What's it like to curate a magazine with a megawatt star? Another Man's Alister Mackie reveals all
There are few figures as revered within contemporary culture as Harry Styles. He is the poster boy for a generation, a figure whose Instagram posts inspire column inches and whose ascent to fame has been documented so thoroughly that you’d think there would be no stone left unturned. Yet, throughout his career, he has remained somewhat shrouded in mystery: aside from the publicity that surrounds One Direction, he is surprisingly aloof, thoroughly attuned to the aphorism that less is more. Now, he is embarking on a career of his own – as both an actor and a solo musician – and he has turned to Another Man to celebrate his independence.
“When we heard that he’d chosen Another Man to do something like this, it felt like a great responsibility,” explains Alister Mackie, who founded the magazine in 2005 and is now its creative director. “He just messaged me and said, ‘I want to do something with you,’ and so I felt like I had to give him the ultimate Another Man treatment, the whole experience, to do it properly. It became immediately apparent that there was so much more depth to him than to your regular boyband star, so we thought, let’s make it all about him.” What amounted is an issue that revolves around Styles – from three cover stories, each an immersion into a different facet of his persona, to an intimate archive of his personal memorabilia – which he himself worked on from start to finish. It is a complete and cohesive exploration of Styles’ personality, seen through the distinctive lens of Another Man.
The way that Mackie starts creating an issue of the magazine is somewhat unusual in the digital age: alongside myriad walls of moodboards, he compiles a physical scrapbook of images that operate as a sort of visual map for its narrative. Throughout the planning process, Styles would visit Mackie’s Shoreditch studio to rifle through the book, this time filled with pop star portraits and ephemera, Mick Jagger and John Lydon, and copies of Oh Boy! – a seventies pop-meets-punk version of Smash Hits which served as the starting point for Mackie’s research. “He’d turn up with his hood up, on his own, completely inconspicuous,” and the two would go through the layouts, explore references, select edits. “He was super trusting the whole way through,” says Mackie, “he always said ‘I’ve chosen you, so you do what you think works,’ but when he made a decision it always felt right.”
So, the pair travelled to Styles’ hometown of Cheshire with photographer Alasdair McLellan – a photographer determinedly part of the Another Man family, and who embarked on a similar project exploring Mackie’s Glasgow roots back in Autumn/Winter 2012. “He got really into it,” Mackie recalls. “We went to his school, to the pub where he used to live, to the bakery where he used to work, and it was just amazing. I wanted it to be like taking him home, and to explore the normality of his upbringing. It was such an uplifting experience – particularly because we were doing it with someone who is at such a great point in his life, who is starting out on his own. It just felt euphoric.”
Then, Mackie turned to Willy Vanderperre, “our signature cover photographer,” who has previously shot icons like Alex Turner, Cillian Murphy and Willem Defoe for the magazine. “We wanted to show what Willy does, what I do with Willy, and to put Harry to be in the company of those men,” he explains. And finally, to Ryan McGinley, whose poetic vision of Styles as a romantic hero was also transformed into a poster to accompany the issue. “There’s something indie about those pictures: otherworldly and contemplative,” reflects Mackie. “That day felt really spiritual because Ryan is so quiet and charming, and they really connected. Harry cried because he has really bad hay fever – and, while I was freaking out that his face would swell up, Ryan just kept it going. It ended up being so beautiful to see him crying like that – and when you work with someone as spontaneous as Ryan, that’s when those magical moments happen.”
It’s an encyclopedic exploration of the pop idol’s world, blended with the inimitable codes of Another Man, and it is remarkable in both its intimacy and aesthetic. “It was all so exciting that everyone involved could feel it,” says Mackie. “We’ve never gambled on one person like this before, and it’s the most pop that we’ve ever gone – but he’s more than a pop star. Way more. It’s been the most amazing trip.”
Check out the Another Man website here!