Four years after she launched the youth culture magazine Recens Paper, 17-year-old Elise B. Olsen is ready to debut Wallet, a fashion commentary publication.
She said her aim is “to have sort of a sharp, critical pen on the fashion industry in order to strengthen the political dimension in fashion. It’s something I’ve been wanting for a long time. It just feels like there’s no actual magazine with good journalistic content any more so we wanted to create that. It’s a big project to dive into the political side of fashion but it’s super interesting.”
Led by Olsen and Geir Haraldseth, a former journalist who is now director of the Rogaland Art Center in Stavenger, Norway, the Wallet team is also made up of writers from other publications. For Wallet, 20 different creatives will be invited to interpret the theme of each issue. The debut one will investigate power in the fashion industry.
The triannual publication will be distributed in small magazine shops and concept stores. “It’s important that it be affordable and very accessible. It will be about $8 — like an expensive New York coffee,” Olsen said.
Between Recens, Wallet, curating independent shows and other projects, Olsen has shelved high school. “I stopped. It’s more than a full-time job. I would never have the time to do my third year of high school,” she explained over the phone from Stavenger, where she gave a talk Thursday. “I’m just trying to be really curious. That’s why I keep asking questions about everything. I’m surrounded by a ton of great people who also challenge me and ask me the right questions. That is super important especially being so young in an industry like this. I have to keep learning, and learning, and learning even more than most people.
“I don’t have an education so I’m naturally more curious. It feels relevant for my work. I just keep informing myself — reading a lot of different publications, books, web sites. It’s very hard to be specific. I have a very big magazine collection. Right now I’m reading two biographies about Vivienne Westwood because she feels like my spirit animal. She’s a very interesting character with a good voice that she has been very good at using.” Olsen said.
System and Vestoj magazines are two favorite reads. Wallet will be financed by a small amount of advertising from luxury fashion brands. “We don’t have big budgets. It’s not about making money really.” she said, declining to identify them. Recens’ advertising is more diverse — lifestyle, culture, music and brands “so there’s a difference,” Olsen said.
In September, she will start a two-month residency at the Google Cultural Institute in Paris, a program cofounded by Hans Ulrich Obrist for artists and other creatives born in 1989 or later. The following month Olsen will have a show at Red Hook Labs in New York.
Growing up in Oslo, the daughter of two shipping executives, Olsen started blogging at the age of eight but she didn’t tell her parents until she was 12. “It’s weird. I don’t come from anything creative at all. I come from a very non-cultural background. We never had newspapers, went to the theater or did stiff like that. I guess that’s how I got so incredibly interested in fashion, publishing, everything. I used to go to all these magazine shops after school,” she said. “My parents love it. They’ve been very supportive and that’s super important. You can’t really do anything [without that kind of support,] well you can, but it’s hard to be very young and do stuff. I spent all of my confirmation money printing the first issue of Recens and then I did a Kickstarter campaign for $3,000. It was a lot back then.
“I believe that growing up and being a child is so important and is something that has informed all of my work,” she said. “It’s about taking it seriously but not so seriously that you have to worry about stuff. That’s why kids are such great inventors because they don’t have the worries and the concerns one tends to have as an adult.”