beauty papers magazine is a punk antidote to today’s beauty industry
Make-up artist Maxine Leonard and creative director Valerie Wickes have established a DIY refuge for originality, self-expression, and cartoons of Grace Coddington’s cats.
When Maxine Leonard describes the many early issues of i-D and The Face that line the shelves of her London home, you can imagine some future collector talking about Maxine's own new magazine, Beauty Papers, in the same reverential tone. "When I was at London College of Fashion, I'd run to the library to see the new cover of i-D, with that wink," Maxine remembers. She would devour her own copy immediately, inky-fingered, and then carry it around, digesting each page slowly, until it became dogeared.
Brightly optimistic and bursting with ideas, Beauty Papers inspires a similar reading routine. On one of the six different covers of Issue 2, the beaming smile and smudgy aquamarine eyeshadow of London fashion designer Claire Barrow are a vision of pure joy. Another cover features a playfully menacing smiley face drawn by artists Jake and Dinos Chapman. Leafing through the issue's pages, you can find: fantastical mid-motion portraits of dancers from the Royal Ballet; an ode to countercultural hairdressing by industry legend Christiaan; extracts from the late-90s photo diary of New Romantic make-up artist Marla; six suggestions for kitschy but clever updos by hairstylist Holli Smith; psychoanalyst Susie Orbach's musings about self-image; portraits of London youth by beloved subcultural chronicler Derek Ridgers; and, as an endnote, an illustrated self-portrait of Grace Coddington being massaged by her two cats, Blanket and Pumpkin.
Combining intelligence and the kind of imagery you want to tear out and tape to your bedroom wall, Beauty Papers is a reminder that beauty isn't a commercial category with a capital B, it's a multifaceted, at times controversial idea that encompasses everything from politics to what you choose to put on your face each morning. Below, Maxine — whose work has appeared in i-D as well as a nearly every nationality of Vogue — shares her own punk publishing manifesto and discusses the critical importance of creative freedom.
When did the idea of Beauty Papers become something more real for you?
I'm a make-up artist and I was getting really frustrated working in the industry. I felt like there was a lack of observation, that there was no challenge presented in editorial [work]. I spoke to Valerie [Wickes] on the train home from Paris, after a job we'd done, and she was interested in the idea too. That's how Beauty Papers was born. I had the name, I knew what I wanted to say, what I wanted to challenge, and Valerie became the creative director. I'm the editor-in-chief and we publish it together.
What were your frustrations with the beauty industry?
I felt that the voice was really one-dimensional. I think the voice has been removed from dream makers — which is who we represent — because of the restrictions with advertisers and the way magazines are run now. We're not an anti-commerce vehicle, but if we engage with any brands, they're brands that understand that we bring the content to them and we liaise with them in trying to find their voice as well as our own. When you do editorial, you should be given freedom. Beauty's also very political, not for the sake of being provocative but to make people think. I feel like that challenge often isn't there. So we work with contributors on an open creative. We talk to them about what our theme is and how we want to approach that, then they go off to do their shoot with no restrictions. I mean, there's no budget because there's no advertising, but it's about doing something you love.
How do you go about curating each issue's contributors?
We like to work with the new generation, but we also seek authority. In the beginning, I made a dummy of how I thought Beauty Papers could be. I sent one to Serge Lutens and he sent me a letter back. We published it on the back page of Issue 0. Then for Issue 1, he invited me to go to Marrakech to meet him. For Issue 0, I also got to interview Christiaan. I've interviewed Stéphane Marais. It's about seeking out people who've been in this industry for a very long time. And what those people talk about so much is "team," about friends and support. Stéphane Marais talks about how he and Francois Nars and Kevin Aucoin would help each other out with assistants and products. Christiaan talks about working with Antonio Lopez and Arthur Elgort — these long relationships that are still very much in place. Now, it's often about who's hot, and you move on really quickly. Sustaining relationships and building a community is very much a part of what I represent at Beauty Papers.
I love how open the remit is. Are there any boundaries in terms of what subjects you'll take on?
A lot of contributors enjoy that about Beauty Papers, so now we have people coming to us who want to challenge things, talking about certain skin conditions or deformities, taking it right across the spectrum. You look at what happened politically this past year and it's absolutely terrifying. I feel like now more than ever, the artist's voice is really important. We need to be heard, to stand up and fight for that. So there aren't really any boundaries. We need to give artists freedom of expression, otherwise nothing challenges anything.
Do you have a theme yet for Issue 3 yet?
We're going to challenge what we think people expect from Beauty Papers, take it somewhere completely different. This last issue's theme was "movement" — people working together to advance social, political, and creative ideas — and I think a lot of people saw it as quite raw. Next time, I want to challenge what the word "beautiful" really represents. I'd like to explore words that I think youth culture would probably throw up at: "harmonious," "exquisite," "glorious." I think we need something positive to come through now. We're all feeling what's going on around us. There is no money, there are no advertisers, but the idea that you can challenge what "beauty" is on your own budget is what the throwdown of Beauty Papers represents. You have to fight a bit more for it. And I think that fight makes you hungry.
That reminds me of Terry and Tricia Jones's attitude when they started i-D.
I've worked with i-D, and those covers, they're iconic. That never leaves you. When you think of people like Judy Blame, Mark Lebon, I'm still inspired by them now. I think the last time I shot with i-D was with Mark Lebon, going to his garage up the road from me. That buzz never leaves you; they're the originators of that. Mark shot for us for Issue 0. It's going back to those people, that were making a difference and still do. i-D is still very much a part of my life now. And I think a lot about punk, not the aesthetic but the essence: "screw the system."
Why did you decide to focus on print rather than online?
I think if you're going to form an opinion about something, it should be through an object that's tangible and physical, that you can actually pick up. At college, I'd get The Face and i-D and the printing was really crap, the ink would come off on your fingers. There's something really incredible about that, it actually becomes part of you. Just scrolling through reams and reams of imagery, you never stop to appreciate anything. Instagram is all about being the most popular in the playground. It affects dialog. So it was always print. We're never going to be mass, and I don't think we want to be either. If you've heard about us, you've done your homework!
Which projects in Issue 2 were most excited about?
I collaborated with Derek Ridgers, whose work I've always adored. We collaborated with the Royal Ballet. Christiaan coming back meant a lot to me. Dick Page and Lisa Butler being part of the issue was very personal for me, because I assisted both of them. They've always been on a huge pedestal for me. When people give you something that's very close to them, that always excites me. Every contributor puts their heart into it. That's what it's about, and I think that's how we'll survive.
If someone looks through early issues of Beauty Papers one day, what do you hope their lasting message will be?
I hope that we don't just represent one idea. I'm a mom; I've got a six year old. She goes to school with all these girls and she comes home and does a selfie pout. I don't know where she sees that. It worries me what the [industry's] voice is. I think there's something about offering people freedom and choice. Val and I started doing this to seek soul, and I hope people can see that. I mean, a lot of it is still done from my kitchen table!
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Images courtesy Beauty Papers