How does fashion's original anti-glossy celebrate a mainstream milestone? In its own way, of course. To mark i-D's two and a half decades of pioneering a daring, exuberant and class-blind depiction of fashion in print, editors of the British indie have not been ones to wait for a special issue. No, they've been celebrating all year by producing a series of commemorative issues in collaboration with notable names in UK publishing, some of whom are former habitués of i-D's masthead, including Ashley Heath (formerly of Arena Homme Plus and The Face), graphic designer Neville Brody, art director David Lipman, Paris design duo M/M, photographer Nick Knight and stylist Simon Foxton. In conjunction, an exhibition titled i-Dentity, sponsored by agnès b. and Symrise perfumers, is on view at Zandra Rhodes' Fashion and Textile Museum in London through December 3, showcasing sights, sounds and even smells from the past quarter-century of pop culture. In the basement of i-D's office, a quasi-domestic hybrid of kitchen and boardroom, the magazine's founder, creative director and editor-in-chief Terry Jones reminisced with DARYOUSH HAJ-NAJAFI on the events that have led up to the happy occasion.
A fashion magazine like none before it, i-D launched in 1980 as a 40-page, photocopied response to the posh formality of most magazines at the time. Deemed a health risk because of the ungainly staples that held it together, the first issues were banned from magazine retailers and Jones himself was forced to distribute it from the back of his car. Thus, in page form, i-D embodied the flourishing anti-establishment attitude of the time.
But i-D was, and is, also an extension of the Welshman, now sixty and a grandfather, as well as his wife of nearly 40 years, Tricia Jones, whose own contribution to the magazine cannot be underestimated. Gray-haired, bespectacled and resembling Eric Clapton, Jones is every bit the editor. His is a mind always in search of someone, something, anything to inspire him. He does not seek to dazzle as a designer or photographer of the baton-twirling kind would.
i-D's independent roots can be seen in Jones' college days studying Commercial Art at the West of England College of Art in Bristol. "They tried to throw me out," he says, "because my skin-tight jeans were covered in paint and never washed. I didn't cut my hair and I wore a moldy jacket. They said I looked more like an art student than a commercial art student. One lecturer made his first talk about business, and how business types have a problem with extreme people. He wore a button-down blue shirt and a knitted tie. When he came back the following week I'd put on a clean shirt and he didn't wear a tie, causing us both to laugh at our compromise. I trace i-D back to that moment. People are summed up by what they wear and how they look. I wanted to get under the skin of fashion."
After college, and after a formative job assisting graphic designer Ivan Dodd, a signatory and proponent of the First Things First manifesto of 1964 (which rallied graphic designers around the cause of social change and railed against design's best practitioners utilizing their talents to sell, say, cat food), the 27-year-old Jones was hired as the art director of British Vogue. After five years, however, he felt it had become too stifling. "It was so cushy and I was so young," he recalls. "I thought I was going to grow old working in an institution. I began realizing my constraints there. Meanwhile, I was meeting a lot of the key photographers involved in the future of i-D. I'd been hoping the pictures I'd commissioned of the punk scene in 1976 would run in Vogue.
"I left in 1977, worked for a magazine called Sportswear Europe, consulted for German Vogue, art directed books and worked with Dennis Morris on the sleeves for PIL [Public Image Limited]." That cover art and frontman John Lydon's own move from anti-design punk positioning to proto-Yuppie suits was a fashion-as-weapon proposition, helping inform i-D's early look and hinting, pre-MTV, at the Eighties aesthetic.
Jones' art directiona hands-on process which he describes as "instant design" and "controlled chaos"wasn't responsible for the coming shift, but it unconsciously picked up on it. Indeed, Freudian philosophy plays an important role in i-D mythology. According to Jones, i-D's title infers the id, as does the winking eye on every cover. Together, they represent the hidden self, our most primitive impulses organized around the instinctual urges for instant gratification.
But i-D also stands for identity, of course. Around the time of the magazine's inception and Jones' immersion in the punk scene, the X-Ray Spex, a cult punk band, wrote a strangely prophetic song called Identity, asking "Do you see yourself in the magazine?" and "Did you do it before you read about it?" Immortalizing the kind of existential concern that forms one of i-D's major contributions to fashion, the song's lyrics could have been specially written for those featured in the magazine's innovative and popular Straight-Up photographs of people on the street, usually on their way to a club. i-D's fans wanted to be the stars within its pages just as fame's draw is its power to satisfy the id. (cont'd)