“ In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different “
I met many amazing women in my life. Some I was lucky to have the chance and get to know, some I admired from a distance. However, they all have one thing in common: they have a point of view, originality you sense about the person even from far away observation, and they all dare to dream.
One such woman is Aleksandra Olenska, an admirable tall blonde of Polish origins, dressed in a flowy flowery dresses with an envious collection of Chanel bags. I first had the honour to meet this inspiring woman in a photo shoot this time last year, as she was guiding her students from IFA Paris about their approach in styling a denim-inspired story.
A year later I found myself starting my blog Dare and finding women who are never scared to be themselves. Funny thing- just that day myclass was room-sharing with Ms. Olenska’s class of Fashion Design first year students. So, I carefully listened as she went from one student to another and gave each of them an individual attention and payed an interest in their project. I thought to myself how this woman really knows her history, art, fashion, photography and many other aspects of culture she made to different designs to help improve them and spark inspiration in these young people on their path to a professional career in fashion.
As Professor Olenska kindly accepted my request to interview her, she took 20 minutes of her busy schedule juggling between being a professor, launching an online magazine, culture coaching and styling job. We talked about many things, including Central Saint Martins, where she finished her Masters degree under the guidance of Professor Louise Wilson, her time at Dazed and Confused in the 90s, and her work for magazines such as Exit, Vogue Italia, W, and her favourite magazine Self Service, as well as her work for private clients.
Her degree in English literature surprised me, but her explanation was that she thoroughly enjoyed it, and considers it an extreme luxury, because it instilled an impressive basis of cultural knowledge within her, which she later built upon through her career in fashion and culture. Following her literature degree, she was drawn to the new visual form of the 90’s- styling – then more creative direction – which was a mixture of everything: creativity, art and fashion – expressing ideas, and creating characters through imagery. To her, there were no limits in creating beautiful photographs, because as they say, a picture says a thousand words. Aleksandra strives for integrity of expression, and authenticity in work. Today, she says there is “too much opinion that is masquerading as expert fact,” and too much censorship of experts. We all have opinion, but a professional’s in-depth research and perspective can never coincide with amateur reasoning on a subject.
Through her styling, image making and creative direction, Aleksandra loved expressing her artistic side, as the whole industry was previously very art-based. She worked with a lot of her industry heroes whose books lay on the shelves of her home. To name a few: Todd Hido, Lina Scheynius and Raymond Meeks, especially in her work for then art and fashion magazine Exit.
When asked if she thinks she can show her view of the world through an image she said: “Styling today has changed a lot. I went into the fashion industry styling as a means of creative self expression – defining ones universe visually – it used to be about directing a whole image and the mood, and not just about showing a piece of clothing in the most flattering way and doing a total look of one designer. There’s not much imagination in that! It should be about mixing things, about finding items that work together in an interesting manner,expressing individuality in a harmonious manner, and almost finding your own message and selling your style identity”. If she had to pick one magazine she relates to, straight away, she selects Self Service magazine, with its aesthetic the 70s inspired, retro glamour woman.
Alltogether, I had an opportunity to enter the world of this amazing woman for a few minutes, to listen and absorb her comments, ideas, advice and genius. She advises young women to always represent their own version of what it is to be a female, not to succumb to clichés, and express the multifaceted dimension of people – style from the soul!
Whether working for fashion magazines, or brands such as Celine, Chanel or Vanessa Bruno, Aleksandra always bases her choices on cultural knowledge, and finds different ways of cultivating her passions.
She is presently launching an online magazine, and expanding her offering to private clients, as a style and culture coach. She has done talks for the Tate in London, and numerable art charities, and this linked her to many interesting individuals, who want to cultivate a taste of style and art, but don’t necessarily know how – and some clients who think that style doesn’t matter, but have a niggling feeling that other people think it does! Private clients include high net worth individuals looking for a style re-boot after a divorce, and successful business people who are looking to start collections, or want to learn about culture in a non-judgemental manner. Be that help throwing the perfect dinner party to impress a loved one, starting an art book library or getting Aleksandra over for one of her discrete signature secret style reboots – clients leave more confident, powerful and harmoniously stylish from the inside out. It is simply done by booking time with clients who have questions on general culture of Europe and the real stories behind art, cities, fashion, etiquette, and other aspects of culture. Very successful people in business are in this wayable to have a very confidential space to ask questions about anything to an expert, and get in-depth answers and advice.
And of course for us, she advises future professionals in fashion to always be themselves, have a point of view, do their research, and be interesting individuals, not to worry too much about what everybody else thinks, and always work hard for what you believe in. And in honour of Aleksandra’s favourite brand, I decided to wrap up by this quote by Gabrielle Chanel: “ In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”