Elise By Olsen is a 16-year-old Norwegian student about to embark on her first year of high school. She hangs out with her friends and enjoys fashion and music, much like any other teenager out there. Sounds pretty normal, right? But Elise is way more than just another experimental teenager who enjoys hanging out: she is also the world’s youngest magazine editor.
Elise started her own youth-culture magazine at the age of 13 and quickly became a well-known name in the youth culture scene for her strong voice and her rebellious objection to the norms set by the fashion and beauty industry.
Her strong view and determination to offer something unique has paid off. Countless zines and coffee table magazines pop-up each year, and with the print media industry decreasing in sales, Olsen’s Recens has landed a place on the shelves of Tate Modern, Dover Street Market, 10 Corso Como, Palais de Tokyo, colette and Opening Ceremony.
We caught up with Olsen to discuss youth culture, age discrimination in the media and tips for becoming a young entrepreneur.
Editor's Note: No illegal photographs appear in this article. All nudity is strictly legal and features of-age models sourced from Recens magazine.
What made you want to start a magazine?
I founded Recens in 2013 when I was 13 because I felt there was a significant lack of inspiring and creative magazines for youth. The only other options were conventional magazines covering topics like celebrities, beauty products and puberty with a Disney-like approach. I felt like there was a need for younger voices to speak up and riot against the industry.
I wanted Recens to be a platform for talented people; a way for them to kickstart their careers, showcase their work and unite with like-minded people. Printing Recens was a conscious choice for me. Having a very young audience, I feel responsible for raising a whole generation. Bringing print back to young people—and delivering our creativity and values within a physical object—is an essential part of the mission.
What makes your magazine special?
Unlike other youth culture magazines, Recens is made by and for young people. We are reporting as insiders of youth environments and covering topics we find relevant. We actually know what’s moving within and influencing our generation.
What other magazines do you read?
I buy, like, 10 magazines a month, so it’s hard to decide. Every magazine has something to offer. 032c, Document Journal and System Magazine are great magazines for going in-depth about their subjects and reporting about the industry and its surroundings. Arena Homme, Self Service, TUSH and Double are probably my favorite high-end fashion magazines.
Re-Edition, Dust, Masses and Marfa are magazines run by relatively young and fresh-minded people, leading the whole industry forward, and those are my very favorites. Apart from that, I have whole collections of timeless Acne Paper, Tissue Paper and Space Magazine.
At what point in your relatively short career did you know that you'd made something stable and solid?
I feel like that every time someone from the industry wishes to work with the people who kickstarted their career by working with Recens, and whenever Recens is used as a talent-spotting resource.
Do you plan to study further at university?
No. I don’t believe in academic degrees for creative industries.
What other young creatives do you look up to?
I collaborate with all the amazing talent found inside Recens. Young photographers such as Tom Emmerson, Maria Pasenau and Walter Porter Pierce inspire me a lot.
Musicians like Tove Agellii (Toxe) and Ecco2k (Gravity Boys) are really cool and designers like Reese Cooper, Emil Wæde (Quisling) and Bror August Vestbø are also inspiring. My favorite models are Anna Brimma and Paul Hameline.
What obstacles have you encountered on the way?
Being young brings with it one obstacle in particular: the industry underestimates your knowledge and power. Young people carry knowledge and experiences that older generations don’t. Treating young creatives with the same respect as those who are older is extremely important.
Everyone’s capability should be judged according to how they deliver and their results, rather than their age. We are becoming borderless and genderless, and it’s time to work towards being ageless, too.
Do you think you’re ahead of the game? Or, at least, ahead of other people your age?
You tell me!
How do you envision the future of print magazines?
My generation of creatives disagrees with the predicted death of print. I think we want something substantial, something to keep us company and something predictable, which are key features of print publications. Physical, material objects you can emotionally connect with, smell, touch and study.
Independent magazines are the future, especially ones that explore and challenge the physical format itself. Print and online are two completely different mediums so the content needs to be adapted differently for each of them. It’s about exploiting each of them fully for what they are good for. Print and digital formats are not competing, but rather corroborating with each other.
Finally, could you share 5 tips for young entrepreneurs who might have a dream like you did?
The first step is to identify your goals, so that means structuring and planning out what you want to do and who you want to be. The second thing is to explore: you need to look at what is being done already, and then challenge it. Thirdly, you have to observe what's already going on by getting out there yourself and studying people, works and creative disciplines.
The fourth thing is you have to invent. You have fresh eyes and you represent a new generation, and you have the power to innovate, which is extremely valuable. So be conscious of what offers you accept and don’t let yourself be undervalued because of your lack of experience.
The final step is to share. Collaboration is key, so connect with like-minded people online. That's it: identify, explore, observe, invent and share!
On the topic of young people killing it in their fields, check out Desiigner's surprisingly coherent new mixtape.