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Rihanna on AnOther magazine's digital cover for SS15
Rihanna on AnOther magazine’s digital cover – a world first

How Rihanna became the face of a digital revolution

The AnOther cover girl was the star of the world’s first moving mag: here’s how it went down

Last week at Colette in Paris, AnOther Magazine – Dazed’s sister title luxury biannual – launched a 400-page issue with a button. And a screen. And an audio jack. Click play and the cover image (shot by Inez and Vinoodh, and styled by Katy England) comes to life: a two-minute film of Rihanna’s photoshoot plays. “For a magazine publisher, it’s a little bit like being the first one to plant a flag on the moon,” Jefferson Hack explained at the Dazed offices this morning. “I think to be seduced by Rihanna on the magazine cover in photography is one thing, to be seduced by Rihanna moving – it feels incredibly personal. And it feels like you're stepping into that story. That's the reaction that I wanted.

“The spark of the idea came when I got a copy of National Geographic 100 with the holographic cover in 1988 and getting lost in the three-dimensionality of that. You realise that fundamentally magazines are portals into another world, and the three-dimensionality of moving image lets you actually step into the magazine cover. So my tech brief was ‘If Rihanna winks at me from 20 metres away from a magazine shelf will I see it? Will I be able to see it? Can you make that happen?’”

The technology behind was brought from rendering concept to prototype to shelf by Liam Casey at PCH INTL, a Dublin-San Fran-Shanghai tech hardware company. They turned this brief into an object in just two months. Naturally, the power of Rihanna's following, helped shift this into mainstream focus: The Daily Mail and Hypebeast both covered in the launch (in different ways). Vogue’s Suzy Menkes was stunned: “WHAT! The first moving digital cover of a glossy magazine that I have ever seen is in the hands of Jefferson Hack…Is it a fad? An LED toy? Or the future of blending art, fashion and technology?” she wrote on Instagram.

It also presented an interest for fashion bloggers, like our very own Susie Bubble. And trend companies. And technology pages in broadsheet newspapers. Given the boiling-point level interest in tech-fashion combinations, many are hunting for the answer to how these two very 21st century industries can interact. Very few have done it well, with the addition of technology often coming at the cost of great design. Not so here. As such, AnOther's cover represents an interesting moment. It's an imaginative, intuitive way to simultaneously engineer digital scarcity (copies are strictly limited and contain a McQueen-homage album unavailable elsewhere) and expand how a luxury magazine launch can ripple out beyond its traditional borders.

"It’s got an incredible soundtrack in it called ‘The Sound of McQueen’, which was made by John Gosling,” Hack says. "You can’t take the album off the device, you can’t upload them to the web, they're not sharable, we’re not releasing it on a SoundCloud mix. It’s locked into the device. There’s only 1,000 of these devices in the world, 1,000 of these experiences in the world.”

Naturally, copies are strictly limited, and at the time of press both Colette and Selfridges have sold out. Blame Karl Lagerfeld if you were waiting – he bought three. So those with £125 to spend on the edition should move fast and book a ticket to London or Paris: there's going to be another drop at the end of April at Selfridges and Colette (as well as other TBC retail partners). They will sell, and sell out. But that is hardly the point. The cover is of interest just by the fact of being done. It’s a luxury magazine as a prototype as much as a product. Patents are pending on the technology inside. And the next stage? That’s coming. 

“One aim was to challenge the industry,” Hack explains. “And if there was a consumer demand for this, if there was a press interest in this, if this was going to somehow capture the imagination of people, the public and the media, then it would drive more research and development, it would drive more companies who were working in this space to innovate more, or put more time and resource into innovating on-screen technologies, which could have all kinds of interesting applications.

“I was hoping it would make people debate the future of print and the future of screen technologies, and we succeeded in making something beautiful and impressionable. Which is the aim is for every cover.” Would he do it again? “Yeah! Absolutely. (But) I don’t like to repeat myself, so I think with something like this it would have to be the next evolution.” Watch this space.

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