I first stumbled across Mai on tumblr when one of her outfit photos popped up on my dashboard; intrigued by her unique style and copiously layered clothing, I went on to her blog and pretty much immediately hit ‘Follow’. I don’t really consider myself as having role models anymore but Mai has been a continuing source of a wealth of inspiration for outfits, where to buy clothing and picking up her technique for layering well; her look is most definitely something to aspire to. Hailing from Copenhagan, Denmark I was absolutely delighted when she agreed to be interviewed for VargaMor. ~ Becca
Hello. Could you tell us your name and any online pseudonyms you’re known by?
Hello! My name is Mai and I have a facebook page in my name (Mai Agerlin) and a youtube and tumblr under my online pseudonym ShortcutToTheStars.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
I am 21 years old and I live in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’ve been drawing for 10+ years and live and breathe illustration. I also have a tailor’s education and have been hired to do costumes for various smaller productions. I also sing and play the guitar, so I guess you could say that I’m a very creative person.
Your style of dress is extremely unique – could you tell us a little bit about what influences your style?
Everything, really! I could do an outfit based on pretty much anything. My main inspirations are fairy tales, witches and the post-apocalyptic. All my looks relate very much to fictional universes, and I usually create a little story around every outfit.
I started out dressing goth when I was around 12, but I’ve always dressed sorta hippie-ish and in hand-me-downs. I feel like my style now finally embraces both sides of me; the bare-feet forest child and the bad-ass witch!
What was it that made you decide to dress ‘Alternatively?’
As mentioned I always wore hand-me-downs, and it was something I thoroughly enjoyed! However it also meant being creative with clothes from a very young age, and I think that’s when it started. Dressing up and making costumes has always been a great passion of mine and I can’t imagine wearing jeans and a t-shirt. In fact I think it would make me very unhappy.
I simply do it because not doing it isn’t an option!
We’re particularly interested in your Dark Fashion wardrobe. Could you tell us about Strega Fashion and what it means to you?
Strega was a term I came up with (with help from my followers) after feeling like mori was getting too limiting and incorrect. What I was doing had nothing to do with Japan, in fact it had a strong European vibe, and it drew a lot of inspiration from European folklore. I wanted a judgement-free environment where people could come together in expressing themselves. Strega means witch, and that is what it is, and the only rule of the fashion; our inner witch coming out through our clothing. Main inspirations are fairytales and folklore, especially European, and any layered, expressive style.
Where do you shop for your clothes?
I thrift everything! That’s not an exaggeration. I sometimes find items elsewhere, but 90% of my wardrobe is thrifted. H&M has a pretty cool collection called DVIVDED GREY right now though, I’d really recommend checking it out!
I’m aware that most of your wardrobe is thrifted – do you have any advice or tips for aspiring thrifters?
Don’t be too picky! I see so many who go into a thrift shop, looks at 3 items and dismisses them for reasons like ‘it’s not my size’ or ‘it’s too long’. Make it work for you. I always buy oversized, so the bigger the better, and I alter a lot. You have to see the potential in each piece, and be thourough when going through the shop.
How do you go about putting an outfit together?
Usually I have a little story in my head like ‘forest witch meets the city’ or ‘post-apocalyptic wasteland hunter’ and then I’ll decide on a color palette. Other times I’ll find an item in my wardrobe and base the color palette on that. There’s always a story though.
Could you show us some of your favourite outfits and discuss what they mean to you?
I’ve picked 4 outfit pictures that I feel represent the different aspects of my personal style:
Mori kei. I discovered mori kei through tumblr about 3 years ago and fell instanly in love! I’ve been dressing mori for way longer, but finally I found a community and a name for it. Mori kei is what I wear when I want to dress simply. It’s cute and comfy but doesn’t really challenge me anymore. It’s basically my sweats.
Strega fashion. Strega is darker and more sinister and what I wear most of the time. It feels very ‘me’ since it combines comfort with looking witchy and cool. Though it’s not even been six months since I created the term it’s spread like crazy! It’s pretty cool.
Victorian. I wear this look quite rarely (1-2 times a month) but when I do it makes me feel like a queen. I love dressing so feminine and high-maintenance for a change!
Post-apocalyptic. I’ve wanted to dress like this for years but only recently got the courage. This is the look that makes me feel the most bad-ass and I often wear it when I need to feel powerful and strong. My post-apocalyptic outfits often have the most elaborate background stories.
What inspires your work as an illustrator?
Scandinavian folklore and nature. They’re my two main inspiration and it’s a never-ending source.
Do you have a preference for what you choose to draw?
I prefer people or trees. Even better, a combination of the two! I also like doing small frames with characters inside them, I feel it finishes off the drawing nicely.
What do you aspire to as an illustrator? Where would you like it to take you?
I just applied for University and a BA in Digital Design, and I am currently deciding on a few different Masters on top of that. I definitely want illustration to be a part of my job, and I’ve already done a few professional illustrations for book covers and the like. I am absolutely certain that it will be a key element in whatever I end up doing!
We’re interested to know about your personal space/bedroom – how does it reflect you and your personality?
It definitely does! My room is covered with trinkets and items, lots of things on the wall! I love looking around it and thinking about all the stories behind the decorations .I have some of my favorite illustrations I’ve done on the wall and a huge dress I got at a theatre sale. Whenever people see my room for the first time they always say that it’s exactly like they expected it to be.I love my little workspace and my fluffy chair and that’s where I do most of my illustrations too. I use my laptop for school and my desktop for more trying graphic tasks and gaming.
Do you have any cherished items of clothing or decorations or prized possessions you would like to share with us and discuss?
My teddy bear Snehvide (snow white). She guards my bed and has for 11 years. She has marks of time and memories and is one of my most prized possessions.
My favorite books. As previously mentioned fictional universes are a big source of inspiration for me, and so I couldn’t leave out my favorite books!
– Tim Walker: Storyteller. Tim Walker is my favorite photographer and his play with costumes and props is eternally inspirational.
-Lord of the Rings. Obvious but amazing. Sparked my interest in fantasy and remain a favorite to this day.
– His Dark Material-trilogy by Phillip Pullman. One of the most magnificent stories and universes of all time! Promise me you’ll read all 3 books a be ready to be blown away! Inspired by Paradise Lost this one is less of a children’s book than you think.
– The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. And eye opener and a classic. I can read it again and again and marvel at the language and the insight.
-Samlede Strunge by Michael Strunge. My favorite Danish poet who captures the spirit of Copenhagen so well it hurts. I am considering a phrase from his poem Natmaskinen for my next tattoo.
Are there any particular albums or artists or specific songs you would like to tell us about that mean a lot to you?
The Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds is my all time favorite artist and his music has inspired countless illustrations. He has a very specific Scandinavian sound that I feel resonates with me and my inner universe. He is amazing and you all need to listen to his music.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just that I hope I can inspire others to go all out with their clothing. It’s so liberating and gives me so much energy and confidence, and I wish that for all of you ❤