diesel. It was Grand who first took a chance on her.

“When we were launching Perfect, we got an email from Amelia’s manager asking if we would like to work with her. I brought her in for a casting for a show I was styling and people were being really snobby about her, it was horrible,” says Grand. “I felt so fond of her and got very protective over her. I thought to myself: I’m going to work with this kid wherever I can because she’s so into fashion, she’s invested in this, she really wants to make it. I resonate with an underdog.”

Having spent her career working with the most renowned names in the business, Grand says harnessing a new generation of photographers at Perfect has brought a change in pace to her practice. “When I started working with Rafael Pavarotti and Zhong Lin, there was a definite rejuvenation – being able to bring these relatively new photographers to [shoot] Gisele, Nicole Kidman and Kate Moss has captured these megastars in a completely new light.” She also expresses her excitement around the recent major shift in magazine editors, particularly Ib Kamara of Dazed, W’s Sara Moonves and Mel Ottenberg at Interview.

“It’s really nice to feel the pressure of the people doing good work. I’ve always said competition is brilliant, we thrive on it. There’s pretty healthy competition right now.”

Still, there’s a looming uncertainty around the future of magazines. With some mags seeing declining sales, the inexorable shift to digital and our collective attention span now attuned to the length of a TikTok, what keeps Grand devoted to print?

“When I launched Perfect, I googled the worst financial times in history and 1992, 2000 and 2009 all popped up. Those were the respective years that Dazed, AnOther, Pop and Love were founded. It’s always been a case of getting on the rollercoaster and holding on tight for the white- knuckle ride.”

Political uncertainty and financial disaster have a tendency to spark interesting shifts in culture. Grand’s been there to document it, and still is today. Flicking through Tears & Tearsheets will no doubt inspire a flock of budding creatives to follow in her footsteps.

Purchase ‘Tears & Tearsheets’ here.

Top image: Katie Grand and Kristen Mcmenamy at the book’s launch at Dover Street Market London, photographed by Jason Lloyd-Evans. Taken from 10+ Issue 5 – WORLD IN MOTION – order your copy here

@kegrand

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