She has been proclaimed the last great fashion editor, and a pioneer of independent publishing.
Her book, far too extravagant to be called a magazine, runs for up to $400 an issue, and is a collectors item coveted by fashion and art enthusiasts worldwide. Of course, its Cecilia Dean and Visionaire.
The tri-annual bible that debuted in 1991 was created by Dean and her friends Stephen Gan and James Kaliardos. They met in their youth when Dean, a 15-year-old model, was booked by her agent to test with Gan and Kaliardos, a photographer and make-up artist, respectively.
Their laidback approach to that first test shoot carried through to their work process over the forthcoming two decades of success.
In 1991, Gan, an editor at Details, was laid off, and from that, an idea of a different kind of magazine budded.
Tired of the high-gloss, advertiser-fuelled consumer magazines, he sought a purer and more creative project. He teamed up with Kaliardos and Dean, who was just finishing a degree in English and French at Barnard, and with $7,000 in the bank they began production.
They could never afford to pay anyone. Dean’s charm and persuasiveness came in handy with getting high profile collaborators, but at the beginning Gan made the decision to buy everyone lunch, and then eventually hired a part-time cook as the cost became too great.
For the first issue, 1000 were printed but not bound (too expensive), and funds from the sale went to producing the second issue, but Gan’s savings were depleted. However, the timing was perfect, as artists and photographers were looking to collaborate, and the now overly accessible internet hadn’t quite boomed.
While the publication’s profile has risen dramatically over the past decade, so have the costs.
Production costs for more recent issues are estimated at anywhere up to $500,000, which begs the question – how do they afford it?
They still work in the jobs that they had when they started 20 years ago. Dean still models, and is a teacher at Parsons. Kaliardos works as a freelance makeup artist, and Gan works as an art director and editor (most recently on a Calvin Klein campaign).
Issues range from the extravagant to the outright eccentric but each issue sells between 3,000 to 7,000 prints, a feat considering the $625/year subscription fee.
The most noteworthy of the issues are the "Light" issue, which came as a battery-operated light box, the "Fashion Special" issue, which came in a handmade Louis Vuitton case, the "White" issue, which was produced with very little ink using Braille, varnish, and embossing, and "Taste", which integrated taste-film-technology.
The operation has grown, with about 25 people working full-time, and they have gone on to publish the more widely read V and VMan.