Fantastic Man #36*
‘What is there new to say about Fantastic Man?’ I hear you ask. To which the answer is, that despite its success—it’s established a central position on the indie scene over its 17 years to date—its makers refuse to sit on their laurels. They regularly reinvent what they’re doing, and they’ve done that again here.
The magazine has always been fashion-adjacent, but it’s never seemed right to add it to the fashion shelf here at our Shop. Fashion has been just one part of its agenda—until now. Issue 36 is their first menswear special, its pages packed with models and clothes.
But don’t expect a pure-play fashion mag. These 272 pages are presented with Fantastic Man’s customary wit and quirk, avoiding the earnestness of so much fashion coverage while still taking it seriously. There is little doubt the team love their menswear, to the extent that they avoid the blurry impressionism of so many fashion shoots in favour of a more catalogue-like presentation.
Several major interviews include designers from two extremes of fame: one the the legendary French figure Jean Paul Gaultier (above), another the exciting newcomer Kiko Kostadinov (below).
These set a respectful tone for the issue, a context for a pair of lengthy fashion stories that let the editors get to catalogue some menswear.
First, photographer Hans Aijkelboom surveys the streets of Amsterdam, compiling 12-image sets of similarly attired men (above). Shot in natural style, each set feels like a catalogue of the various themes: rugby shirts, hoodies and topless mix with crazy double jumpers, coloured suspenders and ties.
The result is an easily comparable overview of looks that also has some light touches—the 12 men in rubgy shirts each carry a different issue of Fantastic Man, for instance (above). It’s difficult to make styled shots look natural but these repeated grids of street images manage it.
Secondly there’s the vast ‘Clothes for men’ story that takes up the back 100 pages of the issue. Split into eight clothing categories (such as jumpers, coats above, belts and in a nod to Gaultier, men’s skirts), each one is shot and styled by a different pair of contributors. Again, the images are well-defined, and if not exactly catalogue-like, the use of the international Harmonisation Codes for each type of garment applies a prosaic sense of function and logic (below).
Harmonisation Codes? These are an internationally agreed series of ten digit numbers applied to every tradable item. To give a couple of examples from the maagzine’s credit list of every item included in the shoot: ‘Overcoats of cotton, exceeding a weight 1kg per garment’ are represented by 6201309019. And ‘Paper with one side measuring 297mm and the other side measuring 201mm’ by 4802562000 (for the record, the code for ‘Newspapers, journals and periodicals, whether or not illustrated or containing advertising material’—ie ‘magazines—is 4902900000).
The design of the issue will be familiar to anyone that’s seen recent issues of Fantastic Man, but the flatplan and running order has been adjusted to suit the photo-orientated content. It’s this ability to stretch beyond a familiar, standardised format that continues to excite me about Fantastic Man, and means it’s our Magazine of the Month for October.
Editor-in-chief Gert Jonkers
Editor and creative director Jop van Bennekom