How a Melbourne teen won the admiration of ‘Dazed’ founder, Jefferson Hack


After dropping out of high school to launch her own magazine, Abby Strangward has caught the attention of her idol.

“How do you create space for people to have a voice?”

This question has been sitting in my Notes app since I first wrote it down, around two weeks ago. It’s a question that’s bounced around in my mind in the time since. Not only because it’s such a concise elocution of a theme that’s been circulating the collective consciousness since the recent resurgence of the BLM movement, but because to me, it signals the future of media.

I wrote it after Dazed co-founder, Jefferson Hack, asked the question at a recent live interview. I was hearing him speak (virtually of course) alongside 3,000 others from across the globe who had been granted access, by invitation only, thanks to Converse.

This question was not directed to me specifically, nor was it directed to a room full of international media, as these events often go. His question was instead directed to Abby Strangward and Kyla Rain, aged 18 and 19 respectively, the teen founders of indie publication and events collective, Pure Nowhere.

Theirs is an open artistic platform, open to submissions, with a focus on amplifying voices, premiering films and music, and interviewing friends and strangers. It beats with raw creativity and an eloquence of words that, at times, reads almost like poetry.

“We’re for being loud, for taking up space, for lost friends and first goodbyes and how it feels in the middle of a moshpit, your heart beating with the bass in the bottom of your stomach. For bare feet slapping the concrete at full speed, sprinting towards the water with reckless abandon.”

The site shares obvious synergies with Dazed, which might explain why Jefferson has taken a shine to it. Within their interview, his admiration for Abby and Kyla’s work was obvious, as he asked them who wrote the About page, for the story behind the name and whether they could post him a copy of their debut print edition.

It was a meaningful, honest and heartwarming conversation to observe, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any creative in media, let alone two so young.

Throughout the two-day digital event, similar opportunities were given again and again to emerging, young talent from across the globe. I watched as Agata interviewed Virgil Abloh from her place in Italy, and as Kobkit quizzed Samuel Ross from his home in Thailand.

“How cool is this?!” I pointed to the screen throughout one of the live Q&As, trying to show my partner the significance of such opportunities for anyone, let alone budding talent this fresh.

Together, we sat back and watched the livestream as a live chat – updated by the millisecond and flooded with fire emojis – fired alongside. Here attendees were voraciously chatting in real time, connecting and networking and brainstorming, throughout this event held especially for them.

In fact, the whole online interface had been designed just for them – these 3000 emerging creatives from 27 cities, coined the All Stars.

Introducing the All Stars

The concept of the Converse All Stars is a little hard to explain, as it was driven by intuition rather than outcome.

Over a number of years, Converse has been quietly scouting the globe to identify emerging leaders at a grassroots level. These people are hardly influencers (some only have a few hundred followers) but have instead been marked as Converse as champions of cultural change.

The brand has slowly built a global community (now 3000 members strong) and in a newly-announced program, will be working with these All Stars to hone their creative talents and amplify their voices. It’s a community approach, aiming to break down barriers to creative progress. It’s already begun to unfold, happening now through mentorship, commission and funding, as well as connection through Converse’s global network to further experience and opportunity.

In Australia, All Stars include Fashion Journal contributor and content creator Maggie Zhou, Poly Connection founder Aysha Nanai Lefi and of course, Pure Nowhere co-founder Abby Strangward.

For Abby, the All Stars program has already given her the opportunity to interview (and receive further advice from) her idol.

Dazed is one of our biggest inspirations and influences,” she explains. “Converse reached out to us and told us they had a special interview planned, and they didn’t tell us who it was. We had a call at 5am Melbourne time to find out who it was the week beforehand and they told us it was Jefferson. We tried to keep it cool on the call, but then we hung up and Facetimed each other and were screaming.”

In preparation for their 15-minute interview, Abby tells me she spent 10 hours reading past interviews of Jefferson’s, then another 36 hours preparing questions with her co-founder, Kyla. While the pair had long been influenced by Dazed, they began to realise just how close those synergies ran.

“We started finding these patterns emerging – and these concepts Jefferson had talked about over the last 10 years – that we had been unconsciously putting into our own work,” she explains. “They were ideas that we had written in the ‘letter from the editor’ in our first issue.”

“It was this feeling of like, ‘I feel like he could be a kindred spirit’.”

Watching the interview unfold, there was an obvious connection between the pair and Jefferson. At one point, they engaged in an impassioned conversation around the word ‘content’ – describing how they all refuse to use the word in relation to their published works; how it grossly undervalues the stories and the art.

“Just the way he talks about the way Dazed started, and everything he was trying to create and demonstrate in those early phases, is just everything we felt and truly believed with Pure Nowhere,” says Abby. “And that idea of content, that idea of intimacy, and that idea of rawness and telling stories, that’s all we want to do.”

She describes the interview as “like a splash of cold water” that came at just the right time. Like many creatives over the past few months, the pair had been feeling in a bit of a slump.

“It just kickstarted us; it brought us back to life. It went ‘Here’s something big’, do this and keep going, keep building, keep growing.”

Converse’s commitment to the All Stars community is met with a $1 million accelerator program dubbed Converse All Star Captains, which aims to fast-track the progress of a dozen individual All Stars who strive to define a new possible through creative action in sustainability, inclusivity and diversity, and youth development. In October 2020, All Stars will have the opportunity to submit individual proposals to Converse on ideas they believe will change the game.


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