Our co-founder remembers the pioneering writer, Aids activist, and former editor of Interview Magazine who inspired the early days of Dazed & Confused
There was no better magazine in the world at that time. In 1990, Ingrid Sischy was editor of Interview, and along with art director Tibor Kalman, she was at the epicentre of what excited Rankin and myself about fashion, art, literature and entertainment. London had The Face and i-D, but Interview was Andy Warhol’s magazine, and Ingrid, with her slightly boyish grin and Dylan-esque curls, was the personal embodiment of optimism and rebellion, inheriting it shortly after Warhol’s death. She extolled a certain downtown independent attitude that made it seem like the zeitgeist was in her back pocket. She had already changed public perceptions of fashion as editor of Artforum, when she put an Issey Miyake dress on the cover in 1982. Now she was pushing covers with Interview featuring Jonny Rotten pulling his ears, Winona Ryder looking shocked and Madonna grabbing her crotch. Where else would Johnny Depp spit water at the camera, and where else could you read him ask John Waters, “I’ve seen people come up to you shaking.” To which Waters replies, “Yes, but they don’t want to fuck me. That’s a different thing.”
In the early days of Dazed & Confused, a documentary crew followed Rankin and myself to New York and the offices of Interview magazine. I remember the Warhols in the entrance on Prince Street. I was shaking. This was hallowed ground – an ideological forcefield for invention was at work here, and Ingrid was its voice, its spiritual guide and its lightning-rod connector. I remember her, warm as toast on a freezing New York winter, greeting us like we were distant cross-Atlantic relatives, and in some ways, I felt like we were. She shocked me with her kindness, passion and curiosity – her no-bullshit approach to journalism had impressed but also intimidated me. She talked so fast; ideas and references fired out of her light-speed mind like a tape recorder scrolling fast-forward. It was impossible to keep up with her. Her interviews were always such a satisfying read, because she went right under the skin of celebrity – you could feel the empathy, the compassion, the sensitivity of her intellect. It was something she continued to do after her tenure at Interview with Vanity Fair, and as international editor of Condé Nast. She was kind enough to remember that first encounter with Rankin and myself in her introduction to the Dazed & Confused 20th anniversary book Making it Up as We Go Along. She wrote: “The only reason to start a magazine is if there’s a void, where there are words and images stirring to be seen and heard.” It was about Dazed & Confused, but it was also about her own philosophy to magazines and storytelling.
“She shocked me with her kindness, passion and curiosity – her no-bullshit approach to journalism had impressed but also intimidated me”
She fearlessly ventured into the void and took risks on talent and ideas that were far from the mainstream. Her work for gay liberation, Aids activism and fundraising for related Aids causes was unrelenting. We often talked about the many friends, collaborators and cultural geniuses she had lost to Aids in the 80s and early 90s, and her anger and sorrow became an energy. Her championing of female role models, and her feminist perspective on fashion, was also a true inspiration to me. She always supported me, always called me ‘kid’, always helped me out if I needed advice. My sincere condolences are with her many friends and fans, and especially with Sandra Brant her partner in publishing, editing, activism and life. They don’t make ’em like Ingrid Sischy anymore, who left us far too early on July 24th. Art, fashion, media and the independent spirit has just lost a pillar of excellence, but she will forever be a guiding light, no longer physically with us, but a star up there in the cosmos, beaming back her information at 186,000 miles per second. The light speed of her infinite mind.