When I was 15 years old I was getting drunk on Bacardi Breezers by the beach huts and caking myself in Impulse body sprays to try to cover up the smell of smoke from a crafty fag on the way home from school. I definitely was not launching an independent magazine, formulated in response to the oppressive perfectionism of mainstream media. But that’s because I’m not Elise By Olsen.
At a mere 15 years old, Oslo-based Elise has just launched the second issue of Recens paper, a print publication which celebrates youth subcultures in order to tackle the ubiquitous stereotypes perpetuated by today’s creative industries. “Today’s youth is part of a generation that will not be limited to gender binaries,” she explains in her editor’s letter. “They will not accept the obligations of commercialism.”
Her mission is an impressive one, but what’s most remarkable about Elise’s ideas is their realisation. Recens is a substantial, glossy magazine, teeming with creative submissions from like-minded young people. Intrigued and impressed by this super young publishing powerhouse, we spoke to Elise about getting into the Guinness World Records, Oslo’s creative scene, and her advice to young people with similar ambitions.
What made you decide to start Recens?
I started blogging in secret at the age of eight. I even had several different blogs covering a lot of different topics. At 12 some other friends and I founded a blog network called Archetype, with a vision to gather and showcase young bloggers within the topics of fashion, music, photography and art. It was hard getting into the industry at that time so we wanted to create a little bubble for ourselves. A lot of of young, likeminded people found it interesting and wanted to contribute. That’s how I got into publishing; but I wanted to advance online into print.
I started Recens Paper at 13 with the same vision. I wanted to fill a hole in the established publishing and fashion industries. Recens Paper gives a voice to the youth and is what they want to see, instead of perfectionism, gender stereotypes, beauty standards and commercialism. I have now been nominated as the world’s youngest editor-in-chief by the Guinness World Records, which is kind of fun…
In your editor’s letter you talk about the identity crisis that today’s youth is experiencing. How do you believe young people can defeat these ideas about perfectionism?
Through accepting failure and differences. Through exploring, challenging and experimenting. Through putting away the homogenising and standardising glossies. Through reading Recens!
A lot of the people you’ve featured are also very young – teenagers, or in their early 20s. How did you meet these people?
I met them all through Instagram or Facebook. I feel extremely privileged growing up in this digital era, where one is able to get to know like-minded “soul-mates” online. Building friendships, strong connections and business relationships online is fascinating. Some of them are also people who have previously submitted work to Recens: people I found it fun working with and therefore welcomed on board.
How does your relationship with designer and art director Morteza work? Do you find that having his input adds a breadth to the magazine?
I met Morteza Vaseghi through a mutual friend last fall. He immediately believed in me and my concept, and what I wanted to achieve. He was also what I looked for in a graphic designer. He is inspiring, innovative and a breath of fresh air to the Norwegian design market.
He also adds an internationality to our brand. As he puts it, all the magazines in Scandinavia look more or less the same; amazingly well done, with matte paper, loads of white spaces, the typical, minimal Scandinavian look. The latest magazine to come out of the creative community in Norway, for instance, looks like yet another magazine about coffee culture. They’re so beautiful, but they have no soul and identity of their own – just like the stereotypical teenager of our times. We wanted to showcase the opposite of that; sell honesty instead of the sugar-coated results of the society and established industry youth always gets to see.
"All the magazines in Scandinavia look more or less the same... They’re so beautiful, but they have no soul and identity of their own – just like the stereotypical teenager of our times."Elise By Olsen
Recens Paper urges young people to explore and challenge, which is reflected in the design. This can be seen in the rotated cover, our glossy paper and extreme colour choices. Morteza rotated the cover to symbolise young people and their attitude to the consumer-based publications that are established. It’s glossy, because it goes against the trend for matte in the Scandinavian publications. The colours and layout in general reflect the generation’s playfulness and riot against “serious” minimalism.
How do you find the creative scene for young people in Oslo?
The Norwegian creative scene is conservative in general – it’s based on what is working now, and has always worked. Norwegians are slow at taking up trends. I feel like nobody dares to step out of their comfort zones here. They are full of paper, but have no balls. The same goes for the small young creative scene we have, it’s neither new in thinking nor challenging. I have a group of friends and creatives around me who are extremely creative and talented, but I feel like there is something missing. There is a reason Norway is not on the map for its design or creative business. I’m not staying for long.
"Focus and stick to your own opinions... Listen to yourself, and know that you have the courage to affect others. Use your voice."Elise By Olsen
What advice would you give to a young person looking to start a magazine?
In fear of getting my record beaten, I’ll share some advice. (I can’t believe I’m doing this… Haha.) Focus and stick to your own opinions. Do not focus on consuming if you are against the future of a commercial fashion industry – don’t show fur if you are against animal abuse, for instance. Listen to yourself, and know that you have the courage to affect others. Use your voice.
For tips on starting a magazine, I would not recommend anyone to do it like I have, rushing into it without any experience… Make it a long process, and be conscious about what you publish, consider everything a hundred times before publishing.
What can young people do for the creative industry that older generations cannot?
We have the drive, ambition and belief in changing. We are privileged in that we don’t have to be concerned about having a stable life and a “nine to five” job. We can explore and riot as much as we want to. Step out of our comfort zones, think differently, affect others at the same age. We are the future.
What would you like to do next?
I don’t know, I’m young and confused! At the very least I want to do further issues of Recens.