How do we define a generation? It is a question that has been haunting me for quite some time.” - Ori Lev, Editor's Letter, Issue 1, QWHO Magazine.
Originally born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, London-based fashion director and stylist Ori Lev studied Fashion Styling and Fashion Business in Milan before moving to the UK to work for the likes of Wonderland and i-D. Ori is currently the Founding Editor of a new menswear publication called 'QWHO', a print and online magazine that sets to re-discover menswear and bring a new voice to a voiceless generation of designers and artists from around the world. FUSSED caught up with Ori to discuss his international experiences and what it's like being the founder of his own publication.
How did you get started in the fashion industry?
I got started in fashion in 2005 when I moved to Milan. I was supposed to study architecture there, but then I decided that I wanted to try out fashion and I just kind of fell into it. I ended up studying menswear for two years, fashion business for one year and then finished with an MA in fashion publishing.
How would you describe your ‘style’ both on and off the camera?
Very minimalist but on a constant evolution. Every new city I visit and every new thing I learn directly effects both my work and personal taste.
What is the fashion scene like in Israel?
There isn't one. It's a very commercial and small place, and most people just look like clones of one another.
What was it like growing up in Israel and how does it influence the way you work today?
Well I was born in Jerusalem but I grew up in Tel-Aviv, which is pretty much considered to be the New York of the middle east. Here, I had quite an ordinary childhood; surfing at the beach, hanging out at cafe's, skipping school to smoke some weed. But at the same time I grew up in a very European home due to the fact that my mom is Italian, so fashion wise I'm not sure if I am in anyway influenced by my childhood experiences in Israel, though maybe I am without even knowing.
Anyway, my awakening and uncontrollable desire to book a flight ticket came on one typical Tel-Aviv sunny afternoon whilst I was enjoying my coffee and Marlboro Light break. I got a message from a guy on Facebook that had been bugging me to meet him for coffee for quite some time and, whilst I usually don't do dates, something inside sort of pushed me to say yes, so I did – only to be overwhelmed by what was to come. No sooner than we had set the date did the guy ask me to do him a favour and hide my tattoos and not wear my “feminine” skinny jeans, along with a few other requests. The guy wasn't necessarily to blame, but the society and generation that imposed this narrow-mindedness upon him certainly was. I'm so truly thankful for the years I've spent in London and Milan where I have discovered that our generation is so much more than this – it is defined by the people that push and break boundaries rather than those that abide by them.
How did your previous positions in the industry influence the way in which you approached your own magazine?
I think that working at i-D completely re-wrote everything I knew about fashion. It had a tremendous effect on my style and vision and taught me a completely new approach to the ways things are done. I think the thing that inspired me most was their backstory; how in the 80s they set out to create something completely different to what was accepted as the industry standard. They represented a new voice, a new generation, and that is precisely what QWHO attempts to achieve today.
How has your degree in Fashion Styling helped you get to where you are today?
Well I learnt more than just styling: I learnt the history of design and fashion, art, a bit of photography, editing, creative thinking, creative research... the list goes on. I don't think that you need to study to become anything – talent isn't something that can be taught - but what kind of a stylist, designer or, even more than that, a person, will you be without filling yourself with knowledge? Studying is just the first step. You have to take the tools that you're given and apply them in your own way by going out there and getting as much experience as you can. Yes it's possible to become a 'stylist' (hate the term) without going to school or University, but do you really want to just 'dress people up' for the rest of your life? There is so much more to it than that.
Can you tell us a little bit about QWHO and why you set it up?
QWHO started out as a newsletter to promote up and coming designers, photographers, and artists. This started about ten months ago and quickly grew to include over 10,000 international subscribers. About seven months ago I decided to take it all the way and turn the vision of QWHO into an actual magazine that addresses menswear, music and culture from key cities across the globe. QWHO is meant for the next generation of culture shapers and trend setters who are today considered a bit voiceless, but it still retains its original vision of being a platform for young aspiring artists in doing so. I guess I just had a lot to say and QWHO is my way of saying it.
How do you view the current state of Menswear in both global and London fashion?
Mega! It's amazing to see how many talented designers, magazines and photographers are working all around menswear today - it's truly going the right way.
Where is your favourite place across the globe for fashion and culture?
For me, nothing beats East London.
How do you want others to view you and your work?
However they want to. I'm not looking for approval – what I do, I do to express myself.
What is your ultimate goal for the future?
To have a huge office for QWHO on Shoreditch Highstreet, with two skinny Japanese girls (who will only know how to say 'hello' in English) half-naked and manning the reception desk. That's the future!