Crushing on Sonja Ahlers

Canadian artist Sonja Ahlers is no stranger to WORN: we loved her when she jazzed up a pair of Keds for us that appeared in issue 8. Recently, she came out with a new book entitled The Selves. Part zine, part scrapbook, the Selves is the result of what happens when Kate Bush lyrics and images from Degrassi collide, creating a visual presentation of feminity’s role in pop culture.

How did you dress in high school?
I made art as a child but once I rolled into high school, all my ‘art’ went into my clothing. Grade 8 was my favourite year. I planned out my outfits every night after I did my homework. I would iron everything and lay it all out the night before. I was excited to wake up just to wear my new outfit. My mother was my inspiration. We shopped in thrift stores which were goldmines then because it was the eighties and nobody shopped in them. She had a divining rod and could find the most beautiful clothing you can imagine. She could cruise a row of sweaters with her eyes alone and the vintage Pringle cashmere sweaters would cry out to her.

We had a room off the kitchen which was ALL CLOTHES piled high. I would go in there and dig through the piles and see what I came up with. I wore a combination of Laura Ashley/La Cache/80s Esprit sportswear/new wave/victorian. I had this pink jean vest that I lived in. I’d also sneak clothes out because some of them were off limits (too precious). I have a strong memory of this gold metallic tote bag I carried around. It was a preppy time so this bag was out of control. I had a few jobs (babysitting/paper route) and I spent all my money on ‘designer’ clothes. I remember spending $25 on a pair of pastel-coloured Christian Dior socks. I combined this with the vintage and used pieces.

Do you ever base your first impressions of people on what they wear?
I don’t think so. I like what my friends wear. They are all individuals.

What were the main sources you used to find images for your book?
From my personal library that I’ve been amassing for years. I’m not a hoarder and I move around a lot so I edit my stuff constantly. My friend Brooke Nechvatel is my main source. She is a truly gifted illustrator. I have a lot of her work in The Selves. She did the Olsen Twins watercolour, the 80s Heart pencil drawing, the banger girl holding her pet boa constrictor (from a newspaper clipping I found), Jerri Blank/Amy Sedaris in sick yellow pajamas and the Madonna leg with the beautiful turquoise shoe that I’m obsessesed with (sidenote: I joked to myself that I was Anna Wintour art directing myself in The Selves.).

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