BY CHRIS PEDERSEN
Words by Monique Schröder // Illustration by Sine Jensen.
Chris Pedersen is a true native of the fashion industry, not only because of his influence throughout numerous projects in Denmark’s creative scene but also his active engagement in pushing boundaries, making people realize that fashion is so much more than just a single piece of clothing. Find out why he dislikes the fast-paced society and rather takes time to connect real faces to good stories.
You have been involved in many different projects throughout your career. When people ask you about your profession, what do you usually answer?
I used to telling people that I am a fashion journalist but in my own terms I think of myself as a Journalist within the framework of fashion. Being called a fashion journalist can sometimes be dishonoring because there are only a handful of great fashion journalists such as Suzy Menkes and Cathy Horyn - and that’s it. People don’t expect much from you as a fashion journalist because the majority believes that your work only exists of talking about trends or clothing. For me it is more than that: the fashion world I operate in is really good at taking trends seriously - in terms of what is happening out on the streets as well as what people are talking about - and finding stories in that particular zeitgeist. Fashion is part of a bigger discourse like food, literature, music, art etc. than just a single clothing item. But regardless, I have had so much fun in the fashion business and it’s been a great career having met a lot of great people. In terms of my life, I would say 30% has been journalism, 60% economy and learning how to set budgets and 10% is the fashion weeks and all the glamour. It takes a lot of hard work to make a media production work but it is a lot of fun.
Based on what you just stated, what is the most annoying stereotype in this industry?
Like I mentioned before, working with fashion is connected to being stupid. But I sincerely think that we are just happy and curious people. We work in an industry where the product we sell receives a lot of glamour and excess, which can make people outside the industry blind to the issues we are trying to talk about. That stereotype existed much more profound when I was young. People wouldn’t understand why I attend vernissages or go to art movies. Now I have been in the business for 20 years and people don’t question me anymore. I get really annoyed if somebody asks me “what should I wear?” I don’t care about other people’s taste that much and I also believe that my taste isn’t necessarily better than others. I might know what a good color is due to my work but I never wanted to be seen as the fashionable gay guy that could answer this question. What if I don’t like it? People would never like me to say that I don’t.
How many people have actually thought that you are Moby, the musician?
I had many funny and great experiences due to people thinking I was Moby. Back in the days, when I did an internship at Nylon magazine in New York, I remember that the gossip column on page 5 in the newspaper stated that Moby was the weirdest guest at The Diane Von Furstenberg show. Only it was me. This confusion happened again when I hung out with Bianca Jagger at a restaurant in New York all night, where the whole staff seemed to be confused why Moby and her talk for hours. It happens more often in New York but there were also incidents in Denmark where people sometimes confused me with him. When the MTV music awards were in Copenhagen, I went to an after party at Vega and the whole night people came up to me asking for autographs. One guy at that same party told me he really liked my music but I said to him that I am writer, not a musician and he was really disappointed. He didn’t understand why I didn’t tell him right away. Well, he didn’t ask (laughs). I am probably pissing off Moby with my behavior as he is vegetarian, he doesn’t drink and he doesn’t party – I am the complete opposite. I had a different experience in Africa; people there said I look like Oliver Kahn, the Germany football player.
What are you working on nowadays?
I used to write a lot. I worked as a fashion editor and editor of magazines since my early twenties until I got into TV one and a half years ago. I recently finished working on a documentary about African fashion and pop culture. I am also running a series from a journalist perspective about trends within hotels and why we travel the way we do as well as a documentary series Olympics in Brazil and the changes of body ideals throughout the history of that country. I am trying to look more into the body (image) and national identity than fashion because fashion is also the way we are choosing to look and what we are doing to our bodies. Ten to fifteen years ago, everybody in the fashion industry did Yoga, whereas now people are really into extreme workouts like Ironman and CrossFit. I always found the body image within the field of plastic surgery really interesting because it’s like a weird hunt for perfection that you will never achieve. You will never be able to let go, meaning if you start with young boobs you will also need to have the young ass.
Do you think you easily jump on trends?
I like trends but I actually never do it with clothes – I have basically been wearing the same thing for twenty years. When I was younger, I was much more willing to try out both new clothing and listening to new music. If a new writing came out, I would read it. It was all about being able to talk about it and being in the conversation when it happened. Trends are fun; they cheer me up because it has something to do with curiosity and I think the older you get, the more you stay in your safe zone. But in order to not become boring, you need to stay aware of what’s going on in broader society to put meaning into clothing.
Twenty years back you really had to do your research. Now that everything is available at anytime, is there anything that shocks you?
Times have definitely changed. I grew up in the countryside and I remember I got my first American Vogue when I was 11 or 12 because I was drawn to its glamour and gloss. I come from a working class family who didn’t have access to such things. I remember this as a mind-blowing experience because I suddenly realized that there was a world “out there” and I didn’t know anything about it. You couldn’t really access things; the only thing you had was MTV and a radio program here in Denmark that would play experimental music every Sunday night from 9PM. My youth as well as that whole generation was about a sense of craving or wanting something because you could never get what you wanted. There were ten years of nothing. People know so much now and have a broad knowledge of culture and history. I didn’t have that until I was 17 or 18 years old and I think that was why publications such as I-D and The Face were so important for my generation. As well as MTV. When I sometimes talk to young people now, I sort of sense we are on the same level because we know the same things. But it’s not until we come to an emotional level, I suddenly realize that he or she is still a kid.
How has your new TV series on Africa influenced your view on the world?
I felt really embarrassed during the whole research phase because I have never really travelled anywhere remotely. I have been to the typical cities like London, Berlin, Paris, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles and a few other places but not more than that. It was a very big deal for me to be able to experience another culture, another continent and being able learn what is going on over there. One of the biggest learning experiences was that I realized that people are the same all over the world. Our problems are the same all over the world. Everything changes as soon you put a face to the people and their stories. In one of the episodes we feature the women who created their own Ghanaian version of Sex And The City. They obviously have other difficulties in terms of sexuality and female identity but they use this framework of SATC to tell stories about modern females and what it is like to be part of the development issues going in Africa. I know I will never be the same again and I don’t know what will happen but I realized that almost no one in our society is trying to do anything for our countries; we are only trying to make our own life better with an accumulation of crazy stuff but it’s not an accumulation of joy or content.
How were you able to find all these stories?
Twitter was a big part of that because everybody seems to use it in Africa. They are not that good with Gmail or Facebook, that’s why a lot of conversations and planning meetings happened over Twitter. I hate my phone a lot of the times but it is crazy how it can connect to everybody in the whole world in the moment you want to. I sometimes wish that it would have existed in my younger years because social media provide such a big platform, especially speaking as a gay man. Now it’s so much easier to find ‘kindred spirits’ if you grow up in a small city. It’s the biggest revolution we had in public culture in my life time.
Is there anything you are thinking about a lot recently?
I have been thinking a lot about Christian Dior and Raf Simons. When you talk about fashion, in a weird way, we have to differentiate between fashion and the capitalist fashion system. Fashion is one thing, including creativity and young designers, while at the same time there is a capitalist fashion system, which basically captures the big marketing world creating desires to push people into buying new shit we don’t need at an expensive money rate every two months. That’s why a lot of designers lose their ideas or go crazy like Alexander McQueen did or Raf Simons recently. I don’t understand where I am going with it but I think a lot of fashion people are trying to figure out what the fuck happened to the system because everybody can see that there is something wrong in the fast pace. I don’t know a single designer who says that it’s nice. You never heard a designer saying that a faster pace is good for the creativity. The same can be applied to magazines these days. They all have the same portraits of the same person. That’s the easy choice but you should have taken somebody who I never thought would be interesting. It’s kind of like if you have one beautiful coat then you can wear whatever with it. I think some of that gets lost in the fast pace these days but you need something to draw the customer in. That’s how I aspire to work and also tried to do with Africa. Within the framework of fashion, I also tried to address identity and development issues. There are so many interesting stories out there that should be told.
Connected to that, is there anything you would like to try out after the TV experience?
Well, I definitely don’t plan to return to being involved with the production of fast news for a while because I don’t want to work in a fast-paced environment anymore. Suddenly you had to be on all social media channels and it goes so fast that it kills conversation and curiosity. I don’t want to be feel like a hamster stuck in a wheel just running. I’ve found out that I simply enjoy just talking to people, kind in the same framework as the talk shows in the 80s. I think there are so many human stories that are not told because we don’t have time - and as a journalist and I aspire to return to the human stories now.