Photographer Catherine Losing and set designer Sarah Parker shot cult magazine Nova in a staged 1970s interior packed with mustard yellow, rose marble, exotic satsumas and chain loafers. The editorial shot for the new issue of Riposte is packed with disembodied, well-dressed and preened arms engaging with archive copies of the magazine which Catherine says she had known little about before the shoot: “[I] was really blown away by [Nova’s] content, even now it seems very risqué,” she says. The set design and “oyster” finish to the photography sets the tone for the feature brilliantly, communicating the atmosphere of the era when women were starting to battle between “blancmange news [and] how to crochet happiness” and Nova ’s approach to the front-page which included: “Adultery, Rape, Eroticism, Extortion—Another Jolly Christmas Issue!”
Describing her and Sarah’s intentions for the shoot, Catherine says: “We wanted to incorporate some of the graphic spreads and groundbreaking subject matter in an imaginary environment. Patricia Villirillo, who styled the shoot, used vintage designer pieces from her own collection and Cenci Vintage.” The editorial accompanies L.A Ronayne’s interview with Nova fashion editor Caroline Baker and art director Harri Peccinotti.
Here we publish an extract from L.A Ronayne’s feature for Riposte, part of her interview with Caroline Baker as well as exclusive photographs from Harri Peccinotti:
L.A Ronayne: How did you meet Molly Parkin?
Caroline Baker: I joined Nova magazine as assistant to Molly Parkin when she was given the design, home and architecture pages. [She] was a very frightening character to me—I had never met anyone like her before. I was really nervous the whole time and tried very hard to do everything she wanted. She was, and is, an amazing person with a flamboyant personality.
LA: What magazines were you reading at the time? CB: 19 and Honey were the mags of the day and the Daily Express had very good fashion pages aimed at us dolly birds. Which, being the end of the 60s, was what I was—a Twiggy clone!
LA: You’ve been cited as one of the inventors of “street style”. Tell me about your approach during the Nova days.
CB: Nova was not a fashion magazine. Fashion was a small part of it. That was its selling strength—a magazine for “intelligent” women. There was lots to read—political, topical—addressing all the issues that were going on at that time, more like a Sunday supplement.
When I was appointed fashion editor of Nova my brief from then editor Dennis Hackett was to approach fashion differently from Vogue and Queen , so my stories and inspiration came more from what was happening out there on the streets and not following the fashion trends that were coming from Paris. Paris at that time was the leader of fashion styles; Italian and American fashion was about to gain importance. I was more influenced by the hippies, the pop stars’ girlfriends, movies, anti-war marches, Che Guevara, ethnic dressing such as Moroccan, African or Japanese. Then the status quo: royalty, presidents’ wives, the ruling classes.
LA: How did the team go about putting an issue together and what was your personal process?
CB: We worked closely with the art director who would suggest photographers. And I got to work with some of the most exciting fashion photographers of the time. I would go off on my fantasy and fix it all up. I worked closely with photographers, asking them if they had some idea they wanted to work on and if we could afford it we did it. Money was always tight—no Condé Nast budgets!
LA: Tell me about a favourite project (or projects) you did for Nova .
CB: I was a little bit feminist in those days and hated the sexualisation of women—having to wear makeup, hairdos etc.—and I started to explore a more natural, tough woman as my model. I loved army surplus and any clothing that was not designed for women—menswear, waiters’ uniforms etc. And I said why not? Let’s wear it, who cares if it fits?
LA: Did you ever go too far?
CB: Nova was always wanting to be controversial and go too far, anything to bash the status quo, the stiff upper lip British aristo thing. It was all great fun. One of the most controversial stories I did that upset the advertisers was with furs. I shot furs on a model dressed as a tramp on the streets of London. There was a pram and dogs on string leashes with the model wearing fabulous, expensive furs.
We called it, “Every Tramp Should Have One”. The fur companies were major advertisers then and they withdrew their support.
LA: How did you feel about the 2000 Nova reboot?
CB: The new Nova was a fashion magazine, not a serious magazine like [the original] Nova had been, employing all the most controversial, outspoken, brilliant writers of the day. Fashion was only eight pages in it. Nova belonged to the times it thrived in and did not survive the recession. Women started to buy Cosmo , Elle , Marie Claire , which were all launched after Nova had started, in the mid-70s, I guess. Advertisers abandoned Nova for these new women’s mags. Times changed.