Editor Elise By Olsen tells us about the launch of her new magazine, Wallet
“Fashion journalism has been in an un-ideal state for a while” says Elise By Olsen who, at just 18, has recently resigned from her role as editor of Recens magazine – a title she’d held from the age of 13, when she founded the publication. By Olsen has no intention of resting on her laurels, though – as editor-in-chief of Wallet, her new pocket-sized publication, she intends to “recreate a new conscious through questioning and quizzing the people in power in fashion now,” she tells us.
Wallet, perhaps not surprisingly, is the size of an actual wallet, and By Olsen hopes that it will become just as indispensable. “A wallet is a part of one’s essentials, it’s highly personal and a symbol of capitalist values – your wallet is a reflection of who you are in the environment you live in,” she says. “We decided on the format before we decided on the name. We wanted it to be accessible and affordable, as well as easy to keep with you.” Wallet’s diminutive size is particularly interesting given By Olsen’s big plans for it, and the even bigger ideas it will hold. “My vision is for Wallet not to be exclusively about fashion. It’s what we’re starting with but I’m also very involved in the music and art industry, so we’ll move on to cover that too,” she explains.
For the magazine’s first issue, By Olsen and her co-founders Felicia Granath and Morteza Vaseghi (both formerly of Recens) and Geir Haraldesth (ex-Acne Paper journalist) explore the subject of money and power. “We really wanted to get behind-the-scenes with the people that hold the power in the fashion industry,” she says. “It’s all about having a conversation and a dialogue around what authority in that world means.”
First on her hitlist was Dazed co-founder Jefferson Hack, who is joined by Dover Street Market’s Adrian Joffe and Sarah Andelman, formerly of Paris’s beloved boutique colette. “I was so direct in my questioning because I really wanted to ask things that started a discussion,” By Olsen tells us. “It was terrifying to be asking a woman like Sarah something like ‘do you think the industry can survive without you?’” In fact, the interview took place a month before colette announced its closure. “In hindsight, it makes her answer so much more poignant,” the editor says. “It was an incredible insight to be given.”
You might think that, at 18 years old, sitting in front on fashion’s most powerful players and quizzing them on their relevance would be intimidating – By Olsen says it was all part of the process. “I chose them because I think they’re intimidating people. Their power is so much of who they are and honestly, also I chose them because they scare me. I thought it was a great place to start for our first issue. I wanted to question who is in power, who’s not and why and what powers are at play in the fashion world. It’s so fundamental and it affects everybody. I want to investigate the industry and how it operates and how it capitalises off creatives,” she says.
Big questions aside, Wallet’s pocket-sized format is also completely reimagining the concept of a magazine, and has totally reinvented the fashion editorial. “Each story is 20 pages long, and we started by examining the repose of the fashion editorial – I think it’s a form that’s dying because it’s been so commercialised,” she reasons. “They might be visually pleasing but they’re not actually giving you anything.”
Instead, Wallet will present a stripped back iteration of the traditional fashion editorial, as she invited creatives people to tell their own stories. “I reached out to 20 different creatives in fashion that I admire, each of whom has been impacted by power but don’t necessarily possess power. In the first issue, I worked with Mike and Zoe of Eckhaus Latta, artist Kaari Upson, and Torbjørn Rødland, whose photography I adore.” They were all given the same topic to approach. “I invited them to interpret the theme of authority to create a visual dialogue and that’s what the first Wallet fashion editorial is. I don’t want to give too much away. But I wanted everyone to be seen and heard.”
It’s perhaps one defining feature that will set Wallet apart, though – it has removable advertisements. A unique move, given printed magazines are increasingly kept in business by the brands that showcase their campaigns within their pages. “Of course we make the money we need to print Wallet from advertisements, and we work with brands we love,” By Olsen says. “But all of our ad pages are perforated, so they can be torn out and recontextualised or thrown away if you want to read Wallet without them.”
The move ties into her desire for Wallet to be something people carry with them as a reference point, and stems from her own boredom of traditional fashion publications. “There is so much branded content, commercial articles, and writing with commercial interest. I kind of wanted to do something that was completely against that,” she explains.
By Olsen is nonplussed about stepping away from Recens, the magazine she edited from its infancy as ‘the world’s youngest editor-in-chief’. “It was never emotional: it is completely conceptual and conscious. Recens is about youth and new culture. We want to do an open call for a new editor for Recens – we want an even younger editor to take over after me, so the dialogue keeps building. I want to make space for a new creative generation,” she says. Fashion is an industry renowned for people who cling to their power, terrified that someone will take their place rather than encouraging of it – but By Olsen clearly has no cause for concern. Who knows where she’ll be at 20?
Wallet issue one is available now.