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Elise By Olsen’s library
Elise By Olsen’s libraryCourtesy of Elise By Olsen

Elise By Olsen: My Favourite Fashion Publications

As part of her guest edit, Elise By Olsen shares her favourite fashion publications for research

Lead ImageElise By Olsen’s libraryCourtesy of Elise By Olsen

This week, 19-year-old Norwegian editor and publisher Elise By Olsen (Recens PaperWallet) is the guest editor of, presenting a series of articles exploring the current and future state of fashion and art publishing. Alongside conversations with publishers, critics and image-makers, this guest edit offers an intimate insight into her own publications and working practice.

I’ve been a collector of books, magazines and other publications for a long time. I vividly remember being around nine years old and dropping by the newsstand after school and purchasing some magazines with my pocket money, or else getting clavicle pain from lugging around backpacks full of them when travelling. This collection grew into my more developed personal bedroom library, which I am dedicated to building upon. I often think about Walter Benjamin’s essay Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting and his intimate relationship with his library – and of course, I can relate. “To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves,” he writes.

As a publisher, I’m obviously immersed in fashion publishing and feel a responsibility to stay abreast of the field. Yet, when I was asked to recommend a reading list during a lecture at Central Saint Martins last year, I couldn’t think of a single publication. Instead, I remember saying how I think fashion criticism is in a poor state, unlike in other cultural spheres such as film and art, where criticism is a more embraced, or more respected, discipline. And obviously I could recommend a lot of fabulous visual fashion magazines, but publications for research... I sent the student home with a reading list totally unrelated to fashion. This got me thinking that I should really look into what I’m reading – so I went straight into my library and compiled a pile of my favourite fashion publications for research. Central Saint Martins students, this is for you.

Texte zur Kunst – “Fashion”, Issue 102

Back in 2016, Texte zur Kunst, one of my favourite art magazines, did a brilliant issue on the interrelation between art and fashion. This issue explores a variety of themes through a critical lens, like the terms ‘luxury’, ‘wellness’ and ‘desire’ in fashion; fashion imagery, branding and authorship; production, distribution and consumption of fashion; seeing fashion as conceptual practice, not unlike that of an artist. It questions how the fashion system has changed structurally over time, why it now functions differently and what strategies are behind it. The issue borrows from the formats of conventional fashion journalism through proposing 13 fashion profiles; from Martine Rose, Kyle Luu, Lotta Volkova and Bernadette Corporation to Atelier E.B, Nasir Mazhar and Telfar, all selected by Isabelle Graw (editor-in-chief and one of my personal publishing heroes) and David Lieske (founder of Mathew Gallery and 299 792 458 M/S magazine). This is the second issue on fashion by Texte Zur Kunst.

Maison Martin Margiela – the book

I found this gem on sale for 15 modest bucks in a random store in a small town on the Norwegian west coast, and it’s one of the most impressive books I’ve ever seen, production-wise, from a mainstream publisher. It’s a retrospective publication of Martin Margiela’s time at the fashion house, a catalogue raisonné, granting intimate insight into his design process. The book is designed exclusively by Margiela; with silver inks, multiple ribbon markers, a variety of lush paper types, 12 in-bound booklets and an embroidered white linen cover. It gathers comprehensive material such as backstage photos, sketches, lookbooks, personal Polaroids, show invitations, emails and letters, magazine facsimiles, product shots – and even includes a glossary to navigate it all. Its 400 pages are filled with contributions by photographers such as Mark Borthwick, Bill Cunningham, Patrick Demarchelier, Annie Leibovitz, Alasdair McLellan, David Sims, Mario Sorrenti, Ronald Stoops, Juergen Teller, Willy Vanderperre, along with text by Sarah Mower, Mark Holgate, Carine Roitfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier, Susannah Frankel, and more.


Fashination was an exhibition that took place at Moderna Museet in 2004 and a catalogue published under the same name, which I randomly picked up from a discount box in the museum shop while in Stockholm. The exhibition, which I was not familiar with before and was introduced to through the foreword of this catalogue, looks at the dynamic space between art and fashion, and what happens when you put fashion in an art context or domain; a gallery or a museum. The catalogue poses a few related questions and experiences, with fashion’s conceptuality, performativity, visuality, aesthetics, craftsmanship; its social, economic, political and sexual power; extravagances, flamboyances; the fashion system and how it operates. It’s structured like a traditional art catalogue, with a foreword, two long-form essays (Fashion Art and Fashion as Fashion), biographies, CVs, list of works and a colophon. The images, however, are not installation shots, but rather those of a typical glossy fashion magazine; an anthology of archival fashion shoots, runway imagery and advertising photography, by a range of fashion practitioners like Vanessa Beecroft, Hussein Chalayan, Inez & Vinoodh, Martin Margiela, Alexander McQueen, Steven Meisel, Jun Takahashi, Viktor & Rolf...

The Incidents series – Beyond the Collaboration

Beyond the Collaboration is the published transcription of a conversation between designer Raf Simons and artist Sterling Ruby, moderated by curator Jessica Morgan, which took place in the Piper Auditorium at Harvard University Graduate School of Design back in April 2018. The conversation’s point of departure is the “cross-disciplinary union” of Simons’ and Ruby’s collaborative practice and the synthesised relationships between clothing, art and environments. It breaks down some of their collaborations; the Raf Simons Tokyo store, their joint capsule collection, Simons’ debut haute couture collection for Dior and multiple projects for Calvin Klein. They talk about craftsmanship, speed, the fashion collection as a complete body of work, retail and runway space and its architecture – and their concern about how there is no critical language in fashion; that analytical writing that breaks things down and offers a critique is disappearing. But to quote Ruby at the end; “(...) there’s an entirely different generation, a very young generation, that’s at ease with this kind of cross-pollination, this hybridisation of all things aesthetic, all things cultural, all things territorial. I think analytical theorising of all things will happen. It seems like it’s going to happen from within a much younger generation.” All this in 65 pages – a format rethinking the notion of traditional academic publishing – the perfect length for a short flight.

299 792 458 M/S – Issue 2 

299 792 458 M/S is an American fashion magazine run by (the aforementioned) David Lieske and Rob Kulisek which considers the peculiar impression the 2000s have had on the present day. This second issue is guest edited by curator Matthew Linde and functions as the catalogue extension of his historical fashion exhibition The Overworked Body; An Anthology of 2000s Dress, which took place at New York galleries Ludlow38 and Mathew Gallery in September 2017. I got this copy as research for an interview that we did with Linde for the fourth issue of Wallet, ‘Shamans of Space’, in which we discussed his curatorial approach to fashion space, the fashion museum-as-mausoleum and his perspective on institutional fashion exhibitions – many of the same themes examined in this issue of 299 792 458 M/S. As a catalogue, it plays on the magazine as fashion’s traditional mode of presentation, with a curated range of ads, classic runway reviews and editorials. Content wise, it features installation shots from the actual exhibition and its 50 participants on mannequin displays – A.F. Vandevorst, Comme des Garçons, Issey Miyake, Jean Paul Gaultier, Junya Watanabe, Kostas Murkudis, et cetera – supplied with commissioned contributions from fashion practitioners like Stefano Pilati, Final Home, Avena Gallagher, Susan Cianciolo, et cetera; in short, beautiful visuals and in-depth essays, “as a means to exemplify the porous and expanded nature of fashion practice”.