While many 19-year-olds dream of fashion, Elise By Olsen is asking questions about the industry’s thornier issues.
The founder and editor-in-chief of Wallet magazine interviewed Ssense’s cofounder Rami Atallah, La Rinascente’s vice chairman Vittorio Radice and Grailed’s chief executive officer Arun Gupta for its “Champions of Commerce” issue. “All of these spaces are trying to be very alternative and experiential, but at the end of the day they are about contractions and selling. It’s kind of like retail spaces in disguise, which I think is a whole new thing,” she said.
“We tried to have this conversation about the money, business and politics in the fashion industry, but it seems like there is a lot of focus on experience, style, expression and all of these things. Rami is an engineer. Vittorio is a straight-up businessman. Aaron is a tech guy. None of them really have this fashion background. That also is interesting because they have a fresh approach.They talk about their spaces being very democratic, but luxury fashion stores are also becoming increasingly humiliating in a way. There is security and surveillance in the stores. That’s not new at all but it’s interesting that they talk about department stores being democratic. All of these people kind of run retail space economically and institutionally in a way that they have always been run. It’s just a whole different branding and package. It really is buying and selling at the end of the day.”
After starting the Recens youth culture magazine and running that for five years, the entrepreneur launched Wallet, a more critical text-based project. The latest issue also has a 20-page visual essay spanning retail at H&M, Dover Street Market, Colette, Balenciaga, Fiorucci and others. The fifth edition lands in stores this week at The Broken Arm in Paris, Slam Jam in Milan, LN-CC in London, MoMA PS1 and the Tate.
Wallet’s ad pages are perforated so that readers can choose whether they want to rip them out, throw them out or put them on your wall.
“With not that many ads, but the right ads,” Wallet is primarily funded by its main advertiser Gucci, she said. Last year her resignation from Recens led to creating a nine-minute documentary for YouTube with Gucci in collaboration with Ssense.
While fashion publishing is her chief interest, consulting for brands and lecturing at Central Saint Martins and The New School’s Parsons School of Design have been side gigs. Speaking to undergrads is a kick since she dropped out of high school at 16 to have more time to work. But she can advise them in other ways. For two weeks or so this summer she will serve as a guest editor for AnOther’s site. Olsen interviewed AnOther’s editor Jefferson Hack for Wallet’s first issue.
Planning to be in New York for a stretch this summer, she has Wallet meetings lined up, studio visits with artists and she hopes to meet with some publishers. “I have some ideas for publishers and some real New York media stuff.”