Oliva Bee’s new bohemia

Olivia Bee started taking pictures in her early teens, one of those rare precocious talents who already had the basics nailed before most of us had figured out how to make our lava lamps work. And when I say basics, I mean being commissioned to shoot commercials for Nike and Converse by the time she was 17…

Having emerged during the peak Tumblr years, Bee has continued to carve a name for herself with candid photographs that capture the intensity of youth; the fragile nexus of love, and the yearning for the wild. Her photographs are often situated within nature, away from the obvious limitations of the city and the responsibilities that lie therein.

With a knack for powerful juxtapositions, Olivia Bee’s photographs have a corpuscular quality that capture individual moments in time but which together weave a wider narrative about the transient nature of youth. With a beautiful new tome, Kids in Love, out now, Twin caught up with her to talk hanging out in Oregon and the future of the Internet.

 

Starting with Kids in Love – your photographs embody a fantastic energy. What’s your process when shooting?

Kids In Love came about because I was taking pictures of the world around me — I wasn’t really trying to make anything in particular, other than the things I gravitated towards. When it was finished, I knew, and I knew it was a show and a book. The energy in Kids In Love came from the universe that I existed in and made for myself when I was a teenager. I was observing that universe.

What was it about the camera that you were originally drawn to?

The ability to create and make art simultaneously; to directly document your experience.

What I like about Kids In Love is that you immortalise the transient state of youth through movement and these wonderful juxtapositions with the natural world. Was this an aesthetic that came naturally to you? How did your style develop?

I mean this just came with living in Oregon, living in nature but being around kids my age and exploring that universe. In Oregon you just go to the river and to the mountain and to the beach and to the forest, that’s what you do for fun and that’s where you get drunk. it was just part of every day. Green was my studio.

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You started working professionally when you were pretty young, did you ever feel that this inhibited your ability to develop creatively? Was there less freedom to make mistakes, experiment etc.

I always kind of did what I wanted and didn’t think much about it. There were times I’d get feedback from people who were selling my work saying what i was doing was less marketable, but i’d just be like, “dude. i’m just documenting my world.” It was (and is) a natural process for me to document. I still experimented and made plenty of bad pictures.

What is it about intimacy that interests you as a subject matter?

It is so innately human.

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Instagram has bought this generation a whole host of really exciting creatives who otherwise might not have had the capacity to promote their work to a global audience, but do you ever feel that sheer scale of the platform – and its millions of contributors – might come to negate the power of a singular image?

I’m getting less and less satisfied with the internet. It’s all controlled by money at this point and our information is getting sold so that companies can market for our demographics. It’s terrifying. We have to fight back and play that game to our advantage. My work belongs in galleries and in books and in theaters — not just the internet. I get depressed when my pictures I love are just on the internet and then they’re gone or stolen because people think the internet is an equal playing field and ownership is lost.

Also with the internet, people skip over movies, books, tv shows, people, and minimize them into one single image on their tumblr when they haven’t seen that movie, tv show, read that book, or researched that celebrity. Everything is aestheticized. Even the notion of “liking” or “loving” something or someone has been aestheticized. Authenticity has been aestheticized. People have to remember what’s real and I really do think a big part of that is existing in your world and participating and reading and talking to people and watching movies in the theater and on tv and going to museums and being in nature if these kinds of things are available to you. That shit will keep you human.

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Who and what are the major influences for your work?

My life and my emotional experiences. The wonderful people i surround myself with. Nature.

What do like to listen to when working?

Right now I’ve been listening to a fuck ton of Leonard Cohen. I just discovered Emily Eeo when I was in a coffee shop in Portland and have been playing that over and over. The Lemon Twigs are wonderful too.

What’s your favourite camera to work with?

That’s a secret 😉

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What’re your plans, concerns and hopes for 2017?

Time is a marker that we created — it doesn’t actually exist. It’s fluid. So I don’t always believe in setting goals for certain periods of time but I do feel that with 2017 and the upcoming Trump presidency it is especially important to stand up for the things you believe in. I want the people I choose to be in my work, especially in fashion, to be more diverse, and I want to write a book? Or a movie? I want to quit low balling and I want to stand up for myself and the ones I love more! Also establish some sort of place to live in the future in nature.

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Mad about Mimi

Mimi Wade is one of the most exciting designers to have come out of London in the last few seasons. With her hyper feminine, seductive and playful designs she has created a new space for women to enjoy dressing up, and in doing so invites women to enjoy their bodies and the power they hold.

A Central Saint Martins graduate who came through the Fashion East platform, you can expect exciting things to come from Wade in the seasons to follow. Twin caught up with Mimi to talk about her grandmother, Hollywood and carving a new fashion structure.

Your last collection was inspired by your Grandmother’s Hollywood home, can you tell us a bit more about what the place was like?

Her house is slap bang in the middle of Hollywood, movie posters and lobby cards adorn every inch of wall space, mixed in with numerous photographs of herself , portraits by different artists and ex-boyfriends (including Cecil Beaton, and one by Matisse -not actually of her but one which bears a very striking resemblance) film stills – it’s all very ‘Sunset Boulevard’ !

Hollywood is infinitely seductive, why do you think that is?

The possibility in the air, that’s very seductive. People flock from all over the world to the city to pursue their dreams. In the same way that movies promote fantasy and detach us from reality, so does Hollywood. It is both trashy, dangerous and completely magical.

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You embrace femininity and sexuality in your designs – what about that kind of aesthetic interests you?

There have been times where I’ve felt undervalued for embracing and embodying my femininity and it only made me want to continue to push further. Women are too often underestimated, especially beautiful women who embrace their femininity and sexuality. My grandmother had a boob reduction, died her hair an unflattering colour and tried to rid herself of her stereotypical bombshell looks in an attempt to get more fulfilling roles in the movies – it’s frightening how often women are put in a box because of the way they look. Take Hedy Lamarr for example- she is responsible for inventing wifi and yet she is often merely remembered for being beautiful. Things need to change and I want to be part of it.

Aside from personal experience, who or what do you draw aesthetic inspiration from when you’re building a collection?

I watch a lot of films, I collect packaging and movie memorabilia, I take pictures and draw a lot, I look at vintage clothes.

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You graduated from CSM and then did Fashion East, what were the biggest challenges of launching a label in London? What were your biggest learning curves?

I’m still learning a lot, mostly from my mistakes!

What are your favourite materials to work with?

I have had an ongoing sponsorship from Sophie Hallette since St Martins, they make the most exquisite lace in Paris which is a joy to work with. I also love painting on leather.

When did you have the most fun designing?

My graduate collection at St Martins, having the freedom to design something with no commercial constraints whatsoever was pure joy.

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All you want for Christmas is….?

A lilac Birman kitten.

Where do you want to take the brand in 2018?

I’m restructuring the way I show collections, I’m not going to be a slave to the schedule anymore. In 2018 I’m doing things on my own terms. I’m launching my website and e-store in the new year too which I’m really excited about.

Meet East London’s Muslim Model Ready to Shake Up the Industry

‘I ain’t no Kendall Jenner but I’m a black muslim girl from east london that’s about to finesse the modelling industry’ wrote Shahira Yusuf on Twitter back in November. Born in Somalia and hailing from East London, the 20 year old’s statement has since been retweeted almost 60,000 times, making her entrance into the fashion world one of the most hyped this year.

It’s no secret that fashion has historically failed on diversity, but with Edward Enninful at the helm of British Vogue, 2018 might be the year in which the seismic shifts that need to happen finally do. Entering the industry at this febrile time, Shahira’s energy and passion for ensuring proper representation is an exciting harbinger for what’s to come.

We caught up with Shahira to talk about diversity, role models and breaking into the London fashion scene.

Culture Trip: How did you get into modelling, and what did you find interesting about it? 

Shahira Yusuf: I was scouted at 17 but initially I didn’t consider modelling. At 20 I finally built up the courage to try it out, and decided to visit Storm. For someone who hadn’t initially had an interest in fashion, what attracted me to fashion was the amazing opportunities. I’m glad I have the opportunity to do something that allows me to represent not only myself, but to represent diversity. 

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Shahira Yusuf | © molliedendle

CT: Your tweet went viral – what do you perceive to be the main challenges facing the industry in terms of diversity and inclusivity?

SY: Prior to being a model, I assumed the industry wasn’t at all inclusive. However now having some experience, I feel that the modelling industry tries, I honestly do. Do I feel that the industry could try even harder for a shot at equal representation? Yes, I do. I’d like to see the industry look exactly like if I were to walk down the streets of London in terms of ethnic diversity. I no longer feel like there should be a need to address diversity, in this day and age. The world is made up of over a hundred nations, we come from all walks of life. Diversity in the fashion and modelling industry should not be an option, it should be necessary. If the industry’s aim is to flourish, inclusiveness should be the basis. 

For instance, I don’t feel it’s right for designers and/or companies to hire a majority of non-Muslim women to model modest Islamic clothing. There are many Muslim women willing to represent themselves. Find them. Or when West African or East Asian clothing is being modelled, you have to consider the roots of the cultural clothing/items and use models from that particular country/region. That’s not to say people from other ethnicities cannot wear the clothing, but if I’m watching a runway and that’s been inspired by a particular culture, I expect to see models from that culture dominating the runway, representing their roots to the fullest extent.

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Shahira Yusuf | © Ronan McKenzie / Storm

CT: Who were your role models in fashion growing up?  

SY: My role models were successful beauties like Iman, Tyra Banks and Naomi Campbell.

Iman is certainly someone I can relate to, being from the same ethnic background. In terms of her branching out and dominating the fashion and beauty scene and building her legacy, I definitely was drawn to her. As for Tyra, I grew up watching many seasons of ANTM and also her talk show. I’d probably say there was no-one I was more engaged with in the fashion scene more than Tyra. I certainly loved Tyra growing up, she’s the whole package. Naomi, well honestly there’s no need for me to even explain this one.

All three models are incredible women that are worth looking to in terms of success in the fashion industry. They paved the way for diversity and if it wasn’t for them it’s highly likely that I wouldn’t be modelling today.  

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 Shahira Yusaf | © molliedendle

 

CT: What were your frustrations with the industry before going into it, and how do you want to participate in shaping it going forward? 

SY: My main frustration was the lack of diversity, and I’ve realised there’s more of an effort in inclusiveness being made by smaller companies in comparison to established, household names. This is quite disappointing. Most well known designers and companies love to express how they’re inspired by different cultures, yet if you watch a runway of most of the well established names, you’ll only find a couple or at most 3–5 ethnic models. 

To me, that’s unfair. If you really believe in diversity, prove it. You cannot simply say that you’re inspired by different cultures yet turn around and rarely choose people of different cultures to represent you. It’s contradictory and although it’s continuously addressed, there’s not been a huge effort to make a direct change. 

It really isn’t even about me, I just feel that there’s so much beauty around the world for the industry to be painted over by one coloured brush. We don’t all appear the same, so why create that false idealism? There’s no such thing as universal beauty standards, the world realises this, and it’s time the fashion industry stopped enforcing something that’s deemed as unrealistic. 

A lot of times, the modelling industry is stereotypically viewed as superficial for these reasons. There’s so much more to modelling than what meets the eye, complete inclusiveness will prove modelling is not only ‘skin deep’. 

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Shahira Yusuf | © Ronan McKenzie / Storm

CT: Do you think there is space for fashion to be a medium for activism and actual change? 

SY: I do believe the fashion industry holds the potential to make a huge shift in society and for the better. In fact, I think it’s underestimated how impactful the industry really is. Many designers, companies and models have the ability to use their platform to make a change – and I mean a real change. It’s so easy to distance yourself from what’s going on in the world, but once you do, you’re losing sight of the bigger picture. 

I think people should start by firstly acknowledging their surroundings as you cannot be out of touch with reality. Then set out ideas of what you’d like to see in the world in terms of improvements and how you could contribute to making that happen. I always say, no matter how big or small your platform is, use it for the better. It makes everything more worthwhile. Ultimately, it’s the intention that matters. 

CT: What have been the most powerful images you’ve seen in fashion recently?

SY: Probably Adwoa Aboah as the cover star for Edward Enninful’s first edition of British Vogue. Extremely captivating. I loved the cover, and everything about it screams excellence. Rihanna’s Fenty cosmetic campaign was also powerful. It was the key defining beauty campaign of the year, I personally feel. An amazing representation of diversity. 

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Shahira Yusuf | © Ronan McKenzie / Storm

CT: You recently signed to Storm. How have you found the London fashion scene?  

SY: the best word I could use to describe it is, evolving. I feel like the fashion scene is always evolving, nevertheless I’m very much enjoying myself and in the little time that I’ve been modelling, I’ve had some cool experiences! 

CT: What’s in store for 2018?

SY: I’m looking forward to doing more photoshoots, I’m also hoping to do some runway shows. I’m extremely ambitious and see myself only ever improving. As someone who loves experiencing new places and going on adventures, I’d also love to do some traveling.

A version of this article was originally published on Culture Trip.