“I don’t think there’s been a tougher time in fashion since I’ve been doing this,” says the tastemaker and independent publisher Jefferson Hack, who co-founded Dazed & Confused magazine in 1991. “Brexit has made it incredibly difficult to trade. The lack of visas has meant that all the collaboration between Europe and the UK is gone. And with the tailwind of the pandemic and interest rates, we’ve got this really difficult set of conditions for younger designers.”
Hack is given to viewing the world through the lens of young creatives, and the challenges they face. It is this nurturing perspective that has won him a special recognition award from the British Fashion Council (BFC) for cultural curation, due to be announced this week.
The BFC states: “Hack will be awarded for empowering youth through creativity and for creating countless opportunities for next-generation creatives working across fashion, design, art, music and more, providing a platform and supporting emerging talent.” The prize will be presented to him at the BFC’s glittering annual Fashion Awards at the Royal Albert Hall in December.
Thirty-one years ago, Hack was that next-gen creative. At 19, he co-founded the influential indie zine with the photographer Rankin; the stylist Katie Grand joined them soon afterwards. He describes himself as “the baby in the group”.
“They were my original teachers, because they had so much confidence and charisma, and I was very shy,” he says via Zoom from the east London home he shares with his girlfriend, the 33-year-old American model Anna Cleveland.
Hack’s collaborators have since included the biggest names in the creative industries, among them the designers Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood and Karl Lagerfeld, pop artist Peter Blake, photographer Nick Knight, and singers Rihanna, Björk.
Now aged 51, and having expanded Dazed into Dazed Media, which includes AnOther Magazine and Another Man, digital video channel Nowness, Dazed Beauty and Dazed Studio, it is Hack that is the mentor to so many of the young creatives featured on the platform. “I probably do more than I have time to do,” he says.
It all happens at the London HQ, 180 Strand, which he refers to as a “dream factory” and a “community” – Dazed Media employs more than 130 staff and freelancers. It also hosts artists’ residencies, an exhibition and performance space, and a bookshop, library and bar.
The mentoring occurs “organically”, with Hack ensuring he is in the building at least three days a week. “Physically, it’s so much easier if you just kind of catch each other, than having everything scheduled.”
The DIY punk spirit of Dazed’s early days endures. Hack says he always advises financial and creative independence among his mentees: “Don’t take anyone else’s money unless you absolutely have control,” he says. “I’ve seen so many people lose their names, lose their brands, because they’ve signed contracts that they didn’t really understand.
“It’s an absolute tyranny. All the VC [venture capital] companies want to get in early and earn big stakes, and then they don’t bring anything to the table.”
He has been there himself, with “so many opportunities to walk away from the platform”, but also “such boring, long-winded conversations around so many board tables – I just don’t bother any more”.
Independence, it transpires, is a life force for Hack. “I really struggled with being independent around the late 10s, because of the amounts of money people were making around me and how attractive it looked. But in my heart I knew that independence was the only way that I know how to operate. I’m really happy.”