Fashion & Beauty / Insiders

Luis Venegas

They called it "the Candy effect" – the exact convergence in popular culture circa late 2010 where the staid, archaic rules of gender were well and truly broken and a brave new world opened up. The catalyst was the launch of the world’s first

Bibiana Fernández and Luis Venegas for Candy issue 4
Bibiana Fernández and Luis Venegas for Candy issue 4 Photography by Juan Gatti

They called it "the Candy effect" – the exact convergence in popular culture circa late 2010 where the staid, archaic rules of gender were well and truly broken and a brave new world opened up: one where Riccardo Tisci’s muse, the transsexual model Lea T and the Australian androgyne, Andrej Pejic both dominated fashion editorials and headlines; where Katie Grand dedicated a whole issue of LOVE magazine to the theme of androgyny (mixing trans models with her usual supers) and where both Marc Jacobs and James Franco were photographed in drag on the front of magazine covers. There have been blips on the radar over the years, most recently when Carine Roitfeld paired Carolyn Murphy with Andre J in a short dress for Paris Vogue but the catalyst was the launch of the world’s first “transversal” magazine, Candy by the visionary magazine publisher, Luis Venegas. Already a cult figure in magazine circles with his highly regarded Fanzine 137 and EY! Electric Youth (super limited edition with an enviable all star cast of contributors such as Hedi Slimane and Steven Klein); the moment when Ellen Degeneres showed James Franco a copy of his magazine cover on her talk show was when an underground fashion movement went supernova. After casting Chloe Sevigny as Terry Richardson for the third issue, the latest "Extra Extravagance" issue stars Tilda Swinton in a stunning 28 page portfolio shot by Xevi Muntane.

What magazine when you were growing up, became inspiration for your future activity?
Well the thing is I always loved magazines since I was a child. I was more into mainstream magazines than independent magazines, so more Vanity Fair than the Face. That’s when I was like thirteen years old, because there were all those Annie Leibovitz photographs, and I used to love to watch all those Hollywood movie stars doing weird things for the camera for her. Specifically, when you tell me about inspiration for future activity, I think Visionaire was very inspirational for me. Because it was like a group of friends pulling together some content and doing a special limited edition magazine. For me it was beyond a magazine, it was like an art action. That’s why I decided at the very beginning with my first magazine, that I wanted to do pretty much the same thing. It was on a very different level, because I wasn’t living in New York, I was living in Madrid which is very different. I didn’t have any of the great contacts people can have in New York, I had no background, I’d never worked for a magazine before, and I wasn’t in touch with any magazines. But yeah, pretty much that idea, that I could put together a magazine by myself, it was inspired by Visionaire.

Who has been inspirational to you?
Well, in the field of publishing, there are a few people that I like very much. Well, I mentioned Visionaire so I guess I should mention Stephen Gan. Other big influences are three maverick editors: Fleur Cowles, Ralph Ginzburg and Ruth Ansel. And then my last figure is Barbra Streisand. I know it’s a very gay cliché, but I care and I really like nothing more than her being this little girl from Brooklyn who wants to be a star, and she worked so hard, and she’s so talented, that finally the whole world realizes how big a star she is. I love that story, and I love her as a performer so she’s a great inspiration for me.

"For me I like the magazines to be as personal as possible. I always say the first person that I like to please when I do my magazines is myself."

Your first brush with fashion was when you interned for Mugler – how did that experience shape you?
It was amazing for me. Coming from Spain, apart from Balenciaga we have no real heritage of fashion. It was a very exciting season where lots of things were happening. And it was the first time I ever took a plane to go to Paris. One of the most important things I learnt was I had an image of how fashion was before the internship which was from TV and magazines and there everything was so perfect, so dreamy and so amazing. And then I realized all those dresses were real pieces and people have to work on them. Now it sounds very naïve but at 18 years old it was shocking thing to find how real those dreamy things were. That’s why I always prefer the image of things in magazines. I prefer the fantasy world – of making a good thing even better. At the time it was very important for me and very exciting. I will never forget those memories of Paris.

How would you sum up your obsessions and how are they embodied in your magazines?
For me I like the magazines to be as personal as possible. I always say the first person that I like to please when I do my magazines is myself. I like my magazines to be something meaningful for me. You look at my magazines and you have a clear idea what I like and I’m interested in general. More than the content, there are some other obsessions. I’m trying to show things that haven’t been seen before in a different way. With every single issue I try to do it differently from the issue I’ve done before and hopefully from every other magazine I’ve seen before. That’s very important for me. For me it’s important to include a sense of humor in my magazines too. I like to play with sense of humor. I’m not interested in good taste. I think they are reflections of my personality – I always like to be surprised, I always like to have fun.

With your magazines, it’s you, your computer and your phone. What’s the best and worst thing about being your own boss?
The best thing is freedom. I love to be my own boss – I don’t have to argue with anybody. The best thing is I’m responsible for everything. I like to be aware of everything with my magazines. I like the whole thing. The bad thing is I have to devote a lot of time – it never stops. It's 24 hours 7 days a week. I never really do holidays – when I go to some country or some place is always because I have to do something for my work.

"I think the Candy idea itself is the best idea I ever had – to do a magazine like that has never been done before."

Has there been any particular highlight for you?
Every day there are many rewarding moments. Some of them are more public and people know about them. For me I was very happy to interview Linda Evangelista and Grace Coddington on the same day. The best thing is my magazines have allowed me to have a relationship with many people I admire very much. The James Franco thing was very great – for many people although it was the second issue, to them it was the first issue of the magazine. I think the Candy idea itself is the best idea I ever had – to do a magazine like that has never been done before. People say there’s nothing new to do and I say: "Look there is". There are many things that can be done for the first time.

How would you sum up Candy? Is it about celebrating transformation in all its different guises?
Exactly. It’s about celebrating many different kinds of transformation. That’s why I call it “transversal”, it’s not just about transsexual or drag queens or transvestites. It deals with many of those things. For me it was like, ok we are supposed to be free. So if we experiment it could be forever or maybe for one night. What if a guy in a suit loves the new Prada bag and wants to wear it. When he holds it he transforms himself into something new. That’s why I like Candy because I like to put things out of place. That’s the power of the Candy concept for me.

It must be rewarding to hear some of these inspirational stories from the people you feature in the magazine.
All the people who have been in the magazines are really gentle souls – so grateful and so sweet to me. Most of them I became friends with them. I’m not here to do a public service, I’m here to do a magazine but if in the process some people can find my magazine helpful I’m very happy to do that. The same with new photographers and new writers and new artists, I love to discover new talent. I’m trying new things with new younger people. Basically I love talented people, that’s why I love magazines.

Do you have any unrealized dreams?
There are many things I would love to do with my life. The first dream is to keep doing my magazines and make a living from it. I’m not really into having a Prince Charming – at this moment I’m into having fun doing what I do and having new ideas and trying to put them together. I love magazines and I’m happy that I’m in this universe.