Want To Be A Fashion Director? Rika Magazine’s Alexandra Carl Has Some Tips

She started out as a stylist aged just 16


by Pandora Sykes |
Published on

Want to break into the fashion industry? Well, as The Devil Wears Prada proved, it's the type of industry where you're facing a bit of stiff competition. 'Um, a thousand girls would kill for your job right now.' But - that doesn't mean it's impossible.

So we decided to pick the brains of the super stylish Alexandra Carl, Fashion Director at Rika magazine, about how she started out as a stylist - aged just 16.

The Debrief: Hi Alex! Congratulations on your award at Scandinavian Elle Style Awards! How did it feel to win ‘Stylist of the Year’?

Alex Carl: It hasn’t sunk in yet! I actually didn’t hear them say my name. It was like an out of body experience. I am still lost for words – its such a huge honour, very surreal.

DB: It’s great to be talking to you, as we’ve been a big fan of your beautiful shoots at Rika for some time. Let’s talk about how you started out as a stylist. You were super young, right?

AC: I started out as a model. I was scouted at home in Copenhagen when I was 14, joined Next Models shortly after and started working for clients like Topshop and Urban Outfitters. My mum was involved with publishing of a magazine and she hooked me up with a few stylists who needed help with styling assistance. When I was 16 a stylist dropped out just two days before a shoot and [Danish magazine] DANSK asked me if I wanted to style the shoot. I was like ‘yeah, OK!’. I've always liked the unexpected challenges in life.

DB: That’s amazing. I can’t pretend that I didn’t just sit watching an awful lot of Home and Away and Hollyoaks, aged 16. Was it hard to squeeze it** all** in?**

AC: I was employed at DANSK magazine while I was still at school. I would go in after school 3-4 times a week and work weekends. When you love something so much as I ended up feeling about styling, you don’t think too much about how difficult it can be fitting things in – you 'just do it'. Don’t think twice. My friends were working in coffee shops, or bars – it wasn’t unusual to have after school jobs. I enjoyed having more control than I had with modelling, plus I was always too short (I'm 5"6). I’d get sent to Paris and everyone would be like 6 foot something and I’d be the same height as one girls' legs! I was always itching to be more creative.


DB: So styling let you be in the driving seat a bit more. Did you come up against age prejudice on occasions?

AC: Age discrimination was always an underlying issue in Copenhagen. I’d have shoots cancelled by brands, sometimes, when they found out that I was only 18! In London, young talent is not seen as a disadvantage, which is part of the reason I moved here aged 18. People know that we (the new generation) are in the frontline of experiencing new trends and style movements and I now I try and use a lot of young photographers and stylists with Rika. I want to encourage the new generation to go out there and do it! And I’ve learned to take questions about my age positively – after all i I am in my 20’s now...

DB: Ha ha, 22 is young! Or we are old. So you left DANSK, moved to London – and then went to university whilst styling for Rika?

AC: I came to London aged 18 and assisted at LOVE, as well as modelling, before starting a BA in Sociology and Media Psychology at Goldsmiths University - I finished 4 weeks ago. I love to study but I have got to admit it was a pretty intense combination. I feel like I've been running a marathon for three years now! I started working as Fashion Editor of Rika almost immediately after I entered uni. I met Ulrika (owner and director of Rika magazine) one summer in Copenhagen and we got on so well, it was like a summer romance. She called me up a few weeks after asked me to be fashion editor. I love our little team, especially because Rika has kept its title as an independent fashion magazine and we don't have any advertisers - so we really have a lot of creative freedom.

DB: So talk to me about your styling. You work with some amazing stars though like Helena Christensen and supermodel Saskia de Brauw. Can it be hard to get these amazing people involved?

AC: Like most independent magazines, we do not have the budget to pay people for shoots. So everything happens very organically. We shot with Julianne Moore who’s my complete idol, because she just rung up Helena Christensen (who shoots for us because she loves our aesthetic) and said ‘Helena I LOVE this magazine, I see you take photographs for it. Let’s do something together.’ This was amazing for us - Julianne Moore is impossible to book for a cover! We worked really, really hard to build the magazine up. Rika used to be 70 pages and now we are counting 180 and get featured on Vogue.com.


DB: So how does your day break down?

AC: Well, styling is not a 9-6 job. I can be up till 1am, liaising with our teams in LA or NY. I do like to be super busy. I get up at 6.30am and I will go to pilates, or for a run and I’m at my desk writing e-mails by 8.30am. The Rika team are in LA and NYC and I commission fashion stories and stylists all over the world. Aside from Rika, I consult and style brands like Monki, Adidas and jewellery brand Pandora and publications including Elle Scandinavia, DANSK and FAT magazine. I try to keep a certain balance between more commercial and independent projects.

DB: Well done! People think it’s all super glamorous and loadsa parties. The reality?

AC: People think fashion week is all champagne and glitter – but that’s an 80s myth! During last Copenhagen fashion week I was styling 4 shows and the last thing I felt like at the end was going out talking about more fashion with people! I just want to sit in a bar with friends and talk about anything else than work.

DB: Another assumption is that you go shopping all the time. Do you shop 24/7?

AC: I don’t buy many clothes actually. Shopping for me is work! I will think ‘ooh I need to buy that for this shoot, that for the other.’ And my shopping list has anything from taxidermy birds, to sports socks on it! However when I do treat myself my favourite store is Acne, because it never dates and I still wear pieces that I bought 5 years ago. I don’t buy lots from the high street – although I do love COS - as I worry about fast fashion. I really think we should be doing more for sustainability – it’s something I am really interested in but its also a complex matter when you work in an industry producing contemporary trends.

DB: You're super into sustainability, aren't you. Does that lie uncomfortably with the high street, for you?

AC: No. I’m not against high street at all – I think its brilliant that you can look like Céline (almost) for the span of 100 quid. But I do think that we really need to consume more carefully. Sustainability doesn’t mean wearing a recycled binbag, but I think bigger high street chains should be forced to regulate the way the clothes are recycled and not at least the conditions under which the clothes are produced.

DB: What about for this summer – what clothes are you into?

AC: I really like unexpected details. Like some baggy Levi’s under a fitted Alaia dress and polo shirt. Or this summer, I am really into cycling shorts worn under boyish shorts. I have these leather shorts from Acne, which I’ve had for years that I wear in the winter with Rick Owens knee high boots and in the summer, with sandals. They just go with anything.

DC: Let’s end on a note about Instagram. The fashion industry is having a total love affair with the app right now. Fan or not a fan?

AC: Fan! I actually find a lot of my inspiration from Instagram – you get a weird and wonderful insight in many people’s minds, which I find fascinating. I have always loved photography and studied film back in Copenhagen. But my inspiration also comes from dance (I did ballet for many years) and literature of course, which is why I write a lot, too. My parents are both journalists and I need that outlet. My favourite time to write is on a plane, when I can’t get any emails or calls to distract me! I need those moments when you just pull the plug as well and restore your mind - so I don’t burn out before I reach 30!

Follow Pandora on Twitter @pinsykes

Pictures: Jeff Hahn, Henrik Bulow for FAT magazine

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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