Welcome to BLAG – Real Culture for Sophisticated Rebels and Savvy Individuals by British twins Sally A. Edwards & Sarah J. Edwards
In 1992, two hungry art school students, with part-time job wages and fake IDs in hand, set out on a journey to discover exciting new talents and introduce them in a handmade fanzine they dubbed BLAG. BLAG is good old British slang, meaning “to get things by way of clever talk” – and that’s exactly how the magazine came to fruition: blagging interviews and gigs and a lot of hard work.
Bolstered by numerous rave reviews in major style and quality titles who found its unique approach and voice refreshing, BLAG quickly captured a loyal and discerning audience. By the age of 18, Sally and Sarah were also promoting shows under the BLAG banner, persuading some of London’s most buzzed about bands to come and perform in the music-starved pre-gentrified city in which they attended Art College.
A year later, with only £40 between them, Sally and Sarah moved to London to attend college and bring BLAG to a wider audience. In desperate need of money, Sally and Sarah hastily signed with a modeling agency. Their first big casting was with hot new designer Alexander McQueen, but they left shortly after arrival, having recognised some of the 90’s leading supermodels in the line – all of whom appeared a foot taller. This seemed to be the end of a short-lived professional modeling career.
No sooner had they left that industry they found themselves hired by competing music PR firms. Over the next 18 months, Sally worked her way up through the ranks to become Head of TV at the independent pluggers responsible for Britpop’s biggest exports Elastica among others. Sarah went from handling press for one of Britain’s most loved and loathed rock bands to taking care of the national press for massive US and UK acts such as Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, Travis, Page & Plant and Public Enemy. After they had handled everyone else’s business, Sally and Sarah used their new connections to help market BLAG magazine in their spare time, producing a run of BLAG t-shirts donned by some of their favorite artists while appearing on Top of the Pops, Reading Festival and various magazine covers.
In 1995, Sally and Sarah exhausted their savings to fund the first glossy BLAG magazine. They arranged distribution through Time Out and filled 64 pages with all the up and coming music and entertainment they’d been privy to. BLAG magazine turned a lot of heads due to its unorthodox approach to publishing: ads didn’t dominate the front section and there were no cover lines, just honest, raw portraits of some of music’s brightest stars. Artists like GZA, The Pharcyde and The Roots’ Questlove cite BLAG magazine as one of the first publications to put them on a cover. The twins collaborated with award winning Yacht Associates (Blur) to design bright and bold pages that didn’t adhere to the conventions that other publications were clinging to. By the third glossy edition, orders had exceeded 30,000. Despite this incredible growth, advertisers were hesitant to play a part in something this rebellious.
Though they’d sworn off the modeling industry, Sarah and Sally participated in a few noteworthy shoots over the next few years: they were photographed by Rankin for Dazed & Confused, they appeared in German Vogue and Japanese GQ, they were featured on the ubiquitous Placebo, Without You I’m Nothing album sleeve (shot by the late, great Corinne Day – who was responsible for bringing Kate Moss to British Vogue). These shoots inspired Sarah to develop her love of photography into something more professional and BLAG magazine became the perfect showcase for her talents.
In 1998, 22-year-old Sally and Sarah were approached by cult art book publishers Die Gestalten Verlag to create a BLAG book. They negotiated a small advance and free artistic reign for the project. Joining forces again with Yacht Associates, they compiled a list of major and up-and-coming artists, featuring paintings, photography, and illustrations juxtaposed with interviews with some of hip hop’s most notables. The cover featured a now infamous photo of Redman.
Press reaction to the book was overwhelmingly positive: Nylon, Trace, The Times, Blueprint, Sleaze Nation, Echoes, Kiss FM and XFM all leant their support. Sally and Sarah arranged major launch parties in London and New York. London’s bill included an early performance by Slum Village while the New York party was attended by a wide spectrum of celebrities: from Pharrell Williams and Claire Danes to Adrien Brody.
Rather than rest on their laurels, Sally and Sarah began to experiment with DJing. Pulling from their extensive record collection, producing and DJing parties at exclusive clubs in both London and New York. They were also invited to perform at aftershow parties for high profile artists like Foo Fighters, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, N*E*R*D with Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera.
In 2000, blagmagazine.com was launched. Sally and Sarah took full advantage of the expedited publishing process of blogging, featuring yet undiscovered artists like Wiz Khalifa and Jaime Hayon shortly after finding them. Sarah was head hunted as a founding Editor at NME.COM, while Sally plucked BLAG’s INTRODUCING… section and created a one-off special magazine exclusively with Adidas. It became one of the first branded content pieces and she grew it into a much followed influential blog. In 2003, as it became clear that online content was a force to be reckoned with, style magazines like Sleaze Nation and The Face closed their doors. Nevertheless, Sally and Sarah felt passionate that it was time to put BLAG magazine out on the street again. Assuming full time joint roles as Publisher/Editor/Writer and splitting the remaining duties (Sally as Design & Art Director and Sarah as Principle Photographer), the ladies bucked the normal approach to selling ads and instead pitched the idea of exclusive content creation funded by brands – in and outside the magazine. They invited Chuck D, GZA and Mos Def to the non-executive board and put out the first issue of BLAG Magazine Volume 2: a double-cover edition featuring André 3000 and 50 Cent. Inside, BLAG introduced Justin Theroux (Ironman 2, Mulholland Drive) and grilled Chuck D, The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, and Will.I.Am on world peace.
Noting the opportunities of the partnership model, Playstation helped to fund the next issue by giving BLAG creative control over four pages of content inspired by their infamous symbols. Woven into the magazine as an art / photography / essay piece, it featured alongside a huge long-form Beastie Boys feature. The new format was soon embraced by brands like Nokia, Motorola, Nike, Absolut, BlackBerry, Fila, Oakley and EOS Airlines, and the magazine grew to over 100 pages of improved paper stock.
Always eager to expand their creative pallet, Sally and Sarah began to experiment with commissioned video content, producing and directing short films with the likes of José Parlá, Futura 2000, WK Interact and Anthony Lister for Elms Lesters Painting Rooms. In 2011 they worked with Mercedes-Benz on their 125th Anniversary PR Campaign, enlisting the talents of Grammy award winners David Banner and Estelle along with newcomer Daley to record a digitally-released single, Benz, inspired by the Janis Joplin hit Mercedes Benz Song. In addition to executive producing the song, Sally and Sarah wrote, produced, and directed a music video as well as a series of behind the scenes shorts. Simultaneously, BLAG Magazine featured photographs and interviews with the artists, while the entire multimedia project was made available on iPad in the premier BLAG app – a gorgeous interactive long-form experience, designed and developed with the help of design software stalwarts QuarkXpress. The combined efforts of BLAG and Mercedes-Benz reached over 1.6 billion impressions, a tremendous success.
To date BLAG is still owned and operated by Sally and Sarah. After the success of their latest coffee table edition starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace – for which Sally and Sarah took yet another unorthodox route, bringing Tom and Noomi, two of Hollywood’s hottest stars to cult East London record store Rough Trade for a BLAG signing – hitting mainstream media headlines. BLAG continue their 20th Anniversary celebration with a brand new interactive app, loaded with content from cutting edge artists like Tom, Noomi, Questlove of The Roots and Chuck D of Public Enemy.
BLAG covers include: André 3000, 50 Cent, Beastie Boys, Adrien Brody, Cillian Murphy, Nelly Furtado, OutKast, Kasabian, James McAvoy, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, N*E*R*D, Rupert Grint, Franz Ferdinand, Julian Casablancas, Miike Snow, Slash, Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace. Features have included Daft Punk, The Raconteurs, Amy Winehouse, Joseph Fiennes, Justice, MGMT, Malin Akerman, Ron English, Jeremy Renner, Andrew Garfield and Aaron Taylor Johnson.