Late last year after becoming "the world's youngest editor-in-chief," Elise By Olsen stepped down from Recens, the youth-oriented fashion magazine she founded at just 13. In what By Olsen describes as a "very conscious choice to make space for a new generation of creative kids,” the now 18-year-old editor told Highsnobiety "If I'm no longer a minor, I didn't feel that I was suitable for that position anymore."
But of course, anyone whose career began when most of us were busy doing homework was never going to be idle long. Alongside co-founders Felicia Granath, Morteza Vaseghi and Geir Haraldeseth, By Olsen has now launched a new magazine, dedicated to creating a critical dialogue within the fashion industry.
Called Wallet, the first issue features interviews with COMME des GARÇONS' Adrian Joffe, colette founder Sarah Andelman and Jefferson Hack, the CEO and co-founder of Dazed. Alongside the interviews — which include questions like "How do you stay relevant" and "Who gains from your influence of power as CEO, except from you?" — the magazine features an editorial section where younger creatives like Eckhaus Latta, Wali Mohammed Barrech, and DIS, each of whom has complete control over a single page.
The very shape of the magazine is attempting to get readers to think critically about their everyday choices. The intro to the magazine, which itself is shaped like an oversized wallet, describes a wallet as “a symbol of capitalist values."
It reads "your Wallet is a reflection of who you are in the environment you live in. And if you don’t have one, you are either too rich or too poor." The unconventional shape is drawing parallels between daily capitalist choices and the sort of conversation taking place in Wallet, but it also aims to make the magazine more accessible and mobile. By Olsen explains that "people claim that they don't buy print anymore because it's inconvenient, so I tried to make a very convenient forum.”
We caught up with the editor to find out more about Wallet, how living in Oslo affects her work, and what it was like interviewing such iconic figures in the fashion industry.
What made you decide to start another magazine?
"It started with this idea that I had about redeeming fashion journalism, I felt that it was in such a poor state for a very long time.
In fashion there's been a lot of branded content and a lot of content with commercial interest, I thought that it was important to introduce critical thinking to my readers."
The first issue is called Admins of Authority, why did you choose to give a voice to authority figures instead of underrepresented artists?
"I think it's important to understand that the people we have featured, Adrian, Sarah and Jefferson Hack, we chose them as representatives or symbols for their positions — they're buyers, they're editors, they’re founders.
These are really powerful positions, so it's not to give them a space, but instead to use them as a symbol to question their power, question traditional power and try to figure out who actually does have power.
What was interesting is that all three of them denied that they had power in the industry. It's really a symbol of power when you have to deny your power in order to come across as humble — which really doesn't come across as humble."
How did you manage to get interviews with such huge figures in the industry?
"I got the interview with Sarah first, last May. That was before colette was even thought of closing, and it was interesting because I was asking her questions about colette's relevance and she was being kind of secretive about it.
I think that when she accepted to do the interview she was like "oh this is nice for me because I'll get young readers and a young audience." She probably thought of me as a reporter from the school newspaper, because she was really shocked when I started asking really harsh questions.
But that's really how it works, you get one name and then all the other names kind of follow."
To go back to “redeeming fashion journalism” and commercial content, how do the adverts feature in the magazine?
"We have this pretty nice feature called analog ad block, which basically enables the reader to choose whether or not they want to have the advertisement in the magazine or not. All the ads have this perforation, so you can literally rip out and throw away the advertisement.
To the advertisers, we were just like, ‘oh this is great for you because the readers will interact with your ad and they will put it up on their wall as a poster.’ To our readers, we're like ‘tear it out and throw it away.’"
I think it's really interesting that you've missed the Golden Age of print, but you've made two physical magazines. What attracts you to it?
"I'm born into the digital generation, we didn't even have newspapers at home when I grew up. It's kind of strange, I guess that's why I'm interested in print because it's very exclusive, it's something I was very curious about."
In our previous interview with you, you mentioned that you don't really believe in going to university for creative degrees. Do you still think that?
"A lot of stuff happened since then, I'm lecturing now, I'm teaching. I didn't finish high school because because I was traveling too much and it wasn't possible logistically for me to finish it."
Where are you lecturing?
"At universities all over the world, like fashion and business schools mostly. Here [in Oslo], in London, New York and Montreal. I also do a lot of lectures with brands and brand consulting, all that stuff that you have to do to make money."
Has being involved in the academic system, has it changed your mind about going to University?
"I still would never study a creative subject. I would study something academic though. Like be a doctor or something, but I wouldn't study publishing or media."
I think it's really interesting that you're so successful and you don't live in any of the fashion capitals. Do you have advice for people who want to break into the industry but who live somewhere that doesn’t have a fashion industry?
"I think it's an advantage. In these digital times, you can practically be based anywhere and use your computer and your online network and make friends online. That's what I did from such an early age.
Remember, Recens was around 500 young people each sitting in their own bedrooms around the world and they were all creating stuff behind their screens — we took them from behind their screens and into the global conversation."
Wallet Magazine issue one is out now in selected stores.
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