Welcome back, The Face

Can Stuart Brumfitt do something special and unusual and make it relevant?

On a shelf at home in the lounge, the third one up from the floor, pride of place goes to my back issues of The Face. It’s a pretty good collection and includes the famous "3rd Summer of Love" issue, which featured 16-year-old Kate Moss from Croydon, photographed by Corinne Day and destined to become the "personification of a youthquake".

There’s the classic Neville Brody issues, a gift from former ad director Rod Sopp, the musical cultural mash of Manic Street Preachers, The Simpsons, Madonna, Damon Albarn and Lara Croft. The genius of editor and creator Nick Logan was making something so cool and edgy and street, and yet so populist and mainstream at the same time. Of course he did. He invented Smash Hits.

So it was with a mix of trepidation and anticipation that I hauled the 314-page rebirthed mag off a shelf in WHSmiths, parted with £9.95 and scurried off back to the office, wondering if editor Stuart Brumfitt could do something very special and unusual, reinvent an icon and make it work and make it relevant.

The answer is probably not a resounding "yes", but there are lots to commend in this first effort.

First and foremost, a bunch of people have remembered how special and unique a loved and crafted magazine can be. In an age when print is supposed to be twitching in the dirt, I take my hat off to anyone who thumbs their nose at this popular assumption.

The Face in its reincarnation is The Face, no question. There are many DNA nods, a clever mix of grungy street feel, eclectic musical choices, mainstream heroes such as Dua Lipa and Harry Styles, and soap icon Coronation Street. And then there’s the typography. From the moment Brody set his stall out to build a different-looking, more urgent and aesthetically challenging magazine in 1980, The Face has always been that title that magazine makers love to emulate.

Brumfitt’s The Face has some lovely typographical moments, not least the quirky front section red-on-white swirl of lists and news bites. It does what The Face always did so well: it forces you to stay on a page and consider the content.

With its heft and beautifully shot fashion features, The Face belongs in that pack of influencer mags such as Love, Pop, Purple, Dazed and AnOther. It succeeds both in being part of this set and apart from it at the same time.

There are some really nice feature ideas, my favourite being the story of 18-year-old driven wannabe Mars mission astronaut Alyssa Carson. "At home with the Baileys" is a smart way to mix cool dudes with mainstream culture and diversity issues; Coronation Street’s first black family in 59 years is moving into number three. Also, the Styles "love story", the adoration of Stevie Nicks, Sir Elton John and Alessandro Michele, ladled with super-cool fashion shots and pithy notions of masculinity and femininity, feels on point.

On the downside, there’s a blandness in some of the heads and sells, and a tendency to label features in a way that feels lazy. Breaking out of the conventions of indie fashion mags is not easy and The Face clearly needs to fit the genre in order to find an audience ready to part with a tenner for the privilege of owning it.

An older generation of first-generation Face readers may also find this an awkward compromise. Because however much it resembles The Face of their fond memory, it also lacks a little of the sparkle and originality of the Logan brand.

But I’m not going to carp too much. Brumfitt has made a pretty decent fist of this first effort and it will mature and find its feet as it goes along. I say power to his elbow. There’s a love at work here and so, fingers crossed, it is able to grow and mature and become part of the lingua franca of the next generation.

Simon Kanter is creative director at Campaign

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