August 28 2014

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Anja Rubik: Let’s Talk About Sex


It may not come as a surprise to those who have seen her work gravity-defying wonders in an Anthony Vaccarello gown slit just about to her sternum, but Anja Rubik isn’t shy about sex or sexuality. And now, with her relaunch of 25 Magazine, she’s creating a forum to talk about it.

Rubik has been involved with the magazine since 2009, when she and then-boyfriend (now-husband) Sasha Knezevic signed on to work on the Viennese title, but she’s since taken full editorial control and rebranded the glossy in the image of Viva, the Bob Guccione-published erotica mag targeted at women, which ran from 1973 through the end of the decade. But mere smut it isn’t; the new issue, shot entirely by women, features photos by Inez van Lamsweerde, Annie Leibovitz, Ellen von Unwerth, and Paola Kudacki, whose “Heroes of 25″ series is pictured above.

Calling in from her native Poland—between shooting in London and jetting off to Cannes, where on Wednesday she’ll launch the magazine with a party at Pierre Cardin’s manse Palais Bulles—Rubik spoke with about sex versus sensuality, men versus women, and the lessons she’s learned as a newly minted editor. Key among them: Don’t fear the nipple.

Tell me about the vision for 25.
I had the idea because I really loved the magazine Viva from the seventies, which was a Penthouse publication for women. I loved the vision of it, and that was what formed the inspiration for me. 25 is basically directed toward very strong-minded, ambitious women, who are very comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. I was thinking a lot recently and looking how sex is approached nowadays, and nudity, and bodies. Erotica kind of disappeared. The way we approach sex is either really prude or very vulgar.

What will be in the new issue?
Every picture that’s in the magazine is shot by a woman. We have incredible photographers, like Inez [van Lamsweerde], Emma Summerton, and Katja Rahlwes. Annie Leibovitz donated pictures. Ellen von Unwerth. Basically, the magazine consists of beautiful images. It’s less of a magazine, more of an album. And in general, 25 is more than the magazine. We were trying to create an identity, to do a lot of projects connected to it. We’re doing one with Net-a-Porter that will launch quite soon. We did a video with Barnaby Roper and Kanye West that will launch at Colette. It’s a whole lifestyle, a whole vision.

Were there editors you looked to for inspiration or advice? Or other magazines?
I had a lot of references from past magazines, and Viva was the very big inspiration. [But also] Playboy from the seventies, Penthouse from the seventies. And of course editors, yes, Carine [Roitfeld] was a big inspiration as well. Fabien Baron is incredible; I think he has an incredible vision, so clean and minimalistic, that influenced the magazine as well. But I didn’t want it to be too clean on the other hand, because the inspiration was the seventies, and the magazines in the seventies are very far from that. It was a bit of a struggle. And I don’t want it to be taken too seriously. There’s a lot in it that has a sense of humor, a wink.

Do you think men and women approach sex differently?
I think it’s definitely different. In general, I think women approach it in a more sensual way, and a more personal way than a man. A man looks at it and thinks is it sexy or not. A woman will look at every little detail and more of the feeling of the image rather than is the girl sexy. For a woman to take a sexy picture, it takes way more than for a man.

Has your perspective on sex changed over the years?
No, not at all. I think sex is something really fun, and the more you speak about it, and people are open about it, the healthier it is. Any closure or keeping it secretive creates a lot of problems. [But sex] changes throughout the years as the position of women changes. Women are becoming more powerful, and they have a completely different position in society than back in the day—and also in sex. They can do what they want, instead of what’s expected of them. More and more women are starting to enjoy sex. And not so long ago, the approach to sex changed. In the late sixties and seventies, the approach was light and free and happy—soft, in a way. In the eighties, it became very intense, and at the end of the eighties it got very dangerous, with AIDS spreading. It changes throughout the years. But I really miss the approach of the sixties and the seventies.

You’ve traveled the world as a model. Do you see differences in the way people approach sex country to country?
Of course, I witnessed it. Even in the States, the approach is very different from Europe. Here, in Poland, women are still liberating themselves. In Poland if you’re not married after you’re 30, it’s frowned upon, or if you earn more than your husband, it’s an issue. In the States, it’s way more forward. What I don’t understand about the States, is that you have such strong images, very vulgar ones, on the covers of men’s magazines, and just because the girl is wearing a bikini and she’s in a very vulgar and very provocative pose, it’s fine. But if you show a nipple in a very beautiful and sensual way, people are very shocked. I find it very funny. Everyone has a nipple. In Europe, a nipple is fine. But the whole drama of the nipple in the States, it’s funny.

With all this talk of tastefully revealed nipples, I just want to check—there’s clothing in this magazine, right?
It’s all nude! No, I’m just kidding. It’s mainly a fashion magazine, but with an erotic twist. I think it’s balanced quite well. There’s a lot of fashion. The stylists had a lot of liberty to play around with clothes, and there was no list of credits they had to follow or anything like that.

Is there advertising?
We refused to have advertising in the first issues. We had a few offers, and I was very excited about them, but since we’re still developing the image and what the magazine should look like, we were scared to take advertising straight on; we wanted to keep it very clean. It’s 300 pages, but no advertising. It’s pretty full on.

You’ve been in just about every magazine on earth, but except for a photo that accompanies your editor’s letter, you don’t appear in this one. Why?
First of all, I thought it would be very difficult for me to be the creative director and the model, especially for the first issue. Second of all, I would hate to edit my pictures. It would be very difficult for me, because I like pictures of myself where I look strange and weird, not the most beautiful ones. Third of all, I thought it would look slightly narcissistic of me to do a magazine and put myself [in]—it would be too much of me. I did speak to Inez and she was convincing me that I should be on the cover but I did think it would be a little bit too much. Since it’s a very new project for me, I would lack the kind of distance to see whether it’s good or bad, because it’s also me.

Were you involved with casting the models?
A lot of the girls in the magazines are my good friends, and they were very supportive. All the teasers, Abbey [Lee Kershaw] did—I think she’s a very typical 25 inspiration girl.

How did it feel to be on the other side of the casting table for a change?
It felt good. [Laughs] I understood the importance of the right girl for the right story. Before I wasn’t quite aware how important that was. Now I really understand.

What does the name 25 mean to you?
It’s the new 69! It’s the woman version of 69. I’m into numerology, and it’s a very powerful.

Photo: Paola Kudacki / Courtesy of 25