What’s inside Tom Ford’s black little box is as exciting as the box itself–and every bit as baffling. Slide open the lid of this edition and there is a photographer’s light box with 24 transparencies. A row of batteries is covered by a layer of foam with a light switch at one end.

Ford originally wanted the theme of his issue to be the future (perhaps a subliminal explanation for the coffin design). but then opted for an edition based around light. But the real surprise is the slides themselves–they are not fashion pictures at all, though the line-up of contributors includes the British designer Alexander McQueen, and the photographers Mario Testino, Luis Sanchis and Nick Knight. Sanchis has photographed a model, but she is naked–it is a bald, frank image. McQueen has photographed a penis at the moment of ejaculation–and has then sat back to enjoy the guessing game as to whose member it might be. Testino’s contribution is an abstract spirograph-type image, created in collaboration with the laser and hologram artist Chris Levine, who projected liquid-laser forms on to the audience during Lainey Keogh show two seasons ago.

Most of the other contributors have been drawn from the art world. One is an architect–Toyo Ito, the man who would transform Tokyo into a light-filled technological wonderland. (Ford originally trained as an architect but grew tired of finding intellectual explanations for the color of a door.) Another contributor, also Japanese, is an animator–Haya Miyazaki, the creator of Princess Mononoke, an animated film that has been a huge hit in Japan. Miyazaki’s transparency is a still from that film. “We fell in love with the image, it’s just so cute,” says Cecilia Dean, one of Visionaire’s three editors, with a refreshing lack of jargon.
It was, says Dean, Ford’s idea to move away from fashion: “We had a meeting with Tom and he was very adamant about not doing anything fashion-related, which for us was refreshing. We were a little surprised but happy.”

Instead, Ford began talking about what might be termed virtual lifestyle concepts. “He loves the idea of the future and things that don’t quite exist yet–say you push a button and a chair forms, then the chair disappears when you don’t need it any more.” It’s a wonderful idea and surely the ultimate in minimalist furniture design–but, sadly, even Gucci’s costumer’s can’t obtain one yet.
In the end, Ford and the editors abandoned the idea because, Dean says, “as far as visuals are concerned, it was just too conceptual.” Dean is in no way a snob. When I admit that I know little about some of the contributors, she says: “Entering the art world was a little new for us as well, so it was an education. They are all well-respected artists, but a lot of them are still very young.”

The New York artist Alyson Shotz, 24, was recommended by Paul Morris, an art dealer. By chance, Shotz’s work in progress turned out to focus on light, with an image of a man in a mirrored suit. Other contributors include Jane and Louise Wilson, the British artists known for their video installations: Peter Saville, who made his name with his punk graphics, featured on album covers in the seventies and eighty: and the Dutch photographer Inez Van Lamsweerde.

Which brings us to Alexander McQueen and his unprintable contribution. Everyone at Visionaire was clearly delighted with it. “We liked the idea of including a designer, and Tom likes McQueen,” says Dean. “He didn’t tell us what he was up to, he just sent it along. We really liked it, and sent it on to Tom, and he really liked it.” It would seem gauche to suggest that it is just a teeny bit revolting.