December 2010 saw Marquis, one of the fetish scene’s favourite magazines, reach its 50th issue, the cover graced with a specially-shot image of Dita Von Teese, whose association with the title goes back some 15 years.
Fifty issues is no small milestone for a fetish magazine, especially in today’s internet-dominated market.
But the achievement of publisher Peter Czernich looks even more impressive when you consider that Marquis is actually the third incarnation of a publishing vision that, from its origins, has produced, in total, more like 80 issues — as well as numerous spin-offs.
Coming from an advertising agency background, Peter Czernich began his career in fetish publishing as the German franchisee of London’s Skin Two magazine. He launched Skin Two Germany in 1987 with German-language content wrapped around the first Ectomorph catalogue, which featured photography by Trevor Watson.
Seven issues were produced before the licence from Skin Two ended in 1989, at which point Peter relaunched his baby as <O> magazine, published in German and English.
Over the next half-decade <O> developed a style of vivid fetish fantasy and glamour imagery that is still, to this day, very much evident in Marquis, its stablemate Heavy Rubber magazine, and the numerous other creative activities of the Marquis empire.
<O> featured the work of well-known European and international fetish photographers, but also showcased its publisher’s own photography. Completely self-taught, Czernich the fetish photographer is now as admired as many of the big names he idolised in earlier times.
Between 1989 and ’94, Peter’s company Techcom GmbH published 23 issues of <O>, reaching a peak frequency of six issues a year. But in 1994 a coup d’état by his then business partner separated Czernich from ownership of his magazine, and Techcom went into liquidation.
With help from friends, however, he was soon able to return to fetish publishing, and to continue pursuing his vision through the medium of a new magazine.
And just as <O> had been a reference to SM novel Story of O, so the title he chose for his new project was also an SM literary reference… to the Marquis de Sade.
Knowing the title’s French origins can help you avoid the mispronunciations it seems prone to. It’s neither Markeez nor Markwiss, whatever some would have you believe!
Now in its 17th business year, the Marquis empire is run jointly by Peter, who takes care of the creative side, and his wife Bianca, former model and actress, who looks after the business side.
Just as <O> was a reference to SM novel Story of O, the title of the new magazine was also an SM literary reference – to the Marquis de Sade
However, while Czernich remains chief editor, actual day-to-day editing of Marquis has been in the capable hands of journalist Sandra Würdig for quite some time.
From the very first issue, Marquis has focused on the fashion and lifestyle aspects of fetishism, with lavish photo productions of up to 16 pages dedicated to designers or models becoming its trademark.
Aware that no magazine with a quarterly frequency can compete with the internet on up-to-the-minute news or event listings, Czernich directs Marquis towards the things that he believes print can still do well.
“We try to give people what the internet cannot provide,” he says. And for him, that means “a selection, made by experts who’ve been part of the scene for decades, filtering out the relevant and lasting, the highest quality in photo, modelling and fashion design, story-writing and illustration.
“Things that are worth presenting in the best printing quality to be collected and to last for a long time.”
But of course it isn’t just the internet that provides competition for this long established publication. Recent years have seen the arrival of two new glossy magazines, both launched with considerable bravado and seemingly determined to grab a slice of Marquis’ traditional readership.
In 2006, from offices in Dortmund, Gunter Gaudl launched Fet-X magazine, initially as a German-language-only title aiming to offer a domestic alternative to Marquis.
But Fet-X also had its sights set from the start on the English language market dominated by Marquis and its old rival Skin Two, and after a couple of false starts, arrangements for an English edition are now complete.
However, the appearance of US magazine Von Gutenberg may be of more immediate concern in Solingen. The magazine is the flagship of a new own-brand fetish empire fashioned in Oakland, California by Erik von Gutenberg — the man previously responsible for running Marquis’ US arm, Marquis America.
The result of von Guttenberg going it alone is that Marquis has not only lost a collaborator in the important US market but has also gained a competitor. But for how long?
It’s enormously risky for anyone to start a new fetish glossy in the current climate. While it’s evident that new niche publishing ventures can sometimes be successful despite overall decline in the demand for print, launching into a niche market that is itself in decline does show an enormous degree of faith.
For a long time now, the biggest problem for glossy fetish magazine publishers has been generating enough money from each issue to pay the printer to print the next one. It’s a concern that is readily acknowledge at Marquis, where they say it’s the loyal subscribers that keep the business going.
“Only with a firm base of subscribers can we manage the extremely high risk of putting all our money into the next print run, each time,” says Bianca.
Dita Von Teese first shot with Peter in 1995, but even after her rise to international stardom as a burlesque artist, she still kept in touch
Needless to say, therefore, they encourage people to get their regular fix of Marquis on subscription, and thereby save money on the individual purchase price.
Being able to put Dita Von Teese on the cover of issue 50 is quite a coup for the magazine. She first shot with Peter in 1995, and there were many more shoots between then and 2002, when she began to focus more on burlesque.
But, says the publisher, she kept in touch “even though her career took her soaring way above the fetish scene”, and the international burlesque star gave Marquis its issue 50 cover shoot as a present for old times’ sake.
The shoot was done during Dita’s short visit to London in November to perform at Erotica (see our separate event report), and we hear that Marquis’ designers are now working on stage outfits for one of her upcoming shows.
Coincidentally, another big hit at Erotica was The Fetishistas’ December cover star, kinky contortionist Zlata, who made her UK stage debut as part of the Torture Garden show. The bendy pose we chose for our cover originally appeared on the cover of Marquis No36.
Marquis No50 also celebrates many other popular models who have graced the magazine’s covers over the years, including Bianca Beauchamp, Sway, Masuimi Max, Darenzia and Emily Marilyn, plus photographers whose work is reckoned to be among the best on offer today.
Czernich certainly believes the fetish scene of today is a melting pot of all talents.
“The most creative people of all fields meet and co-operate to create the most amazing fashion design and imagery,” he contends. “It’s something the mainstream world has long noticed and been profiting from— see Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, or the big fashion labels.”
The photos in our gallery represent a selection of images that will appear in Peter’s upcoming Best Of book, which is due out in Summer 2011.
“I’m down to 850 photos now out of roundabout 250,000 I have accumulated over the years,” he reveals. “In the end only 144 will fit into the book… tough job!”
Marquis issue 50 is out now, price €16. Dita fans may also like to know that Marquis has just published a 2011 Dita Von Teese calendar in 30x30cm (12x12in) format for €12.95, featuring 12 pictures of the fetish icon.
Apparently the calendar covers 16 months, so we’re thinking Marquis must know something about 2011 that the rest of us have yet to discover.
The photographs in our gallery are from a selection that will appear in Peter’s upcoming ‘Best Of’ book, due out in Summer 2011