20 Sense

20 SENSE: Emma Elwin, Fashion Editor at ELLE Sweden

emmaelwinI’ve been visiting Emma Elwin’s blog regularly for years now, to that sort-of-creepy point where I could tell you “all about” her seemingly-lovely boyfriend and adorable pug Stella (who is quite the looker). When I found out via this interview that she is only 23 I truly couldn’t believe it–not only does she have a kick-ass job for someone so young, but her tastes and interests are incredibly sophisticated and mature. To say that I’m jealous is an understatement, but it’s a dose of envy that’s coupled with a whole lot of admiration. I discovered her site whilst reading the blog of fashion world favorite Elin Kling–she got her start as Elin’s assistant–and have been fascinated by her seriously one-off style since (which, as I’ve noted before, is a real feat in a world filled with clothes-clones). Her sartorial sense really shines in the editorials that she works on, which never fall back on regurgitated trends but, instead, always push fashion in a more unexpected direction. Though her age threw me for a loop, I was not surprised in the least to find that her answers were smart and thoughtfully self-reflective–if fashion were divided into teams, the brains vs. the beauty, Emma would be the hard-to-place dynamo who encompasses both. Team much-more-than-just-a-pretty-face, perhaps? Hear what she has to say, and check out one of her rad editorials, below.

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How old are you? 23

Describe your trajectory since turning 20 up until now. When I turned 20 I was assisting Elin Kling, which I had been doing for two years at that point. I had an incredible time with Elin, and learnt so much from working with her. Eventually, though, I felt that I needed a new challenge, so I began to do freelance styling for music videos and teen magazines. My friend-to-be Josephine then set me up with an interview at Elle–for a one-year position as Fashion Assistant–which I was lucky enough to get. By the end of that year I had also moved my blog from [webhost] Freshnet to Elle.se. Elle soon created a new position for me as Online Fashion Editor, as well as giving me my first monthly page in the printed magazine. I held this position for a year. I was then approached with another job offer from a different magazine/website, which forced me to think a lot about what I wanted to do. I decided I actually wanted to start getting more creative again, rather than spending all of my time in front of a computer. So I shuffled positions at Elle to become Contributing Fashion Editor for the magazine, and had less input with the website. This was perfect–I now had more creative influence within the magazine and began working directly with  the models, photographers, set designers, etc. As a result of this, I started doing a lot more styling, particularly for special features and the celebrity shoots. At this point I became much more confident about my creativity and work in general.

Unexpectedly, right before this summer began, I was approached by a Swedish agency that was interested in taking me on as a freelance stylist. This made me reflect a lot again, and I ended up meeting with a few more agencies. I felt most comfortable with a company called Link Details, here in Stockholm. Elle was incredibly supportive of me, and I took the big leap of working part-time at the magazine, part-time as a freelance stylist. It was a huge decision to make, but so far I’m happy I made it. My blog is also still with Elle.

What has surprised you most about your twenties so far? What has gone exactly as expected? To be honest, nothing has gone as expected! The industry, at least for me so far, is dynamic and unpredictable, which can be both a positive and a negative. I’ve never had a specific plan laid out—things have just naturally progressed, I guess due to a lot of hard work and support from certain people.

I suppose the biggest surprise for me is how fast my career is progressing. I thought it would have taken longer to get to where I am right now. I personally think this shows that if someone puts in 110% and has the right attitude, then there’s little to stop them from achieving their goals.

Do you feel like you’ve found your niche at this point or are you still searching? I’m definitely still searching! I hope I never stop developing myself. I’m really happy with what I’m doing right now, but I like to think that the future will continue to bring more unexpected twists. I’m still only 23, and it doesn’t feel right to stop and settle for something just yet.

What have your twenties taught you about romantic love? Friendship? Never think you deserve less than the best.

What motivates you? I love learning new things and I always try to do them as best as possible. I’m rarely 100% satisfied with work that I do—I constantly want to make improvements. That’s obviously not always a good thing, but it is definitely a drive.

Where do you get the most inspiration? How do you snap out of a creative rut? Right now it’s really important for me to find meaning in what I do. I look to things that inspire me to do some good, such as nature/the environment. I like the thought of things being solutions to more than one problem. For example, I often do a “Pick of the Day” post on the blog. But now, as often as I can, I try and make this an environmentally friendly piece. When I get in a rut, I always seem to find my way back on track—or discover the solution—while riding the bus. I don’t know why–but I always get my best ideas when I’m on the bus.

If you had to create a twenties survival kit what would it include? (CDs, movies, books, a type of food/drink, magazine, really anything!) Hmm…I’ve read Harry Potter a million times in the last few years so I guess I have to say that. I like to disappear into a dream world, it definitely makes it easier for me to stay sane.

If you had to settle for one motto/mantra, what would it be? “Kill’ them with kindness” or “Be happy, it drives people crazy.”

Biggest pet peeve about the blogosphere and/or fashion world? Favorite part of each? I don’t know much of the blogosphere to be honest. Everything I’ve personally learned about fashion, I’ve done so first-hand, mainly from being a fashion assistant. I don’t really like the world surrounding fashion as much as I like doing the research for an editorial. I think that’s my favorite part of the job.

What aspect of fashion editing and its entire process does the average person not recognize or get to see? The amount of physical work you need to do! You run around town, in a rush, carrying several heavy bags of clothes and such. It’s not glamorous at all.  

What has been your favorite feature to work on so far, or one of them? It’s one that debuts this month. It’s an extra magazine that Elle gives out with their normal issue–a kind of denim special. I really love jeans, so it was the perfect editorial for me. 

Lastly, your blog hints at your awesome music taste. Who should we all be listening to right now? Right now I love a Stockholm-based band called Sudakistan. Keep your eyes peeled for them—they are truly epic live!

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For more posts like this, check out my chats with Lulu Chang and Laura Brown of Harper’s Bazaar with the Man Repeller.

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