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Discover Dazed’s new era and the vaccine story

Dazed’s newly instated editor-in-chief Ibrahim Kamara and executive editorial director Lynette Nylander reflect on the Paolo Roversi-shot vaccination shoot concept, the starting points for their inaugural issue, and where youth culture is heading

Taken from the summer 2021 issue of Dazed

An astronaut, a slouching skater, a bunny-headed man, a gothic glamazon in a black velvet dress – characters both fantastical and true to life idle in the same queue, moving towards a visor-wearing vaccinator, and, we hope, a whole new world.

In the face of a global pandemic that amplified inequalities and spurred long-brewing social upheaval, local communities unified globally. We became creative in our resilience and found commonality across continents. The ongoing COVID-19 discourse is pocked by society’s most galling issues: we see how systemic racism and a lack of faith in institutional power has infected minority communities with vaccine hesitancy. Young people are pummelled by online misinformation and conspiracy. Governments across the world have leveraged the pandemic to roll back our right to protest their brutalities.

This is a story inspired not just by the vaccine push, but by dialogues worldwide and the hope they bring to a globe forever shifted. “We were talking about this issue as a ‘National Geographic for global youth culture’ and what that could mean,” says IB of some of the earliest issue conversations. “It just had to start with the pandemic and the vaccine – a global problem and a global solution. How do we create around this?” It’s this ‘somehow’ – the idea that, against all odds culture will find a way – that makes 2021 such an inspiring and historic year.

For the issue, we looked beyond capital cities and to locations that are sometimes overlooked, spotlighting youth culture that continues to thrive and reimagine creativity. Reflecting on this generational shift, alté innovator Amaarae says: “I see myself as a kind of global connector, or a bridge, between everything I represent as an African, and all the different things that I’ve soaked up.”

Here, Lynette and IB dive deeper into these themes, the expansive, hopeful and deeply communal cover story, a new era of Dazed and what all this could mean for the future of magazines.

Anna Cafolla: How did you decide upon the issue theme?

Ibrahim Kamara: I really wanted to make this issue of Dazed a global issue, one that was not London-centric or concentrated in one place. Youth culture is happening all around the world, and all of its elements – fashion, music, style are in conversation with each other. This issue is a foundation for a journey that has to continue.

Lynette Nylander: When travel is off the table, I think there’s something really powerful in bringing what’s going on in Vietnam, Brazil, Ghana, or Nigeria to people. Marcus’s story is really rooted in his upbringing in Wythenshawe. He gets into what many people are experiencing – living paycheck to paycheck, with not a lot of disposable income, trying to make something work and relying on other local people. It doesn’t hinder anyone’s ability to dream.

Anna Cafolla: Fashion and culture have always been vehicles for social commentary, and we’ve seen that amplified over the past year. How do you imbue that in the visual concepts and styling across this issue?

Ibrahim Kamara: I think the fashion in the issue has been culturally led. We really wanted to drive home that there were a lot of ideas and stories to tell through clothing and fashion. Some of the images are challenging. We’re confronting uncomfortable things. It was important for me to give young people – and anyone in this moment – the opportunity to feel inspired, to hold on to a message and the need to dream. I don’t think we reached perfection, but that’s all part of it.

Lynette Nylander: We’re making a magazine in a world of progress over perfection. Everyone is trying to move themselves on so quickly from a place where we’ve been challenged personally, mentally, and as a collective. I mean, there’s nothing like a global pandemic, where your life’s at risk on a daily basis, for you to think about what’s really important, what feels urgent. I think IB and the fashion team have brought issues to light to challenge and provoke, and yet still talk about them in a way that allows moments to dream. There are also moments where people can just celebrate really great clothing on a really diverse cast.

“We’re confronting uncomfortable things. It was important for me to give young people – and anyone in this moment – the opportunity to feel inspired, to hold on to a message and the need to dream” – Ibrahim Kamara

Anna Cafolla: And, God, aren’t we all just desperate for some glam and fantasy, too?

Lynette Nylander: There are moments of levity and light, and some things just look shit hot! Young people need to feel that fashion and fun.

Anna Cafolla: I wonder, then, if we could talk a bit about the vaccine story, and how you traverse tone in a way that’s playful and challenging, while also sensitive and illuminating.

Ibrahim Kamara: The concept for the vaccine cover came from a meeting with Jefferson (Hack). We were talking about this issue as a ‘National Geographic for global youth culture’ and what that could mean. Well, it just had to start with the pandemic and the vaccine – a global problem and a global solution. How do we create around this? In a way that’s respectful, but also has some kind of humour, relatability, generational relevance? I want to create a body of work that has a bit of humour to it. I think in the early 2000s, hip-hop videos and visuals had a lot of impact on culture and the way that people dressed, but also held what could be deep messages. It was especially important with a Black guy on the cover. It felt relatable and direct. I think the cover feels encouraging and hopeful for young people of whatever colour and community. I think we can bring light and humanity to more serious matters while still being sensitive. We don’t want to police young people and their thoughts, we want to make them feel represented.

Lynette Nylander: IB has a noted style and he’s really able to bring a sense of narrative to his work. The different characters that he’s been able to imagine have become one of the signifiers of what he does – some real and people you might know, others fictional and fantastical. It quite lightly and cleverly pokes at this universal problem. Everyone sees themselves. He’s able to marry something that’s culturally happening with something that feels engaging to look at.

Ibrahim Kamara: There’s the bunny-eared guy, there’s a real guy with his skateboard, an African auntie and a pilot. I wanted to flesh out the characters even more, but the clothes were stuck in customs on the day of the shoot. I had even more out-there moments.

Lynette Nylander: Even more out-there than this?

Ibrahim Kamara: Yes, Brexit got in the way.

Lynette Nylander: You’re always bringing up Brexit!

Anna Cafolla: Fair!

Ibrahim Kamara: Brexit messed up a lot.

Anna Cafolla: The expansiveness of thought behind the vaccine concept shoot provides a levity that’s really necessary now. The shoot’s models and characters of colour, when we know Black people have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 and its social impact, feels really striking. There’s vaccine privilege and poverty in global communities.

Lynette Nylander: I think we’re in a position where we can really survey the devastation the pandemic has caused, and where we now have to deal with social destruction. The disparity in the world is really striking to me – New York is going to be fully open in July, in the UK it’s June, but 350,000 people a day are getting COVID-19 in India. The disparity depends on economic status, wealth, location. I think we’re going to be left with that for years.

Anna Cafolla: It’s not easily metabolised either, and I think we see that in light and shade across youth culture, from online dialogue to memes and lexicon. How do you go about interpreting how you make a magazine in 2021? The culture has shifted, and how we consume media has too.

Ibrahim Kamara: Coming in with a new team and trying to share a vision wasn’t easy, but we got there. It’s been a challenge for us to really make sure the magazine represents the time that we’re in – that there’s diversity of messaging in the stories we’re telling and what’s being written about.

Lynette Nylander: There are people on the team we’ve only met through Zoom. These are very unique circumstances to try and make a magazine in, never mind a magazine that wants to travel and incorporate voices from a global perspective. I think a magazine’s reasoning and point of view in 2021 has to have shifted. We have to democratise and create equal footing. We have Paolo Roversi, an iconic photographer in his 70s, with a stylist who has never shot for an international magazine before. We have new writers from South Africa and Vietnam that we sought out for those features. Magazines have been held by gatekeepers for so long and that’s why you haven’t seen any radical change or free thought. That’s why you haven’t seen things that really reflect the times. Gen Z right now expect a magazine to meet them, and their critical thinking, halfway. We are conduits and curators more than we are editors. We’re not here to decree what or who is cool and what is ‘Dazed-worthy’. Our job is to curate as many people coming in and telling their story as possible, and leveraging that.

“I think a magazine’s reasoning and point of view in 2021 has to have shifted. We have to democratise and create equal footing... magazines have been held by gatekeepers for so long and that’s why you haven’t seen any radical change or free thought” – Lynette Nylander

Anna Cafolla: We’re witnessing a generation demand more from their media, leveraging and creatively using social platforms and online communities in this very DIY way. The relationship between youth culture media and youth culture is much more symbiotic.

Lynette Nylander: Exactly. And they don’t give a fuck! I love that. They give you ‘what for’, they know what they like, they know what they don’t, they have way more loyalty than any other generation in history – loyalty to brands, publications, and platforms they believe in. We have to really honour that.

Anna Cafolla: I’d like to touch more on what you were saying about the features in Vietnam and South Africa. Going into this issue with the Global/Local theme, how important was it for you to avoid the pitfalls of editorial gatekeeping and ‘helicopter journalism’ – say, parachuting white, western journalists in on local stories without the necessary perspective?

Lynette Nylander: I think giving a writer agency and authority to speak on something close to them is powerful, you know? We did that with Black Girls Surf in South Africa – Nkgopoleng Moloi is an amazing young local writer, given a platform to tell a story from her own country. I’m trying to erase that barrier between reader and subject as much as possible. The Global Sounds portfolio features artists from Kazakhstan to Detroit and Ghana, and the QR codes make the stories really travel. An incredible amount of work went into the End Sars movement feature, telling a story about the future of Nigeria. The feature on Ghana’s LGBTQ+ centre is told from the perspective of its owner, Alex Kofi Donkor, and really gets to the heart of the fight to keep it open. There’s a particular attention to detail here I want to see across the board. Otherwise, you create this tension – who am I speaking to? Who made this, who’s behind this, and who is it for? People want and crave a dialogue, and I feel like we are in a position to really meet people where they’re at.

Anna Cafolla: What do you think young people are looking for in magazines in 2021?

Ibrahim Kamara: To be inspired, to learn, and to see themselves represented. We want them to have conversations with our magazine and see an expression of culture that is politically and socially important. A magazine should listen, curate, collaborate. I like to think that’s what young people, and people in general, are looking for.

Anna Cafolla: The common thread through this issue feels like one of hope and optimism. Things like the vaccine discourse, End Sars, and Ghana’s LGBTQ+ community fight can all feel looming and scary, or impenetrable. I think making people feel hopeful can only augment the mobilisation we’ve seen so far and going forward.

Lynette Nylander: We have seen such a waste of human life and spirit, and yet at the same time, we’ve seen the pandemic create frameworks where movements for change are more urgent than ever. Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate came from moments where we had to ask ourselves, ‘What are we living for?’, ‘What are we fighting for?’. We had time to pause, reflect on our pace, and move. We have radicalised a mainstream way of thinking. It was important to bring that to the magazine, and that really defines the global and local theme.

Anna Cafolla: With future Dazed issues, how will you approach this gear-change with editorial and more creative, reflective ways of thinking?

Ibrahim Kamara: I hope young people will study our magazines in universities, because it captured a time and way of thinking that’s worth taking a part and reflecting on.

Lynette Nylander: Magazines should always be timely; they should be a reflection of the times that we want to tackle. If it’s important to the youth, it should be important to us. We will always want to move beyond just the hashtag and the initial movements – like with End Sars or Ghana’s LGBTQ+ centre. There were open letters from diasporic communities and collective efforts, then what? We don’t always find out what happens after, or how these issues evolve or become more insidious.

Anna Cafolla: IB, I think you really capture that idea of what a magazine should be, a kind of living archive. And Lynette, I think the ‘what’s next’ or ‘what happened after’ reporting that breaks free from the relentless news cycle or constantly refreshing homepage feels all the more urgent.

Lynette Nylander: Because when these issues fall off the news and go away, the adversaries get smarter in how they operate. Like with Sars. It’s dismantled, but its brutality is continuing under new names. The fight isn’t over, and young people haven’t stopped challenging it. Dazed can become a place where you see that happen.

Hair Yannick d’Is at Management + Artists using Oribe, make-up Hiromi Ueda at Art + Commerce using Chanel Les beiges summer light and Hydra beauty camellia glow concentrate, nails Béatrice Eni at Saint Germain, set design Ibrahim Njoya at Magnet, models Ibrahima Alessio at Elite, Adit Priscilla at Premium, Metta Irebe at Women, Ségolène Sepulchre at Girl, Mael Juhant at Select model, Kiilian at Rebel, Vincent H at Rock men, Gaelle L at Studio Paris, Billie C, Dourane Fall and Myung Su Jung at Success models, Ash Foo at Oui management, Elvis Jousse-hagglund, Felix Paradza, Mark Mutyambizi, nurse Patricia Rosinel, photographic assistants Clara Belleville, Chiara Vittorini, Carolina Beccari, styling assistants Felix Paradza, Mark Mutyambizi, Andra-Amelia Buhai, Aroua Ammari, hair assistants Christophe Pastel, Lukas Laloue, make-up assistants Takako Noborio, Azusa Kumakura, digital operator Tomas Hein at Dtouch London, production Studio Demi, production assistants Adrian Dohna, Anne Cécile de Vellis, casting Mischa Notcutt, casting assistant Dourane Fall, special thanks Sommier & Fils