It’s been five years since Katie Grand put a naked Beth Ditto on the first cover of Love magazine. “I had a lot to prove,” said the editor in chief of her early days at the publication. Now, after a slew of infamous stars (Kate Moss, Lea T, and Justin Bieber among them), Grand has selected a less likely face for her tenth issue—Minnie Mouse. “I wanted to do something that was sweet and charming, and Minnie was quite easy to understand,” she explained. Dubbed the Sweetie Issue, the Fall ’13 edition also features Mert & Marcus-lensed covers with Edie Campbell, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Chiharu Okunugi, and Cara Delevingne—each of whom don custom mouse ears by Gucci, Loewe, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu, or Jake and Dinos Chapman for Louis Vuitton. Inside, Miuccia Prada makes her modeling debut, Tim Walker snaps a lion, and Marc Jacobs interviews Jessica Lange. Just before running into Jacobs’ Paris studio, Grand called Style.com to talk kitsch, her demanding persona, and Delevingne’s shoot, which the model did on no sleep and sans makeup.
You’ve had everyone from Beth Ditto to Kate Moss to Lea T on your cover. Which has been most significant for you?
From the minute I started talking to Condé Nast about working together, I knew that I wanted Beth on our first cover. I just didn’t really care about what anyone said. When Beth, who had never met Mert & Marcus, arrived at the Chateau Marmont, where we were photographing, she ran in completely naked and said, “I’m here!” And I was like, “Yeah, good for you. You are everything that I want you to be.” She was perfect for that project.
Cara Delevingne, who has become sort of a Love fixture, is on one of the Fall ’13 covers. What draws you to Cara, and what makes her such a sensation at the moment?
I think she is a really nice, very sweet girl. She will travel across the Atlantic to do anything for me. I love that for this shoot, she actually hadn’t been to bed. It was the day after her DKNY party, so I was a little nervous about having booked her. I just thought, Oh, my God, this poor thing, she’s got to have this massive party, and then she has to come to work for the cover. Usually you don’t see Cara for the first couple hours of a shoot because she has very cleverly hidden herself under a table to sleep somewhere. But this time, we managed to get her hair done, and then we immediately pulled her in front of the camera without makeup. She literally didn’t even have base on, she hasn’t been to bed, and, you know, that’s a thing that you can do when you’re 21. And it’s great.
It sounds like Miuccia had a tough act to follow. What was it like working with Ms. Prada as a model?
Oh, Miuccia was just amazing. We had three full-day meetings before the shoot. I’ve photographed her a few times, and it always makes me super nervous because I know her really well, and normally, she’ll give you this “I’m bored” look, which is understandable because she’s not a model. This time there was nothing but complete understanding for what we were doing. We shot it like a film still, and she had the patience of a saint.
You often embrace high fashion with a wink and a smile. How important is that English sense of kitsch to Love‘s appeal?
I think I go in and out of liking kitsch. Sometimes I just want things to be gorgeous or beautiful, and I think when you do something like putting a TV star, like the girls from Downton [Abbey], on your cover, you have to turn them into high fashion icons. Minnie is kind of different because I wanted it to be super Pop-y. Obviously I was inspired by the Miu Miu collection when we worked on these covers, and I think there was something sort of Pop about that collection.
You have a rather specific group of people that you work with at Love, like Mert & Marcus, Cara, Tim Walker, Kate Moss, et al. How do you decide who gets to join the Love family?
That’s tricky. It usually comes down to people who I like, and I think we all have a common goal. We are not working with a massive budget; we have a very high standard. When people work with us, they have to want to push that extra mile to get something unique and interesting and amazing. I’m not always the easiest person to work with—my reputation kind of goes before me.
Do you feel that you have achieved what you set out to do five years ago? And what are you hoping to achieve in the next five years?
I think we are doing a magazine with an amazing, worldwide readership. At the moment, I couldn’t ask for more. I just hope that in ten years, we’re still interesting.