Alexandra Carl, Fashion Director
BY : JACK SUNNUCKS | IMAGES BY : RIKA MAGAZINE
Alexandra Carl, Fashion Director
Meet the chic and thoughtful Fashion Director of RIKA magazine.
Rika is a refined Danish fashion magazine that you should be reading if you have an interest in forward-thinking modern women (or are one yourself). Céline as seen by photographer Katja Rahlwes, the novelist Olivia Sudjic, an interview with London designer Grace Wales Bonner, a Fran Leibovitz cover – it all comes together to make a thoroughly beautiful and thoughtful publication, one different from the usual navel gazing mags that obsess over what’s cool and what’s, well, not.
Alexandra Carl, the magazine’s fashion director, is herself a breath of fresh air, as one might imagine. You might have seen her picture (she dresses very well), but her mind is even better. Carl was a model before studying psychology, and falling back into fashion. She has a light Danish accent, and likes to talk about the bigger issues without becoming too serious. As she says of working at a magazine,
It really doesn’t have to have such deep meaning. Sometimes, we can get so caught up with things in the industry… and I think it’s important to ask, who are you actually making this magazine for?
We talked to Alexandra this week in between trips to LA from her London home, talking about which designers she rates, how to make a magazine that stands out on an overcrowded news rack, and the importance of creativity.
Tell me about your role at RIKA.
Well I didn’t found it, but it’s always been a project between friends. It’s the same group of people contributing, and it’s less about being seasonal, and more about considering and building relationships. I studied psychology so I always think about the female representation that we’re constructing. It has to speaker wider than to just 50 people in the fashion industry. When you make images, you have such a powerful language, and such a powerful platform, so you really have to think about how you’re using it as well.
How did you go from psychology to fashion?
Actually it happened simultaneously, because I was modeling when I was younger, and I got some opportunities to do some styling in Copenhagen. I worked with Adidas for a few years, and did a show with them in New York. At that time I was studying film, and we also did a film project together. When I graduated I moved to London. After a year of being here and working on creative projects, I felt like I was neglecting the other side of my brain. So I started studying at Goldsmiths [University]. And actually, after I started I got really really busy with work, so I ended up doing my degree while traveling the world. When you’ve been at rad dinners, and shooting all day, and then you’re like, Ok guys, I have to go and write an essay… it’s definitely been a bit more of an unusual way of getting into it. I think any inspiration that doesn’t put you in a box is really good.
What kind of images did you want to make? Especially in regards to positive representations of women being important to you.
Well it is and it isn’t, because also we shouldn’t take things so seriously when it comes to work. It’s like, have fun, create fun imagery. It really doesn’t have to have such deep meaning. Sometimes we can get so caught up with things in the industry, and who likes what, and who works with who. I think it’s important, especially when you do a magazine, to ask, who are you actually making this magazine for? Who do you want to inspire?
If this is a magazine that young girls buy it should be inspired by creativity and art and fashion and literature. They also need to read about girls who are shaping these things, not just like, five of our friends. You you also get creative when you’re talking to Naomi Klein, or someone who has a different point of view on what you do as well, because otherwise we’re going to make a magazine for 20 people in East London that we think are cool. Not inspiring the people who are entering the next generation of industry.
The magazines that are surviving are the ones that have managed to be creative with their language and their content. You have to give both boys and girls a story outside of what they expect and what they know, so people are going to want to buy your magazine. But if you’re just giving them pictures you can see online anyway, unfortunately, I don’t think it’s necessarily going to bring people in.
Who are some of the designers who inspire you?
I love the independent woman that Loewe has established, because she’s intellectual, into art, but she feels a little bit more exciting. You know I’m always really fascinated by things that can’t be copied by the high street. And I think Loewe is one of the brands it’s quite sophisticated, so you can’t really go and get the Zara copy. I mean I think it really says something about the design, but probably also the mass appeal. Whether something is a trend is really different.
I also really love Grace Wales Bonner, I’m so interested in her. Also because I think the thing we do the best sometimes in our industry to pigeonhole people. Say in her case, she’s done a couple of shows referencing post colonialism, and then she becomes this postcolonial menswear designer…I think shooting her collection on women is really interesting. It’s just so funny how we box people up.
I worked with Self Portrait for four years, and once he started taking out the lace dresses, a lot of people were confused, and he said, okay, if you don’t move on, people are eventually going to stop buying your clothes!
Because it’s not hard to be an artist, it’s difficult to be an artist and sell your art!
What do you think of the direct to consumer model that’s so hyped right now?
I think what makes it easier is that designers can be independent of buyers. I sit with designers, and listen to buyers ask, “oh can you make this from last season in three different color ways” and that’s just so demotivating for designers. I think with anything, once you become too safe, then nothing develops. So we have to support people who are bold, but also have a business. That’s the finest balance to adhere to. In a way, be commercial but also creative. Because it’s not hard to be an artist, it’s difficult to be an artist and sell your art!
What do you see young designers doing in London?
I think the great thing about London is no matter what happens, there’s always support here. I feel like anywhere else, if there’s a tough time, creativity goes dead and it becomes about survival and commerce. No matter how tough times are in London, there always seems to be this great creative approach, somehow, that just survives. There’s always a bunch of crazy kids doing things you didn’t imagine could be done. And of course that’s always a reflection of the times, but I think now, photographers and stylists and designers, there needs to be a lightness, because everything else is so serious. So I think actually instead of going gloomy with things, it’s going the opposite way.
I think people really take risks, because I think half of them can get away with not having to sell what they do. I guess all of us at some point get to a point where you want to be creative and make some money. I don’t know, it just seems like a lot of that talent gets watered down in New York – people aren’t taking as many risks. And I think that just drives you, into this commercial routine, because it’s so expensive there. It’s just a different culture of money making. I was really surprised actually, by how the environment drives people into constant money making.
What stage are you at with the next Rika?
It’s in process of commissioning and getting things together. We’ve been doing a few shoots, but a lot of them happen in January – as an independent, we don’t have the budgets, or the priority status, so you have to work in a creative way sometimes. Which is fine too! Every time you find your little challenges and you overcome them. I’ve never known any other way of making things happen, apart from always having things coming against you.
You never really know where it’s going to go. When I started at the magazine there was like, no one who knew about it. So you just had to pick up the phone, and call again, and again. It was great sometimes, to have things a little bit against you, because that’s how you grow stronger as a team. And you know, set yourself new barriers all the time.