Vice Magazine, once considered the hipster bible, has evolved from a free monthly rag run out of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (via Montreal), into a global marketing machine that now has a record label, an advertising company, a pub in East London, a successful online channel and of course, the magazine itself.
When I worked there, there were only four women employed at the company. It was an absolute boys club, something which has changed significantly since the brand has grown. Now-famed photographers Terry Richardson and Ryan McGinley were just getting their start, the entire cast of Jackass was obsessed with Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice and creator of the Do's and Don'ts, which was (and still is) the most popular feature in the magazine.
Back then, the issues were snagged from record stores and select boutiques and cafes deemed "cool" enough to rep the magazine within hours of the first day of release. On shipping day when the new issues would arrive, college kids from Sweden to Japan would stand waiting outside the Vice stores just to get a copy.
Vice's first fashion show was held in a parking lot filled with dirtbags, models, skaters, graffiti artists, musicians and local legends. The following year when I took over as Fashion Director (which just means I ran the stores and helped with photo shoots and fashion-related press), we showcased up-and-coming designers at the Ukrainian National Hall in the East Village. I even spent a week in Harlem getting heckled by the kids at the 3rd Street Boxing Gym at their 3am battles so I could cast some of the original stars of Paris is Burning and their teenage proteges from The Houses of Ninja and Givenchy as the models. The dancers "Vogued" their way down the runway, in typical ballroom battle-style.
There was no press and no cheeseball wannabes that Fashion Week usually attracts there, but the celebrity roster was thick. People were standing on their seats, clapping and screaming as the dancers twisted and contorted down the middle of the Hall. Yours truly presented trophies to the legendary Willi Ninja (RIP) himself. It was an experience I'll never have again, for which I'm very grateful.
I can't write about Vice without interjecting my own experience there, as they were not only some of the most fun and inspiring years of my life, I feel grateful to Gavin (co-founder and funniest person alive) and all of my former co-workers for the experience. It opened an incredible amount of doors for me and the Editors Jesse Pearson, Amy Kellner and Thomas Morton are all brilliant.
my favorite video of Gavin cursing the American Moustache Institute
When Gavin left the site, there was spectacle about whether or not the brand would dwindle along with the humor and voice that McInnes brought to the brand. Since his departure, the brand has expanded into a global empire, selling magazines in over 24 countries.
Today the magazine has been injected with a lot more fashion, higher end advertisers, and has moved beyond just stories about sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll into more documentarian content - telling stories about people all over the world, from all age brackets and economic backgrounds. They broke the story about Garbage Island and Toxic Greenpoint, and are now reporting stories for CNN.
I went to the screening of their 3-part series on North Korea which was not only fascinating but extremely well-produced, and have been following VBS.tv (Vice Broadcasting System) ever since. I'm particularly obsessed with Motherboard, Dell's tech show. The interviews they did with my personal hero Raymond Kurzweil was one of the most compelling docu-series I've ever seen.
Last night I watched The Vice Guide To Everything, which premiered on MTV. It was hard to get through the crass attitude and constant name-dropping of Spike Jonze by host (and co-founder of Vice) Shane Smith, but I have to say I'm proud of where he has taken his entity. The Vice Guide lacks the sensitivity of most documentary series, but despite the "look at how bad-ass I am" attitude, the stories and subject matter are excellent.
I wouldn't be surprised if the charming host Thomas Morton, Vice's resident nerd, starts receiving Facebook requests from teenage girls.
The pilot episode features Spike Jonze (Creative Director of VBS). The coverage is fast, thrilling, sketchy, brave, and has an element of 70's style guerilla reporting from dangerous places with the locals, yet lacks the clinical element of traditional newscasting. If you can get around the "cool guy" and flippant attitudes of the hosts, the show tells stories we've never seen before in an extremely relatable way. It feels very "For Us By Us," which is extremely refreshing.
Here is a poignant review of the show in the New York Times.
From the press release:
When Vice magazine first started, all we cared about was sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. But as we started traveling around the world, we got more into politics, culture, fashion, art, the environment. Basically, everything. And this is that -- The Vice Guide To Everything. It's our new MTV show about the absurdity of the modern condition: the most interesting people, news, sub-cultures and rituals on the planet.
The Vice Guide To Everything is on Mondays at 11P/10C on MTV
Did you see the show last night? Will you watch it in the future?