Beneath its veneer of elitism, the fashion world is just full of geeks.
Beneath its veneer of elitism, the fashion world is just full of geeks. It may mean little to you which model's feet walked which heels up which catwalk in which season in 1986, but the industry thrives on such knowledge. Luis Venegas has made a career from being a guardian of these facts. Since 2004, he has self-published the biannual Fanzine137, which is a bit like fashion’s Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.
In 2007, Luis set up teen-boy magazine Electric Youth!and late last year he launched transversal mag Candy. In Fanzine137 he's published interviews with everyone from Interview magazine's Bob Colacello to 70s supermodel Karen Graham, alongside work by Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Lillian Bassman. The title has run exclusive portfolios by our boys McGinley and Richardson, as well as Jack Pierson and David Armstrong. You know The Knowledge – the grueling examination of London streets that black cab drivers have to pass before they can work? Well, Luis' brain is a bit like that, but with sequins.
Luis lives in a small flat in Madrid, from where he produces his three magazines. We went round to have a chat.
Vice: You have a lot of magazines here. Would you agree that you're a fashion mag nerd?
Luis Venegas: I suppose I am. I've been collecting magazines since I was 12. The first non-Spanish magazine I bought was the February 1992 issue of Vanity Fair. The cover had Goldie Hawn on an elephant's trunk, shot by Annie Leibovitz. I didn't read the articles then, but I loved the images. They let me dream about other worlds and discover new artists. But it's not like I was at home reading magazines all day. I had friends too.
Were mags the first thing you collected? Kids tend to collect stickers or toy cars.
No, I never liked stickers. I was into comics from the age of nine or ten, especially Marvel superhero comics. Oh and He-Man toys: Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, all of that.
I was into those too. Actually, I think they're the only things I've ever collected. How did you make the leap from comics to fashion?
When I was ten we got our first record player and my uncle bought my sister and me three records. One was Geminis by a Spanish singer called Ana Belén. I loved the cover and looked at the liner notes to see who had worked on it. I can still remember that the photo was by Javier Vallhonrat and the graphic design was by Juan Gatti. From that point on I focused on the people behind the images I liked.
And that’s when it all came together?
Yeah, I started making links between people. For example, I found out that Juan Gatti also did the film posters for Pedro Almodóvar, whose films often used clothes by Sybilla, whose look books and ads had been shot by Javier Vallhonrat, who had shot the cover of that Ana Belén record. Vallhonrat shot for Vogue España and Vogue Paris and it was through those that I discovered Annie Leibovitz. So I started buying all the new and old issues of Vanity Fair because of Leibovitz, and that’s how I started collecting.
One of the things I like most about Fanzine137 is that you focus on the people behind the scenes, as well as the greats.
I think it's all the same. One thing is having talent, and another is being able to sell yourself. There are people who aren't so great at the business side, but that doesn't mean they're less talented. With Fanzine137 I'm interested in featuring every part of the process that leads up to the final image.
Are you nostalgic at all?
It's important to be aware of what happened in the past, but nostalgia is about wanting things to be that way forever and that doesn't interest me at all. If anything, I care more about what’s going to happen than what we've left behind.
Let's talk about Electric Youth!, your “magateen”.
Someone whose name I'm not going to say, said that EY! reminded them of the Warhol-era Interview. They'd interview a barman at Studio 54 or something, and some of the interviews we do are with people like that, while others are with big models. I think if you ask kids between the ages of 17 and 21 what they're into, you can tell what the future is going to be like.
All of your magazines mix snapshot photography and massive production values.
I don't see it as a dichotomy. The important thing is that you can immediately recognize the work of each artist. Sometimes that comes through one of Annie Leibovitz' mega productions, or a Daniel Rieraflower photo. It's not the individual image but the whole world that each of those pictures belongs to. In the same way, I'm interested in the personal story of each artist. When someone criticizes, let's say, a Terry Richardson photo, and says that anyone could do that, it really gets to me. It's a world that he's created and that belongs to him and no one else.
Tell me about your new magazine, Candy.
Candy isn't just a mag about drag queens. The thing is, there are magazines for girls with pretty long hair, and magazines for boys like GQ or even Fantastic Man, but there are a lot of people who don't fall into those categories. When I use the term “transversal”, I'm as interested in the guy who likes to put on women’s clothes and become his favorite actress as I am in the guy enjoys going out for milk in a skirt and heels, or a boy who sees a blouse he likes and wants to wear it because he likes it. Candy isn't about rights, but I do think the fact it exists helps. Just as Obama isn't in the White House as a stand for African-Americans rights, but the fact that he’s there makes a big difference.
Yes we Candy?
Yes we Candy! I always say that. Another thing I like is just how many transsexuals and transvestites are occupying positions of power. There's an American woman in the White House, Amanda Simpson, who's the first transsexual woman to work there. Transsexuals are happening on the street today. I see it every day, and it's existed since man was man. It's part of the history of humankind, so I was a bit surprised there wasn't a magazine about it.
TEXT PAUL GEDDIS
PHOTO CHUS ANTON