I'm reading Moll Parkin's autobiography at the moment. It's outrageously brilliant. I'm currently in the 1960s and she's just become fashion editor at Nova magazine, charged with bringing some youth to its fashion coverage. I've heard a lot about Nova recently - starting with the Nova book I found a few months ago that marks the original incarnation of the magazine which ran from 1965 to 75 (and have since added some 1967 editions of the magazine to my Etsy shop). That find led to some Twitter reminiscences of the relaunch of the magazine in 2000. The noughties version was also flagged up in the latest edition of Lula, where Ellen Burney interviews Deborah Bee, editor-in-chief for that first 2000 issue.
In short, I knew I wanted to revisit Nova version 2000.
This is why eBay exists.
Thirteen years later, the magazine offers a strange mix of things, some which now seem ridiculously quaint - the feature above about women shopping for key "fashion" looks on the "new, improved British high street", for instance, or that there's only one mention of email and one website address given in the magazine, or a feature about a trend for dying and shaping pubic hair (not that I think this is a mainstream trend today, just that we all seem to have been expected to get a lot more wax friendly over the last decade or so.)
And then there's lots of things I wanted to read. The table above shows the answers given by 100 women to six different questions. The women ranged from Allegra McEvedy to Mo Mowlam, and the questions included "Do you believe in Tony Blair?" and "Is there anything wrong with a gay couple having a child?"
There was an article about whether you sit or hover over a public loo, a survey on how men and women responded differently to a direct offer from a strange of a date/going back to their house/sex, and Tracey Emin and Juergen Teller being sent to report on an Alexander McQueen show (as shown above). In part, this is the most frustrating piece ever - you get the animal rights protesters, the parties, the journos and only a couple of lines about the actual pieces. After the show Emin asks a couple of people what they think of the show, "And with glee, they say the clothes were amazing. I'm confused." However, it is refreshing to read a ten page spread about someone whose designs are often discussed in hyperbole which is little more than an entertaining shrug of indifference.
What would the advertisers say? Probably quite a lot if this quote from Bee, from the Lula interview is anything to go on: "The publishing house encouraged us to go with our gut, so we did. They then totally lost their nerve and wanted us to stop doing the controversial stuff, like the feel of the old Nova, which was the whole point."
With the photography of Juergen Teller, then married to the magazine's fashion director Venetia Scott, and Terry Richardson, here photographing (who else?) Chloe Sevigny, the magazine does feel ridiculously of its time - offering up the cool remove that I now think of in the best examples of early 2000s style, in contrast to the world of Heat and Now which I was probably reading at the time. Look how blissfully free the cover looks of straplines and feature splashes.
I had no memory of reading the twenty-first century version of Nova, but I guessed I must have done - I've never been one to leave a magazine stand empty-handed. When I saw the feature above, only then I remember looking at this very edition and puzzling over James Jarvis's strange illustrations of the latest couture collections.
I remembered this Stephanie Seymour shoot too (though I'm not sure I twigged it was her at the time). And I'm almost certain I tore out one of the Chloe Sevigny pictures and shoved it in an inspiration file somewhere, in those days before Pinterest.
That's what really puzzled me. While the fashion images had burned their way into my memory, I have no memory of the features at all. I don't even remember if I bought any more issues of the magazine after the debut issue. I'm slightly annoyed with myself for not supporting, reading and taking to my heart a women's magazine that was generally trying to push the boundaries a bit and that talked about public toilets as well as the latest beauty products.
It wasn't to be - Bee was ousted as editor after two issues, and the magazine itself lasted for only 13 issues. Is an intelligent and commercially successful women's magazine so hard to pull off? Perhaps the refreshing array of independent magazines around at the moment proves there is an appetite to make something different. Nova 2014 anyone?