By BONNIE J. GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
Los Alamos native Alexandra Hehlen, editor in chief of Coulture Magazine, is a junior majoring in journalism and minoring in business administration at UNC-Chapel Hill. Coulture is a glossy magazine, featuring fashion and culture in a fresh, youthful package.
“I wanted to do something with an impact,” Hehlen said in a recent interview. “The magazine challenges beauty standards and we encourage our readers to embrace their best features rather than try to live up to societal standards. Fashion magazines should embrace everyone.”
Anyone who applies can be a model, she said.
While at Los Alamos High School, Hehlen wrote a regular fashion column for the Los Alamos Monitor and managed its teen page. She had to convince the newspaper staff that anyone would want to read about fashion. They let her write her first column, on “mom jeans” and it was very well received, she said. By the end of her freshman year, she’d written 70 pieces for her “Fashion Maven” column. By senior year she was managing the teen page team.
Hehlen was one of 32 recipients out of a pool of 2,000 applicants for the prestigious Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. Hehlen used a picture of herself modeling a wedding gown made of milk jugs she designed for the Los Alamos Recycle Fashion show. The scholarship committee was intrigued. The full scholarship to UNC-Chapel Hill includes all her expenses, including semester abroad opportunities. Hehlen spent last semester at Bocconi Unitersity in Milan, “loving fashion and living fashion.”
“I loved UNC, but I missed fashion and writing my fashion column,” Hehlen said. “I realized fashion was going to be a bigger part of my life than just my wardrobe.”
The magazine was born when Hehlen met her friend and future deputy editor in chief Remington Remmel and they discovered their mutual passion for fashion. They raised $3,000 in a Kickstarter campaign to put out the first issue of Coulture.
Once they proved they could do it, the two approached a faculty member in the UNC School of Media and Journalism who had grant funding to start a fashion program. The magazine’s production costs are covered by the grant for five years.
Next Hehlen and Remmel recruited a staff of 120. The magazine comes out once a semester and is a thoroughly professional product. Three issues have come out so far. The latest is a coloring book as well as a fashion magazine.
The two editors set the theme and the 15 teams of writers, graphic artists, stylists and photographers take the issue forward.
“We ask people to pitch content based on the theme,” Hehlen said. They choose some for the magazine and the others write for the magazine’s online blog.
“Fashion can be rude and mean,” Hehlen said. “I’m adamant that everyone has a good time.”
Hehlen will be interning at a New York fashion company this summer, before returning to UNC to write her thesis on sustainable fashion, one of her passions.
“I’d like to start a sustainable fashion company in five to 10 years,” she said. “My big thing is to use fashion to make an impact. One in six people are employed in the fashion industry and many of them are women. I want to see people get paid decently. When women succeed, everyone succeeds.”
In addition to promoting corporate social responsibility, Hehlen wants to produce fashion for young consumers who don’t have a large clothing budget.
“Sustainable fashion will be the next big thing and I’m right on time,” Hehlen said. “I’ll stop at nothing to make a difference.”
To see the latest issue and learn more about Coulture, visit www.coulture.org.