David Hellqvist (Photo by Felicity Ieraci via Stamp Magazine)
If you follow menswear on a regularly, a name that should keep popping up in your feed is David Hellqvist. He’s paid his dues in the industry working as the online editor for Dazed Digital (the online accompaniment to Dazed & Confused) before moving on to his current role as online editor at Port Magazine. I spoke with David about experiences as a menswear journalist and got him to share some of the wisdom he’s accrued over the past few years.
Hi David, what’s been keeping you busy of late?
The constant struggle to feed the Internet machine on a daily basis… it’s a hungry beast. Waiting for the Port Magazine 11 to drop. Sending Varon Magazine 7 off to the printers.
How did you start your writing career? At what point did you begin writing about menswear?
I’ve always been writing, in one shape or form, but my ‘career’ began when I studied journalism at LCC and began freelancing. A that time I wrote about both music and fashion. These days I focus on menswear. To be able to write about just one subject, and to find that niche, is a wonderful thing. The best thing with journalism is that you are able to write about whatever you fancy, and that subject can change as time goes by.
Having experienced so much product first hand, what about a product or a brand makes you take notice?
An honest approach in terms of both the product and the marketing. It’s quite easy to see through them if they’re not authentic. I need a good story, an interesting approach and, most importantly, a qualitative product. Most brands won’t have all of those ingredients but when they do… jackpot!
What do you think about the current state of menswear? What would you like to see more or less of?
Menswear is doing alright, it’s difficult out there for many reasons. If you ignore the obvious problems for a second, like the dire economic climate, there’s just so many brands out there that many of the good ones just get lost. There’s definitely too much to look at and buy. A third of brands could be scrapped straight away due to poor quality and lack of original ideas.
Can you contrast the style in your home base of the UK compared to other regions you’ve visited (the US, Japan etc)?
Style as in what people are wearing in different places? Not interested… there’s badly dressed people all over the place, same goes for the people with good gear. Style isn’t defined by geography.
It seems like there’s a new crop of young talented designers in London who are really starting to build buzz internationally. What sense do you get about how these designers will develop?
The London menswear scene is alive and kicking, there’s an energy here you won’t find anywhere else, I firmly believe that. Three seasons in, LC:M is a roaring success – in terms of shows and press attention. What they need to do now is to turn that into money. That’s a major issue that needs to be dealt with. But remember, it’s important that it happens in this order… first creativity and then money. Too often it’s the other way around.
You’ve interviewed designers who are both more avant garde as well as those creators who are more on the ‘heritage’ side of things. What are some of the most memorable interviews you’ve done and what have you learned about the industry through it all?
That creativity comes at a cost. Finding the balance between pursuing your creative dream and actually making a living on it, i.e. selling your clothes, is really difficult. I think most brands and designers struggle with that, and they should. If they don’t, it means they’ve given up and gone mainstream beyond salvation.
Oki-Ni Styled by David Hellqvist
On top of writing about style, you’ve also styled a bunch of features. Is there a certain aesthetic or philosophy you want to express through your styling work?
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work on a few shoots for mag editorials, shop features and lookbooks and even though I’m not a stylist I really enjoy the ability to tell a story with another language. Writing is great, it’s what I do, but when creating images you use different kind of words, and when put next to a piece I’ve written I feel the story is complete.
PORT Magazine is a publication that offers a really refreshing, original take on a variety of issues. How did you get involved with the publication (and it’s accompanying website and how do you see the content developing moving forward?
Port is great, I feel privileged to be able to work with them and help further their online presence. For me, it felt like a natural progression from Dazed Digital, where I used to be editor. Port deals with different issues and its own unique way. As a menswear writer I get to work on fashion features for both online and print, working with Fashion Director David St John-James and Fashion Editor Alex Petsetakis. The idea with Port Mag online is to mirror the print publication – we feature a healthy mixture of print pieces and our own original content, cooked up by myself and my trusty deputy, Betty Wood. The idea is to feature superior words and images, to let the story really take its time to sink in. We don’t flood the site with content, but rather slowly curate it into a Port plate of editorial bliss.
What’s next for David Hellqvist?
More of everything… Lots more Port stories, pieces for the newspapers and magazines I work with, a new Varon issue, another book from me and Morgan O’Donovan, more collaborative goodness with COMMON, I’ve got a few interesting shoots lined up. But before all that, holiday in Sicily. Can’t wait.
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