In addition to the many magazines we’ve already mentioned, one of the biggest influences on Coilhouse was Skin Two, the legendary UK fetish mag that’s been around since 1984. Skin Two and the print version of Coilhouse actually share quite a few contributors. David Hindley, who shot the “All Yesterday’s Parties” story in Issue 01, also shot the cover of SK2’s Issue 42 (see below, bottom left). And Nelly Recchia, who appeared in Issue 01’s “People as Pets,” is actually an artist I first discovered in SK2 Issue 51. Other SK2 alums found in Coilhouse Issue 01 include Scar, Atsuko Kudo and Mother of London. Issue 01’s inside cover, conceived by Mildred, was a direct nod to Skin Two’s influence.
And now, the undeniable truth is out: Skin Two is folding. Everyone who’s been following the mag saw this coming from a mile away. Since Skin Two hasn’t brought itself to make a formal announcement, here’s their former editor, Tony Mitchell, spilling the beans (perhaps with a bit of glee) on his blog:
Skin Two magazine is ceasing publication. Information posted on the skintwo.com website states that a new product, the Skin Two Yearbook, is taking over from the legendary fetish journal. Speculation about the impending demise of the magazine was sparked two weeks ago by an e-mail revealing that Liz Tray, its only full-time employee, was leaving the company. Something about the low-key style of this announcement suggested that a bigger story might be about to break. Then, at the end of October, it became evident that all references to advertising in Skin Two magazine had been removed from the Skin Two website. The ‘advertising’ link from the main navigation menu leads to a page that lists all the Skin Two products in which advertising can be bought — and Skin Two magazine is no longer on that list.
Will the current issue 59 be the last, or will the mag carry on to notch up a full 60 editions — or more — before closing? And when will the first Yearbook actually appear? In familiar Skin Two style, no publication date has been given, though blurb on the website refers to it as if it is already in print.
Skin Two was the first truly alt magazine I ever stumbled on, at age 13 (for the fashion, at first), and it inspired me in ways I can’t even count. I still get inspired for Coilhouse, looking at my stack of old Skin Two’s. Having eventually worked with Skin Two, I got to experience the best and worst of it. At its best, this magazine was beautiful, subversive, sexy and strange. At its worst, it was sleazy, tacky and boring. What killed Skin Two? Could anything have saved it? A completely arbitrary, incomplete, biased and NSFW history of Skin Two (with pictures of my favorite and not-so-favorite covers!), after the jump.
Issue 01. The first issue of Skin Two appeared in 1984. Published out of a cellar in Soho, Issue 01 of Skin Two was only 16 pages, black and white, and stapled together. The founders were publisher Tim Woodward and photographer Grace Lau.
Issues 05, 06. By Issue 05 (left), Skin Two had developed its signature look. The logo became large and bold, and two slashes (nail scratches? highlights on a glossy fabric?) were added over the name. This is still Skin Two’s logo today. Three inks on the cover indicate that the magazine was on a budget, but the cover photography was already very classy (er, most of the time.) The tone was very serious, with cover titles like “Sadomasochism and Society.”
Issues 11, 13. The Golden Age of Skin Two. Striking images on clean, white backgrounds, with a diverse and very interesting set of articles and contributors. During this era, under spunky editrix Michelle Olley, Skin Two interviewed fetish influences as diverse as Clive Barker, Tim Burton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Debbie Harry and The Cramps. Sex machines, virtual reality, and pop art are just some of the topics covered.
Issues 27, 16. Skin Two continues to be awesome, all through the 90s. Editor Tony Mitchell enters the mix, eventually replacing Michelle Olley. Music coverage continues to be interesting – highlights include Genitortures, Diamanda Galas and Marc Almond. Most importantly, the magazine is not afraid to feature weird-looking people who genuinely represent the London fetish scene. Covers are loud, proud and in-your-face. The magazine is one giant, pervy comic book.
Issues 49, 51. Uh-oh, what’s going on? Porno-looking girls start to rule the covers in the early aughts. Despite claims of striving towards becoming the Vogue of latex, most of the time Skin Two ends up looking more like Hustler. Emily Marilyn (blond, fake boobs), Masuimi Max (blond, fake boobs), Zdenka Podkova (blond, fake boobs), Bianca Beauchamp (red hair, fake boobs), and Susan Wayland (blond, fake boobs) have their heyday as fetish cover girls. Did the tastes of the editors change, or was Skin Two simply trying to keep up with competition? Skin Two still featured playful, alt-y stuff like the work of TvdS and Lukas Zpira, but that was no longer the main focus. I don’t know who picked the hideous, trying-too-hard-to-be-sexy covers. Some people told me that every bad cover was publisher’s decision, others told me the opposite, that it was the editor. I’m sure there were good and bad covers under both. Issue 47 by Stephen McClure was the last great cover before the the silicone appeared, and remains one of my favorite covers of any magazine; not just Skin Two.
Issue 50. My first photo appeared in Issue 49, and I got the cover of Issue 50. When advising me on what images to submit for fashion editorials, Tony suggested that I don’t send in any models with facial piercings or strange-colored hair. I was crushed by this directive. Despite that… they decided to use this image! Tony encouraged me all the way when I did this, coaching me on what makes a strong cover (eye contact! bold colors! a total revelation to me at the time) before I did the shoot. It was all was a huge surprise to me after the discouraging talk about picking “normal” models. The model/hairpiece designer was Feisty Diva, and the outfit was HW Design. I actually hated this photo for a long time (all I saw were my mistakes, like bad composition and overexposure), but I’m finally warming up to it.
Issue 55. Very soon afterward, they did this – my least favorite Skin Two cover of all time. Seriously, why are they throwing Skittles at her? No disrespect to Gerard Musy, who’s shot many incredible images before and since, but… what’s going on here? Why?
Issues 56, 57. Year 2006. The original publisher, Tim Woodward, ousts long-time editor Tony Mitchell. The split is ugly; the two do not part on good terms. Issue 56, right, features the last writing Mitchell ever did for Skin Two. Woodward promises readers a more serious, back-to-basics fetish journal; more of an emphasis on BDSM and serious writing, less focus on pinup, fashion and “pretty girls in rubber frocks,” something he claimed was an obsession of Tony’s. As a result of the decreased fashion coverage, several fashion advertisers leave. The cult of the fetish model is banished; the Skin Two cover girl hasn’t looked this anonymous since the magazine’s earliest days. The articles sound interesting, but the magazine still lacks the wild, spontaneous luster of the 90s. Magazines begin appearing at a less frequent, less regular rate.
To me, the new emphasis on heady articles and the attempt to reinstate abstract, artistic covers of Ye Olde Skin Two was refreshing. But I never got involved with this new Skin Two; Tony was the one who brought me into the magazine, and when he left, I didn’t feel right staying involved. I didn’t even feel right buying a copy. And then there was this…
Issue 59. And so it ends – in a grey alley. What happened, Skin Two? If you wanted to make your magazine less “pretty” and more BDSM, why did you let this girl wander off the set for GQ and end up in your frame? Was the quality of this photo meant to be an homage to your early, low-budget covers? How did you get here?
In the end, I don’t think it was Tony’s fault, or Tim’s fault. Maybe the problem was having two people with very different definitions of “fetish” constantly vying for what the magazine should stand for, swinging the title back and forth until readers got dizzy. Or maybe the Internet killed it; maybe the magazine’s most important function was fostering a sense of community among pervs, something that’s much easier facilitated online. If that’s the case, the magazine should’ve become a fetish object itself in terms of the quality of photography and design. Easier said than done, I know.