Think back on publications you were involved in at university. If they were anything like mine, they were small, haphazardly designed and possibly – again, like ours – photocopied, stapled together and left to gather dust in the corner of some alternative café. They’re probably still there. Let me introduce you to 1 Granary, the student mag created by students of Central St Martins for the students of Central St Martins. The first issue – launched 2012 – will have put your student rag to shame; the second, out now, will have you sobbing into your pillow. Of course, being from Central St Martins, whose alumni include Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, John Galliano and Gareth Pugh, they have rather stratospheric expectations to answer to. Who were the kids crazy enough to take up the challenge? I talk to Issue 2 Editor Sara McAlpine and Contributing Editor Greg French. PS. If you buy one publication this month, let this be it.
Bel: Tell me about the beginnings of 1 Granary.
Greg: The magazine was [editor-in-chief] Olya Kuryshchuk’s idea. She was a BA Fashion Design and Marketing student and started it in the last year the college was based in Charing Cross in 2012, as a website, a basic blog. At that point, we didn’t know what was going to come of it.
Sara: That’s where the name comes from, from the college’s move to King’s Cross. It’s literally its new address, 1 Granary Square. In terms of 1 Granary the magazine and website, both are there as platforms for us, the graduates and students. Saint Martins has such a long list of incredible alumni and it makes sense to have a space where we can – hopefully – make people aware of the next generation of incredible creatives. More importantly, it’s a space for students’ work to go up unfiltered and uncensored. How many other magazines and websites would let us do that?
Greg: The first issue of the magazine came out last July. We were aware the website was going really well; within a couple of months, we’d had half a million hits. One of the motivations was that it was another way of getting students’ work out there, and another was that we couldn’t think of a good enough response to the question ‘why not?’. And really, why not have a more tangible record of the talent of Saint Martins past, present and future?
Bel: Who’s the audience?
Sara: Initially, we’d always say “it’s by the students for the students”. But that’s changed. Really, it’s for anyone and everyone who enjoys fashion and art, and wants to see what you can get out of a magazine that isn’t obligated to fulfil the demands of advertisers. Because we don’t exist as another vehicle to sell goods, all of our editorial decisions are made on the basis that what we’re writing about or shooting is just really good.
Bel: So much stuff is online now. Did it feel like you were moving against the trend by producing a physical publication?
Sara: This is the best time for it – for us anyway. We’re students, we can experiment and get to grips with an industry we want to be a part of without having much to lose if we make mistakes. We had quite strong backing in terms of sponsorship though, with Comme des Garcons and SHOWstudio supporting Issue 1, so we suppose there’s a space on the shelves of Soho and other stores for our kind of publication.
Greg: It’s been a learning process. None of us had done anything like this before. We came from a writing background, or styling background, or design. None of us had sat and made a thing that would go out into the real world like this. We were all a bit flustered, because part of the reality of putting together a magazine is about being able to sit down and rationalise costs, and work through logistics. That process of not knowing in the first place is what made it such a success, because we had to work hard to figure all of those things out as we went along.
Bel: Were the staff at Central St Martins supportive?
Sara: Really supportive. Our tutors know we’re not doing this as an exercise in anarchy, saying ‘screw the system’.
Bel: Is the magazine associated with CSM?
Sara: It’s independent from the university in that we’re not financed by them and our content isn’t dictated by any academic body or member of staff. The only connection to the university is that Saint Martins has had a part to play in all of our lives at some point, be it twenty years ago or today. I think some people assume we’re financed by CSM or UAL, but we really are doing this by ourselves from the ground up. We’re sourcing sponsorship, we’re approaching photographers, designers, artists and stylists like Simon Foxton and Nick Knight. We’re finding printers, negotiating rates. We’re also doing things on our terms, and I think the dynamism and energy in our newest issue is reflects that- that we’re not run by an institution.
Bel: Do students from other departments participate?
Greg: Back when departments were separate, spread around London, we weren’t so able to sit and chat with art, drama or graphic design students – unless you knew them socially or from doing a foundation course. Now, you can be sitting in the canteen and see someone working on their sketchbook and just strike up a conversation. Next thing you know, you’re talking about their work then discussing putting them in the magazine or website. So yeah, students from departments other than fashion are definitely involved. We have artists, fashion designers, graphic designers, set designers, photographers, historians and so much more in Issue 2. It’s about arts and people who get a kick out of them, period.
Bel: As the magazine gets better known, as it has with this second issue, will your audience shift?
Sara: We really don’t have a target audience, in terms of bearing a particular ‘consumer’ in mind, so who knows. We consider who might be reading it and who might enjoy it, but the magazine really isn’t about that. It’s about the people in it, celebrating their work and giving them- and us- a space to collaborate and be creative. 26, 40, 62, whatever their age, whether their Karl Lagerfeld or teaching at a local primary school, if they’re picking it up and enjoying it- brilliant!
Greg: We’re aware of how it’s received but we don’t let it dictate the direction we take within the magazine, on the website or in exhibitions. Anyone who’s interested in the people we’ve featured, discussing and creating work no-holds-barred, you’ll hopefully be into it…
Bel: There must be some element of editorial choice…
Sara: Definitely, but whatever choices we make aren’t borne out of editorial meetings. It can be based on the people whose work we’re fixated with and who we end up talking about over lunch, like Craig Green and Christopher Kane in the new issue – well, like most people in the issue. Or our friends and other students will say ‘have you seen this person’s work?’, and the answer’s ‘no’, and we want to know more than Google can tell us. Also, with a photographer like Nick Knight, who isn’t affiliated with CSM in any way in terms of academic background, it’s about not being able to turn down that kind of opportunity. Having the MA Class of 2014 collections shot by someone like Nick Knight, and styled by Simon Foxton… how could you let that pass you by? There’s no commission process. Because it’s experimental as well; a lot of us are doing things we’ve never done before. If it’s bad, we won’t put it in the magazine. I guess our process is kind of like what’s written on the cover by Ai Weiwei: “Good, interesting; bad, boring.” If it’s in the first camp, yes, the latter, we’ll leave for someone to talk about …
Issue 2 is available to order online at 1Granary.com, and also available to buy now in selected London stores, priced at £6.90. It’s also available at www.showstudio.com Instagram and Twitter: 1Granary