Left to right: Sally A. Edwards & Sarah J. Edwards
zine, Music and Modelling
British Identical twins Sally A. Edwards and Sarah J. Edwards – two hungry art school students, with diner job wages and fake IDs in hand, set out on a journey to discover exciting new talents and introduce them in a handmade ‘zine they named BLAG. BLAG is good old British slang, meaning “to get things by way of clever talk” – and that’s exactly how the magazine came to be: blagging interviews and gigs and a lot of hard work.
Bolstered by numerous rave reviews in major style and quality titles who found its unique approach and voice refreshing, BLAG quickly captured a loyal and discerning audience. In their teens, Art & Graphic Design student, Sally and Fashion Design student, Sarah were also promoting shows under the BLAG banner, persuading some of London’s most buzzed about bands to come and perform in the music-starved pre-gentrified city in which they attended Art College.
A year later, with only £40 between them, Sally and Sarah moved to London to attend college and bring BLAG to a wider audience, they were hired on an ad-hoc basis by George Drakoulias’ American Recordings to scout for bands, who loved the ‘zine - an honour as Drakoulias was a major player in music having discovered Beastie Boys and LL Cool J. Still, in desperate need of money, Sally and Sarah left college and hastily signed with a modeling agency. Their first big casting was with hot designer Alexander McQueen, but they left shortly after arrival, having recognized some of the 90’s leading supermodels in the line – all of whom appeared a foot taller. This seemed to be the end of a short-lived professional modeling career.
No sooner had they left that industry they found themselves hired by competing music PR firms. Over the next 18 months, Sally worked her way up through the ranks to become Head of TV at the independent pluggers responsible for Britpop’s biggest exports Elastica among others. Sarah went from handling press for one of Britain’s most loved and loathed rock bands to taking care of the national press for massive US and UK acts such as Beastie Boys, Foo Fighters, Travis, Page & Plant and Public Enemy. Beastie Boys hired Sally independently for Television Plugging duties for their label Grand Royal. It was here, she was responsible for one of the most notorious performances on Later With Jools Holland taking the risk to push At The Drive In to them. She took on West Coast acts The Pharcyde and Souls fo Mischief too. After they had handled everyone else’s business, Sally and Sarah used their new connections to help market BLAG in their spare time, producing a run of BLAG t-shirts donned by some of their favorite artists while appearing on Top of the Pops, Reading Festival and various magazine covers.
Sally and Sarah exhausted their savings to fund the first glossy BLAG magazine. They arranged distribution through Time Out and filled 64 pages with witty, down-to-earth interviews of the up-and-coming music and entertainment they’d been privy to. BLAG magazine turned a lot of heads due to its unorthodox approach to editorial and publishing: ads didn’t dominate the front section and there were no cover lines, just honest, raw portraits of some of music’s brightest stars and unconventional, humorous features. Artists like GZA, The Pharcyde and The Roots’ ?uestlove cite BLAG magazine as one of the first publications to put them on a cover and give them long-form props. Sally and Sarah collaborated with award winning Yacht Associates (Blur) to design bright and bold pages that didn’t adhere to the conventions that other publications were clinging to. By the third glossy edition, orders had exceeded 30,000. Despite this incredible growth, advertisers were hesitant to play a part in something this rebellious.
Though they’d sworn off the modeling industry, Sarah and Sally participated in a few noteworthy shoots over the next few years: they were photographed by Rankin for Dazed & Confused, they appeared in German Vogue and Japanese GQ and were featured on the ubiquitous Placebo, Without You I’m Nothing album sleeve, shot by the late, great Corinne Day – who was responsible for bringing Kate Moss to British Vogue. These shoots inspired Sarah to develop her love of photography into something more professional and BLAG magazine became the perfect showcase for her talents.
Sally and Sarah were approached by cult art book publishers, Die Gestalten Verlag to create a BLAG book. They negotiated a small advance and free artistic reign for the deal. Joining forces again with Yacht Associates, they compiled a list of major and up-and-coming artists, featuring paintings, photography and illustrations juxtaposed with interviews with some of hip hop’s most notables. The cover featured Sarah’s now infamous photo of Redman.
Press reaction to the book was overwhelmingly positive: Nylon, Trace, The Times, Blueprint, Sleaze Nation, Echoes, Kiss FM and XFM all leant their support. Sally and Sarah arranged major launch parties in London and New York. London’s bill included an early performance by Slum Village while the New York party saw Public Enemy DJ and was attended by a wide spectrum of celebrities: from Pharrell Williams, Harold Hunter (RIP), Aaron LaCrate to Claire Danes and Adrien Brody.
Rather than rest on their laurels, Sally and Sarah began to experiment with DJing. Pulling from their extensive record collection, producing and DJing parties at exclusive clubs in both London and New York. They were also invited to perform at aftershow parties for high profile artists like Foo Fighters’ secret Kings Cross show, the Red Hot Chili Peppers for their Hyde Park – with James Brown – and Wembley Arena headlining shows, N*E*R*D with Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera for Y3’s debut launch at London Fashion Week, opening for DJ Jazzy Jeff at Diesel’s Notting Hill Carnival boat party and at Brixton Academy for Fun Lovin’ Criminals, which led to them being the bands full time London party DJs.
Writing, Photography and Film
During this time Sally not only assisted Hollywood stalwart, Cary Woods (Copland, Swingers, Scream and Godzilla) and rebel filmmaker, Harmony Korine (Kids), she also developed a reputation for writing, being hired to contribute major features for titles including i-D, Dutch, Detour, Flaunt, Frank and NME.COM. She interviewed Hollywood legend Dennis Hopper, up-and-comer Mos Def, OutKast and hot movie talents such as Drea DeNiro.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s photography was getting noticed and she was commissioned by titles including Rolling Stone, Vibe, Dazed & Confused, i-D and NME shooting the likes of John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Michael Stipe, Bono, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and The Hives.
Magazine, Website, Funding, Directing and Producing
blagmagazine.com was launched. Sally and Sarah took full advantage of the expedited publishing process of blogging, featuring yet undiscovered artists like Wiz Khalifa and Jaime Hayon shortly after finding them. Sarah was head hunted as a founding Editor at NME.COM, while Sally plucked BLAG’s INTRODUCING… section and created a one-off special magazine exclusively with Adidas. It became one of the first branded content pieces and she grew it into a much followed influential blog. As it became clear that online content was a force to be reckoned with, style magazines like Sleaze Nation and The Face closed their doors. Nevertheless, Sally and Sarah felt passionate that it was time to put BLAG magazine out on the street again. Assuming full time joint roles as Publisher/Editor/Writer and splitting the remaining duties – Sally as Design & Art Director and Sarah as Principle Photographer, the ladies bucked the normal approach to selling ads and instead pitched the idea of exclusive content creation funded by brands – in and outside the magazine and put out the first issue of BLAG Magazine Volume 2: a double-cover edition featuring André 3000 and 50 Cent. Inside, BLAG introduced Justin Theroux (Ironman 2, Mulholland Drive) and grilled Chuck D, The Neptunes’ Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, and Will.I.Am on world peace, threading editorial together with a lean on style.
Noting the opportunities of the partnership model, PlayStation helped to fund the next issue by giving BLAG creative control over four pages of content inspired by their infamous symbols. Woven into the magazine as an art / photography / essay piece, it featured alongside a huge long-form Beastie Boys feature. The new format was embraced by brands including Nokia, Motorola, Nike, Absolut, BlackBerry, Fila, Oakley and Mercedes Benz and the magazine grew to over 100 pages of improved paper stock.
BLAG covers include: André 3000, 50 Cent, Beastie Boys, Adrien Brody, Game, Cillian Murphy, Nelly Furtado, OutKast, Kasabian, James McAvoy, Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, N*E*R*D, Rupert Grint, Franz Ferdinand, Julian Casablancas, Miike Snow, Slash, Travis Fimmel, Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Les Twins and Joey Bada$$. Features have included Daft Punk, The Raconteurs, Amy Winehouse, Joseph Fiennes, Justice, MGMT, Phoenix, Malin Akerman, Ron English, Jeremy Renner, Andrew Garfield, Anthony Lister, Phil Frost, Aaron Taylor Johnson, Helen McCrory, Rizzle Kicks, TroyBoi, Kirk Knight, Azzi Glasser, Leigh Wannell and Undrtone.
BLAG Clothing Label
Sally and Sarah also created their own BLAG Label Apparel line of quality, art based, limited edition made-to-order t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies with actor / producer Tom Hardy exclusively via www.weareblag.com. Seeing the trio create unique pieces of art for each release. They also launched a high-end men’s collection BLAG Gold Label in Autumn 2014 exclusively at Selfridges’ flagship London store, successfully selling out entirely.
Writing and Directing
Always eager to expand their creative pallet, taking content off the page, Sally and Sarah began to experiment with commissioned video content, producing and directing documentaries with the likes of José Parlá, Futura 2000, WK Interact and Anthony Lister to writing, producing and directing Mercedes Benz first ever global music PR project. They are focusing on writing and directing with several projects in development.
The BLAG label is on hiatus as of February 2017.
BLAG Publishing & Television
From early spring 2017, Sally and Sarah are in production of BLAG Vol. 5, special publishing projects and developing a series of unscripted and scripted television shows.
To date the BLAG brand is still owned and operated by Sally A. Edwards and Sarah J. Edwards.
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