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Circle Zero Eight
Circle Zero EightPhotography by Ewen Spencer

Circle Zero Eight is the new magazine fusing sport and style

Elgar Johnson’s Circle Zero Eight explores the worlds of fashion and football, with contributions from Ewen Spencer and Katie Grand

Elgar Johnson was still at school when he first recognised the power of sport. Back then, football was everything: if he wasn’t kicking a ball around, chances are he’d be watching his beloved Liverpool FC. Tennis and badminton took up a lot of time too, although a brief experiment with cricket ended following a badly broken nose.

But it was sport’s ability to shape and guide those around him that resonated the most. “There was always that bad kid, but then they’d get into the school team and become, like, the popular kid,” Johnson remembers, talking over Zoom in a red Liverpool hoody. “They have made numerous films about that sort of thing.”

It’s something that remains with him today. As a stylist and creative consultant (he was, until recently, fashion director at GQ Style, exiting the role towards the end of 2021), sport has continually influenced his work. However, while he was able to pull from different sporting worlds in terms of inspiration, the extent to which he could bring together his two passions was somewhat limited.

With Circle Zero Eight, however, that isn’t the case. The new biannual magazine, founded by Johnson, is set to launch in April with its inaugural print edition. The aim is to spotlight sport’s global sway, as well as the manner in which it intersects with other corners of culture and society.

For Johnson, the publication is the perfect vehicle through which to enmesh a variety of different worlds and practices. While he’d first had the idea “a few years ago”, it wasn’t until a recent visit to Frieze – and a conversation at the pub afterwards – that he felt motivated to actually make it happen. “I was like, ‘You know what, I think I like art. But I don’t think I like art in the same way I like sport. But I don’t know if I can do sport because I work in fashion...’ Then I was like, ‘You know what, why not just do it all?’”

That mindset is reflected in the variety of contributors Johnson has assembled to help make Circle Zero Eight a reality. The launch issue features work from the likes of Ewen Spencer, Katie Grand, and Ben Reardon. “I just wanted to work with people that are really brilliant,” he says. “It’s about fusing sport with what they can bring.”

Although he’s hesitant to reveal what exactly will feature in terms of stories (“I’m going to keep it a secret”), Johnson is clear in what he hopes to achieve – which is “to communicate modern society and culture through the vehicle of sport”. The second print instalment will arrive in November, he says, by which point there’ll be a digital presence too.

As for the magazine’s title, the name Circle Zero Eight was first born in 2008, following a conversation with his best friend, who has since passed away. “I was walking in Soho with [him] and I saw this amazing building I’ve always loved. I said, ‘I’m going to have my offices there one day.’ My mate said, ‘What are you going to call it?’ I said, ‘I’m going to call it Circle.’ He replied, ‘I quite like that, there’s no ending to it.’”

“He’s obviously no longer here now,” Johnson continues, “So it just made sense. I put the words together, and the number as well, and I liked the shape it made. I also liked that if you put the eight on its side, it’s an infinity sign. I was conscious that if I was going to do a magazine, I didn’t want something that would just represent one thing. It needs to be a magazine that can evolve into something else without (the name) being disruptive.”

For Johnson, Circle Zero Eight will arrive at a unique time, given the manner in which social media has provided athletes with a voice on matters that transcend the parameters of their day job – he cites Naomi Osaka, Colin Kaepernick, and members of the England men’s football team as notable examples. It is for this reason he is particularly keen to demystify sport for those who may not consider themselves natural fans. “A famous fashion editor once said people are scared of fashion,” he notes. “I think people are scared of sport in the same way.”

Ultimately, though, Johnson wants to create something that reflects his interests: an amalgamation of different ideas and influences, held together by the two worlds that have come to define him. It’s a challenge, but one that he’s relishing to get stuck into. “That’s the beauty of being an independent,” he says. “You can go and just do whatever you want and see how it turns out. Usually it turns out really good.”

Circle Zero Eight will arrive in April 2022