Interview: Cheap Date
We meet Bay Garnett, co-creator of anti-fashion zine Cheap Date.
The Brits were always the best at indie mags— The Face, POP Magazine, iD — they know you don’t need a big budget to create something awesome. They also know that you don’t need a big budget to look good, which is why London became the capital for DIY fashion and vintage (before it was more expensive than buying new clothes).
Bay Garnett and Kira Joliffe launched Cheap Date in London in 1997 (it folded in 2005) and although they did move the mag to New York it never lost its low-fi sensibility. It also became a bible for people who wanted to look good for little cost —thrift-store style as it was known then, before vintage became a buzzword. Despite the all-star line-up of contributors — Craig McDean, Sophie Dahl and Anita Pallenberg — Garnett and Joliffe never took themselves too seriously. Two of my favourite coverlines were: "Cellulite Problem? Tough Shit!" and "B-Cum A Wally like Billy Joel". I’ve have been trying to track down old issues of Cheap Date on eBay, and felt inspired to approach Garnett about an interview. Turns out she has plans to relaunch the mag! We got the scoop right here.
Alice Cavanagh: Why did you decide to launch the magazine?
Bay Garnett: Well, why I was involved: it was about thrifting and independence. I found fashion magazines so elitist. Cheap Date was really just a part of who I was; there was nothing really contrived about it.
What was the essence of the magazine?
Independence, imagination, spirit, anarchy, wit, and kindness.
Who do you think your reader was?
I always liked the people who said they loved Cheap Date — they often seemed cool and nice. I'm not sure who the reader was, generally — not many! Our circulation was 4000.
What was the London fashion scene like then?
I don't know — I was thrifting. I had no clue about the fashion scene. I loved Katherine Hamnet and Boy London… More stuff like that.
How do you think it has changed?
It seems much more pulled together, confident and grown up. Big players.
Independent publishing can be such a challenge. Any horror stories?
Oh yes, I remember driving from New York City to Baltimore with the disc with all the work on it. It was a two-day drive and when we got there, the printer said that the files made no sense. It was a fine journey and we stopped at the White House.
What do you consider to be the magazine’s biggest coup whilst it was operating?
Tons of stuff: a drawing by Peter Blake that Kira got, a Chloe Sevigny pin-up. There were lots, actually — all the fake ads.
(Above) Fake ad by Craig McDean in Cheap Date.
Do you have a favourite issue?
My favourite issue is definitely the one with Sophie Dahl on the cover. Have you seen it? It’s got so much good stuff inside.
What about a favourite contributor?
I think Anita Pallenberg or Karen Elson.
Did you have a favourite shoot?
Yes, the fake ads with Craig McDean
How did you and Kira split your roles/work load?
So organic, really. She did her thing—she is so clever and original. I did my thing. We never allocated.
What was the greatest challenge?
Getting the good stuff first and then getting the money.
Why did you stop the magazine?
Kids, other work, life, I stopped thrifting nearly as much, but I'm ready for another issue now, as different as we are older. That just makes it more of a challenge and more interesting.
How has your life changed since then?
A lot. All good. I've been very lucky so far.
(Above) Karen Elson in Cheap Date.
Why have you decided to relaunch?
Well, it’s still a thought—it’s a long way off. One thing at a time. It just feels right… Something to do with energy.
The industry has changed so much—in particular, publishing. How will you adapt the magazine?
Website, for starters. Not sure of the rest.
What did you miss most when you were not working on the magazine?
Just having that buzz, having that voice, the fun of doing stuff myself, taking pictures, and hustling—you know, just being so into something. It’s such a pure and alive feeling.
Who do you hope your new reader will be?
Good question. I just don't know... People like us.