Elise By Olsen: The Publishing Prodigy Doing Print Differently

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Elise By Olsen
Elise By OlsenPhotography by Lars Brønseth

Once the youngest editor-in-chief in the world, By Olsen now helms Wallet, ‘a style publication for your pocket’ – here, she discusses the latest issue and her novel approach to print publishing

In 2007, Elise By Olsen started a blog. On it, she documented her day-to-day life as a Norwegian school girl – from her homework assignments to her family dinners. This blog morphed into an online fashion publication and later, a creative network called Archetype, which in turn transformed into Recens – a printed youth culture magazine, founded when By Olsen was still just 13 years old. This made her the youngest editor-in-chief in the world, unofficially (she was unable to claim the Guinness World Record, ironically, due to their age restrictions).

Wallet is By Olsen’s latest endeavour. Launched in 2018, this pocket-sized publication was founded as the young publisher’s antidote to the mainstream fashion media. Its aim: to cast a critical lens on the fashion industry and ask questions of its highest ranking figures. “After five years with Recens, there were a lot of things that I disagreed with and was intimidated by,” By Olsen recalls. “With Wallet, I wanted to cultivate conversations that include, and go beyond, what we understand to be the fashion system.”

The first step: interrogate the very medium she intended to use, the printed magazine. “We started off by asking the question: Why do people not buy print anymore?” By Olsen says. “We wanted Wallet to be as accessible as an iPhone so that people could carry it around easily. That’s why its pocket-sized, it fits into standard jeans pocket – 11 by 22 centimetres. There’s been this trend of doing huge coffee table books and magazines, which are not convenient. In a way, Wallet is an anti-coffee table book.”

By Olsen also takes a less-than-conventional approach to advertising in Wallet. Inspired by YouTube ad blockers, advertising pages are perforated along the edges so that readers can remove them by tearing out the pages, should they wish. In the age of the smartphone, Olsen wants the printed magazine to be just as user-friendly.

The latest issue of Wallet – entitled ‘Shamans of Space’ and out on March 11 – is a study of the places in which fashion operates. Fashion, By Olsen says, permeates a diverse range of settings, beyond those you might first imagine: “from the physical studio spaces where ideas are conjured up, to the making of prototypes and samples in production workshops; from the creation of sets and installations at runway shows, to mass production in factories and retail shops… archives of designers and museums, closets and shelves at home to trash cans and garbage heaps.” In the issue, By Olsen also explores how social media and e-commerce are creating entirely new, digital-only fashion spaces.

“Every issue of Wallet is treated as its own separate publication, as holistic conversations on specific themes, although the frames and format we work within are the same; I believe in continuity,” By Olsen says. Much of this centres on By Olsen’s view that fashion’s established order should be held to account. Comme des Garçons president Adrian Joffe, designer Hussein Chalayan, Dazed editor-in-chief Isabella Burley and Dazed Media co-founder Jefferson Hack have all been interviewed for Wallet, each discussing the power systems at play in their own workplaces.

“I think the written word is more important now than ever,” By Olsen says of the project. “And I think the media have an obligation to be critical and inquisitive, a place where the reader can reflect on the world around.”

The new issue of Wallet is out on March 11, 2019.