Von is Ellen von Unwerth’s personal fashion “zine,” part Cosmopolitan, without all the ads and self-help stuff, part Egoïst, without, again, the writing or the editor or the other photographers, and it’s all von Unwerth.
Be aware, there are a few NSFW images in the zine.
Von No. 2 came in two flavors: vol. 2.1 with Miley Cyrus on the cover (it sold out very very quickly) and vol. 2.2 with Cate Blanchett. It’s a nice big zine, giving plenty of room to look closely, while still being fairly comfortable to hold—it doesn’t require a table like Egoïst—and it’s as well printed as any fashion magazine, though the covers seem a bit fragile (mine was damaged slightly in shipping, though I’m not complaining).
The layout is sorta fun. The conceit is that you’re flipping through a multiplex, popping in and out of different movies: you watch a few teaser ads, then see “Electric Lady” Miley Cyrus; “Deep Down in Chinatown” with Jamea Byrd; “a Short Romance” starring Cate Blanchett; spend a “Midsummer Day” with Gary Unmarried and Big Little Lies star Kathryn Newton; watch a reimagining of sorts of the Birds featuring “alternative model” Mosh; see Babylon Berlin star Liv Lisa Fries in “a Dame to Kill for.” There are 11 in total, and it’s overall a fun half hour or so of rockstar-level fashion photography from maybe the best photographer working, imo.
Like any fashion magazine, every image has tiny text that lists the clothes that appear. I wonder if they were all sponsored by the clothiers? Each “movie” also has a short interview with the star and credits at the end with all the stylists and set design people. And all together, it’s a well imagined, unified set of somewhat uneven fashion and portraiture.
I say “somewhat uneven” because, well, a few of the spreads or, rather, a few of the models seem to be either phoning it in or not playing along at all. There’s a sort of blankness in Cate Blanchette’s eyes in half of her pictures, and her spread is the shortest in the magazine. The groups of models sometimes look rather posed, directed, in ways that von Unwerth’s pictures of, say, Milla Jovovich and her daughter in Egoïst 18, and in other photographs in Von. Some models and actors are better at faking it, or more willing to, than others, I guess, but I’m not as grabbed by this work than I was by the work in Egoïst 18.
Like Egoïst, there’s almost no reason for me to have a copy of this magazine, well, except that I’m an Ellen von Unwerth fan and Von is wall-to-wall von Unwerth. It’s somewhat more accessible (if it’s not sold out) than Egoïst too, at €18 plus shipping, which is quite reasonable, and really points to the arena in which both magazines operate: Von is, or seems, largely for the masses, or masses-in-the-know; Egoïst is far more rarified and, frankly, far classier than Von, which, with its glossy black paper, feels a bit greasy and dirty somehow, though it also means I want to wear cotton gloves when I flip through it. Egoïst is much more touchable, while being, in its very essence, largely untouchable.
Anyway. The Von website has a blog with photographs from parties and things, and some online-only fashion spreads. It’s worth a visit just to check out more of von Unwerth’s excellent work. There’s also a list of stockists (bookstores and newsstands and whatnot that carry Von) and, tellingly, they’re all in LA or the NYC area (Philadelphia and Boston included). So if you’re in the vast flyover area like Chicago or Dallas or Atlanta or Houston or Las Vegas or, or, or, good luck finding a copy except through the internet. Given the difficulty and expense in acquiring von Unwerth’s out-of-print books (I’ve bought one of them twice now and both booksellers took my money, held it for a week or two, then told me the book was unavailable, then waited awhile to refund the money), if you want to see her work in print, Von magazine is a good way. That, or start hunting through Cosmo and Elle and all at the grocery checkout line, and I doubt anyone, especially me, wants me pawing fashion mags in the checkout line…