MYLES
O’MEALLY

One of the youngest shoe engineers at Nike and now a sought-after pioneer in the world of high-end sneakers with his studio Areté.
(Image by @_kickstory)

NATHALIE
ROBBERSE

Co-founder of TEN, a networking community for entrepreneurial women that started in Amsterdam and is now going global.

GLORIA
LANDENBERGER

Designer, creative director, ceramicist and the founder of the interior label 2222STUDIO. Firmly rooted in fashion and interior and always shifting between these both worlds.

PIETER

KOOL

Founder of strategic spatial design agency, CARBON STUDIO. He has worked with names such as Pharrell Williams, Marc Newson, Rem Koolhaas as well as the Prouvé family.

CYNTHIA
CERVANTES

She dedicated her career to community betterment. She co-founded Maroon World, a studio that celebrates BIPOC communities.

LOUIS A. W.
SHERIDAN

To travel is to live and Louis A. W. Sheridan has elevated travel into an aspirational lifestyle.

REGINALD
SYLVESTER II

Reflecting the world we live in today, Reginald Sylvester II is an abstract artist that captures moments in time on canvas.

CITIZENS
SESSIONS

A recap of one of our recent CITIZENS SESSIONS we hosted at the Soho House in Amsterdam with talks and keynotes from various creatives.

CONNIE
LIM

A talented artist and designer who has collaborated with luxury brands and been featured in top publications.

EMMANUEL
LAWAL

A man of many talents: model, DJ, music producer, brand consultant, but first and foremost, creative entrepreneur.

SUZANNE
SCHULTING

Olympic gold medalist, world champion, European champion and 2018 Dutch Sportswoman of the Year, the speed skater talks to us about life as an elite athlete and her goals for the future, making it clear that she’s far from the finish line.

TYLER
ADAMS

A multidisciplinary artist specializing in photography, art direction, and casting with a wide array of clients such as Def Jam Records Opening Ceremony, Beyoncé x Adidas.

STUDIO
HAGEL

The footwear designer and founder Mathieu embraces the unexpected, isn’t afraid to change course, and finds innovative solutions in what others might see as mistakes.

ALEX
ZETA

An intuitive creator that transforms emotion and feelings into compelling and unique works of art.

DANIEL
MEUL

Manager and buyer of Dutch fashion house, Pauw, shares his @suitwhisper expertise and tells us about how his simple interest in clothes became a well-tailored way of life.

Bringing people TOGETHER, sharing experiences, building friendships and CONNECTIONS – thats the core of what we do. Our CITIZENS SESSIONS translate this into a physical space and platform to build a network with various CREATIVES who share valuable insights. Stay tuned for more sessions in the future and keep an eye on our SOCIALS to be up to date.

THIS IS OUR LIFE AS FRIENDS.

GLORIA LANDENBERGER

Gloria Landenberger is an Amsterdam-based designer, creative director, ceramicist, and the founder of the interior label 2222STUDIO. Firmly rooted in fashion and interior you’ll always find her shifting between both worlds. From leading the creative direction of a German fashion and interior brand to creating one-of-a-kind sculptural works in her studio, her projects all arise from the same creative drive and vision.

18 Apr 2023

Demi Meijer

How did you get into fashion?

“I studied industrial and fashion design in Berlin and Paris. Since then I’ve worked for over a decade as designer, design manager and creative director for a variety of European fashion brands. And since a couple of years as creative director for a brand in Berlin."

What motivated you to make the transition from fashion into ceramics?

“After working nonstop in the fashion industry, I was longing to take my creativity out from behind a corporate computer and create something with my own hands which led me to experiment with clay. It initially just started off as some sort of meditational practice and developed over time into my passion and second business."

Biography

Gloria Landenberger is an Amsterdam-based designer, creative director, ceramicist, and the founder of the interior label 2222STUDIO. Firmly rooted in fashion and interior you’ll always find her shifting between both worlds. From leading the creative direction of a German fashion and interior brand to creating one-of-a-kind sculptural works in her studio, her projects all arise from the same creative drive and vision.

Tell us about 22_22 studio.

“As I had only worked for other people's companies, I eventually felt the urge to create a brand that would represent my own aesthetics and values that would help enable me to share what inspired me personally. Therefore, I decided to merge this idea with my passion for crafts and interior and started my own brand 2222STUDIO under which I design, make and sell interior objects. 2222STUDIO was inspired by my lucky number and time 22:22. Since I was a teenager, I have been superstitious about it and believed that catching this time over and over was no coincidence. I always felt compelled to make wishes for a whole minute until this magic alignment of numbers passed. "

Advice you would give to someone who is interested in starting their own business.

“Just do it! I believe that it’s important to start somewhere with a vision and then figure things out along the way. Too much overthinking and doubting upfront will just block you. "

What do you feel is the best part of your job?

“That it's so versatile, creative, and that I am independent."

3 words that best describe your creative process.

“Intuitive, meditative and passionate."

Favorite song to listen to when you’re working in your studio?

"Okwukwe Na Nchekwube by Celestine Ukwu & his Philosophers"

Name a personal achievement you’re proud of.

“Following and building a career for myself that reflects what I am passionate about."

Name a mistake that taught you a lesson.

“Taking on an order that exceeded my capacity and really challenged my entire setup."

Your top 3 travel destinations. Dream vacation.

“Mexico, Japan, Venice."

Describe your personal style.

“Minimal and eclectic."

The one thing in your wardrobe you can’t live without.

"All my Jackets and coats."

Name a person, place, or thing that inspires you.

"I really like the work of Alicja Kwade. But my brain just picks up on everything that I see around me. It could be super and abstract, light, textures, shapes."

VIRGIL NICHOLAS

With honesty, well-being, and respect for oneself and each other as the foundation of Danish shoe brand, Vinny’s shoes, Virgil Nicholas has founded a shoe company with real soul. In this edition of Citizens, we step into the creative director’s classic leather loafers and discover more about his work, style, and way of life.

23 May 2022

Paolo gattone

Hi Virgil, why loafers?

“Good question. I've always worn loafers and compared to all the other types of footwear in my wardrobe, they‘re the one pair of shoes that I wear to death. A couple of years ago, just before starting Vinny’s, I was looking at my rotation of the same four to five shoes I wore over and over and noticed I was missing that perfect loafer. I realized that's where I have a genuine heritage and story to tell, so it made sense that I bring that to the table myself."

How should one feel when wearing a pair of Vinny’s?

“I think the loafer, for me, is like when you put on a blazer jacket. It shapes you as a person, your back gets a little bit more upright and you carry yourself a bit more elegantly. Loafers do the same thing. I want both men and women to feel comfortable, relaxed, well-dressed, and feeling confident. I think when we feel our very best, we're better humans to ourselves and to our neighbors and next of kin. So, it's really about building self-respect."

Virgil Nicholas

Biography

Virgil Nicholas is the founder and creative director of Vinny's Shoes, a Danish shoe brand that embodies the values of honesty, well-being, and respect. His passion for footwear has led him to create a shoe company with a real soul, where quality and craftsmanship are at the forefront of every design.

Virgil Nicholas (Still from podcast)

Virgil Nicholas (Still from podcast)

Virgil Nicholas (Photo credits: Illum)

Virgil Nicholas (Photo credits: Illum)

Is that what makes you feel confident?

“A good pair of loafers, yeah. I think one of my confidence boosters is definitely always a good outfit."

Do you think good taste is something you’re born with, or can it be developed?

“I think style and taste is definitely something that you can learn. It’s about what you're interested in, what you’re exposed to and influenced by. It's definitely something that you can adapt and grow into and out of. Personally, the influences from my mom and my dad and their post-colonial heritage, my African heritage, but also the urban references from when I was a kid, shaped my wardrobe. I always go to the same things. I have pieces in my wardrobe that go ten years back and it's the stuff that I love to wear the most. Then, occasionally you add new things."

Virgil Nicholas and Silas Oda Adler

Virgil Nicholas and Silas Oda Adler

What are your tips for someone who is developing their own style?

“It starts with knowing who you are. A fashionable look or outfit can sometimes become a way to dress yourself up or to hide who you are, whereas style is about what we actually like and what you can see yourself wearing over and over again that resembles you. Also, read about pieces, find out how the penny loafer came about, the history of the slip dress, or research style icons. What makes hairstyles iconic today? Why do we like 90s fashion so much right now? Why's airport style interesting? I know a lot of men that research trends and decades and fashion and it's really been a way of shaping who they are. I've done the same, more from a research and creative perspective but it definitely helps me to also keep my own style universe sharp."

Who's your style icon?

“My dad. He always inspired me a lot."

Virgil Nicholas and son

Virgil Nicholas and son

Vinny's by Virgil Nicholas

Vinny's by Virgil Nicholas

Do you hope to be a style icon for your son?

“He already dresses way better than me. I think he already passed me. I just want to be a good role model, that's the most important thing for me."

Has becoming a father changed the way you work?

"Only that I have to leave work a little bit early. I love to work, so that's why I hate having to leave work early. When he sleeps, I really love to work. Especially when I get to live out my dream. I'm so blessed and lucky that he loves coming into work with me. He's an open-minded kid and really at ease around my colleagues. I can bring him anywhere and that really makes my workflow a whole lot better."

Virgil Nicolas at parelstudios

Virgil Nicolas at parelstudios

Virgil Nicholas

Virgil Nicholas

What’s your favorite place to work?

“We got our office four months ago and we have a red couch that I love sitting on. The most amazing thing is that our office is an old apartment, so we wanted to create a homey feeling. It's always hard to leave the office which is a good sign of a good workplace, at least for myself."

Where do you like to relax?

“Benches in my city. I love just sitting there and people watching. Not having any plans or any distractions, just a good pair of sunglasses to watch people. If you see me on a bench, you know what I'm doing. It’s the most relaxing thing ever."

As a successful creative, you’ve had a lot of great ideas. Tell us about your worst idea.

“My worst idea? Ha, that’s a good one. I don’t know, I’ve had a few. There was this one project, it was right after I started my first label, I wanted to create something that was more urban. So, we started making baseball t-shirts and the execution was good, but the name was horrible – it was a combination of three French words. I speak French with my parents, so it’s a big part of me and almost everything I do creatively starts with French. We actually got a lot of traction in France, but no one understood what we were trying to say. It was just the most horrible thing I've done. We had to shut it down quite quickly for numerous reasons but mostly the name was just a killer."

Name one thing you hope to get better at.

“I'm always on the go, always thinking about the next step, the next collection, the next campaign, am I picking up my son? I think what I need to be better at is enjoying the present. Enjoying the moment with people that are really dear to me. The thing I really value the most in my life are my relationships. It’s easy to make up an excuse not to meet up or make time for family and friends, but if it matters, then you need to remember to prioritize them. Time flies so fast."

Virgil Nicholas

Virgil Nicholas

Tell us something you hate to do but have to.

"Every month, I have to go through all my expenses and find all my receipts. It’s a work thing that I hate to do. I try to be really good at it, but I hate it."

And something you love to do but rarely get to.

“I love to read and listen to audiobooks. I hate that I don't have or take the time to do it enough."

Do you have a favorite book?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Love it. It was really a kickstarter for how I started to believe in myself and knowing that anything you set your mind to is possible."

What's one song you listen to on repeat?

“Gold by Prince. I saw him perform it live at a festival here in Denmark. It was a crazy experience."

A young Virgil Nicholas

A young Virgil Nicholas

Lastly, name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

"One of the places that inspires me a lot is Marrakech. I like it because it's a place where I always calm down, but I also see so much culture and so much honesty and genuineness in the population. I think, in general, Africa is fun because it's very true to its roots.

For people, I've always been a huge fan of, it’s so cliché, but Denzel Washington. I love that guy mainly because he's really talented and he can wear a lot of hats, so to speak. His body of work combined with who he is as a person, from what he says, how he thinks, how he operates, and his composure is inspirational.

I'm really inspired by tech and how it creates communities. For example, who would have thought even just ten years ago that there would be a car service where you can drive awesome cars without taking anything but your mobile device, logging in, driving it, then leaving it to share with another human being? It’s stuff like that, the whole shared economy in tech, I think is fantastic. It's about being helpful to each other. If the shared economy in tech could be integrated with fashion in a mainstream way, not just in the niches where it is right now, it would definitely be game-changing for the whole world."

DANIEL MEUL

If dressing well is a form of good manners, then Daniel Meul is a true gentleman. In this edition of Citizens, the manager and buyer of Dutch fashion house, Pauw, shares his @suitwhisper expertise and tells us about how his simple interest in clothes became a well-tailored way of life.

30 Apr 2022

Paolo gattone

Hi Daniel, how did you become a buyer and what do you love about it?

“Actually, I never expected to be in fashion. I thought I was going to be a professional soccer player, but due to injuries at an early age I couldn’t pursue that profession anymore. I started helping out at a men’s fashion store on Thursdays and Saturdays and learned that I had a talent in sales, then it naturally progressed from there. Clothes were a hobby for me. They are still a hobby for me. You have to be interested in what you do. I don’t consider my job a job."

Tell me about @suitwhisper.

“The name was a joke. I was thinking about what a silly Instagram name would be and thought of the horse whisperer. When I was a teenager, suits from brands like Hugo Boss or Gucci were the main thing I really loved about fashion. It didn't matter if they were classical suits or very fashionable. I simply love to wear suits and that's more or less where I got triggered and got sucked into this crazy, always changing, evolving world of fashion."

Daniel Meul

Biography

Daniel Meul, the manager and buyer of Dutch fashion house Pauw, never expected to be in fashion. He discovered his talent in sales while helping out at a men's fashion store and progressed from there. Clothes were just a hobby for him, and his love for suits led him to create his Instagram account, @suitwhisper.

Do you have an all-time favorite suit?

“I would say two movie characters really stand out for me, Michael Douglas in his pinstripe suit with suspenders from Wall Street and Richard Gere in the American Gigolo because he was also very well dressed in that movie."

What are the most important qualities to look for in a suit?

“First of all, fit is everything. Every single body has a different measurement, so what would fit me well, wouldn't fit somebody else of a different height. For me, my number one tailor is Cesare Attolini in Naples because their suits are totally made by hand, and they have all my sizes. So, if I order a suit, a jacket, a pair of trousers, or a shirt, they make it especially for me. A good tailor is the best thing you could have. It also means you're spoiled for life because I don’t think I could wear something off the rack anymore."

Is there anything that you would never wear?

“That's difficult to say. Maybe I wouldn't easily wear something like a dress, but on the other hand, if you are in Indonesia, you might wear a sarong with a jacket and a nice shirt on top of it. That would look spectacular. So, it depends on the occasion, the surroundings, and what is appropriate to wear. If it fits and it looks great on me, I will definitely wear it."

How much should one invest in their first suit?

“Ten years ago, people would spend more money on their first suits. In my generation, I could easily spend ¾ of my monthly salary on clothes and it didn’t worry me. That was just the thing you did in those days. But nowadays, young professionals are more interested in travelling and they don’t want to own a lot. They want to be free. So, even though I think the best place to start with your first suit is with us, today, if I was starting at a law firm or at a bank and I had a salary which would allow me to wear a certain price for a suit or jacket, I would go to Suit Supply. Quite frankly they copy all our big tailors, which we have in store at Pauw, but they really perfected it and go the extra mile in fabrics at a lower price.However, we do get a lot of fathers in our store who introduce their sons to their first suits after graduation."

You’ve spent the majority of your career at Pauw. What has motivated your long term commitment?

“Opportunity and the trust Madeleine Pauw and the family gave me in order to build PAUW into what it is now. We are going to open our fourth store and when I joined the company in 1993, it was just one store and a small men’s corner in another women’s store and that was it."

With the world becoming more digital, how do you think it will affect the industry?

“For suits on our price level, I expect customers will still prefer to purchase in store rather than online. If you are willing to spend a certain amount of money, you are also buying an experience. You are in the store choosing the fabric and garments and there is emotion and joy in it. Also, I think vintage clothing and online stores, like Vinted, where you can sell your old clothes easily are very interesting. It’s great because then we don't throw away or pollute anymore. I always find somebody who can make use of my old clothes. Among my staff there are a couple of guys who wear my size."

Sometimes parents‘ wardrobes evolve to become more functional. Has your style changed after becoming a father?

“I still dress the same way I did before. Yes, my suits have more stains than they used to every now and then, but I’ll just bring it to the cleaners. I think that’s the unconditional love a parent has for their child. I'm just happy to see him when I come home. I pick him up and I’m not thinking about what I’m wearing. Maybe the only thing that has changed is that I spend a little bit more money on him and less money on myself."

Name your favorite place to travel.

“Italy, for sure. I travel a lot to Milan for business. Also, my wife and I went to Sicily for our honeymoon. We love the tiny villages where you go to a simple coffee bar and have a nice espresso, or a cornetto, or a nice pasta and take in the nature and surroundings. Everything is simple and everything is pure. That’s what we love. Everywhere you go in Italy, it’s like walking through history and getting the opportunity to see how people lived thousands of years ago – what they did, how they think, and how they express themselves. It's quite exceptional."

Favorite meal?

“Fresh sea bass prepared in the oven with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper."

What are your weekends like?

“Actually, I don't have a weekend because I work on Saturday. Sunday is family day for me. We’re always together. Then, Monday is my day off and I take care of my son. It’s the best day, just me and him."

Name a person, a place, and a thing that inspires you.

"The place that personally inspires me: New York. I love the energy of the city. People that inspire me are two mentors who have substantial value in my life. First, my mother who is one of the strongest people I know. I come from a broken home and my father was never around. The second, Madeline, the owner of PAUW. I have been working for her for almost 30 years. She has always worked harder than anybody. She has so much room in her heart to give the people in the company the opportunity to grow and be successful.

A thing that inspires me is something I learned from Japan. It’s where people prefer to do one thing all their life, trying to reach perfection and finding joy in it. There are too many people who try to succeed in many different things. I think maybe we should try to be a little bit more modest and just be great at one or two things that bring happiness to another person who appreciates what you do well."

NATHALIE ROBBERSE

Co-founder of TEN – a networking community for entrepreneurial women that started in Amsterdam and is now going global. From working in a start-up, to starting her own, her journey is one that shows how connection, creativity and community can lead to great things.

24 Oct 2023

Olaf Hussein

Hi Nathalie. What were you doing pre-TEN? How did that lead to starting the community?

I first worked at fashion brand Daily Paper after I studied at Academie Artemis where I specialized in Strategy & Creative Concepting for fashion, interior and media. What was nice was that I got the option to work with a business coach there. I really enjoyed that also because I wasn’t really being taught about the organisational part. I think for myself as a person I am quite organised and I love organising projects so it is something I like to do but it’s not something I studied, especially business wise. It’s a whole different game. So that was really nice to have someone. She is a really inspiring woman who really had more of an experienced big sister type of role. She was able to lead the way a bit more for me. She was also the one who told me to get out there and go network, which was something that I really wanted to do but I really didn’t know where. Three years ago in Amsterdam there were many events in the creative industry but they were more focused on PR and brand type of events. I really felt like there wasn’t a place that was about the people in it and the type of connection. I felt really disconnected when I went to several events. That’s when the pandemic came and I decided to set up my own network.

I had the mission to bring women together because I thought it was interesting to see how we could support each other in that way. I think it’s just a really beautiful thing to have women come together in one space as well. I wanted to have deep connections, meaningful conversations, to support each other, inspire each other, and also share knowledge. I started a closed Instagram account, invited my own network and asked everybody to invite ten other women to the group. I think it worked because a lot of women liked the idea that they were also part of it. A lot of women were really eager to invite other people as well. It grew quite fast right from the beginning. Then I also met my business partner through the network which was really nice.

Biography

Founder of TEN Women and ambitious entrepreneur with a creative background and proven track record in managing projects from concept to completion. Developing business models, (marketing) strategies and coaching individuals effectively. Known for being a realistic optimist with an open-minded growth mindset.

It was through you inviting people that you ended up meeting her?

Exactly yeah. She was in that closed account. She reached out to me and we decided to organise events together. We clicked so well that I really felt like it was just way more fun to do it together than just by myself. We share the same vision and I think it’s really unique to find someone in that way.

A perfect example of the power of networking!

It’s super funny - we’re the living example of what you can get out of TEN. We didn’t even realise it in the beginning. We organised many different events from that moment on and we grew into TEN later on.

TEN tells women that “it’s time to step into your power”. What does that mean to you? When do you feel at your most powerful?

I think for everybody stepping into your power can have a different meaning. I think it’s letting go of the things that are holding you back. It’s tapping into the knowledge that is already around you by surrounding yourself with the right people who have the knowledge that you are attracted to and who also want to share that knowledge with you. People who are on the same path in wanting to grow into the best version of themselves. There’s a Harvard study that says that you become like the 5 people that you surround yourself with. I think it’s interesting because I feel that it doesn’t matter what type of studies you’ve done, it really depends on a certain mindset and who you surround yourself with. And I guess that’s also the answer I have for myself – when I surround myself with inspiring people, inspiring women, it definitely gives me a feeling of power and wealth.

Your membership is open to anyone who “believes in the power of feminine energy”. Tell us more.

We’ve always had a focus on women and we often get asked who the platform is available to. We said feminine energy because we actually don’t want to limit it to a gender, but also have the focus on the fact that being in your feminine energy is really powerful as well. You can draw a lot of strength from being in your feminine energy. It depends on your industry but there is a big stigma around being vulnerable, for instance. It’s seen as weak, while I can see that it’s really your power. That’s what we really mean by “in your feminine energy”. We really believe in that and we also want to attract people in our community who stand behind that.

TEN is open to entrepreneurial women from all creative backgrounds. Can you talk about the mix of profiles of your members?

It started out in the creative industry because that’s mostly where my own network was. We narrowed it down and made it into a niche for us. But the longer we were working on TEN, the more we realised that we didn’t want to be limited to only the creative industry. You have so many women with the same spirit who also want to be connected to each other and also feel like they can share their knowledge. It’s actually really nice to have someone talk about finance or generational wealth, which is a totally different topic to what the creative industry is used to or ever has a connection with. We believe it’s super nice to bring these two worlds together. It’s important to learn from that side as well even if maybe it’s not your first interest. We believe in the cross over of different industries. That’s what we realised later on and that’s why we opened it up a bit more. We focus on women with an entrepreneurial spirit, so it could be that you’re working somewhere and want to start a side hustle or eventually work for yourself. Or if you’re in a leading position, that also really fits within our community. The industries are quite broad.

Can you give an example of how you foster human connections through creativity at your events?

Human connection is what we focus most on at our events. The creative thing is something that we sometimes implement but you don’t need to be creative in that sense. For instance, we’ve sometimes hosted ceramics workshops and shared with people that it’s just to get their inner child out and be playful. Not to focus on making something super professional. We added a twist that they had to create a ceramic for someone else – like the person sitting in front of them. Which is fun because they’re then trying to get to know another person and what they like.

Do you have any personal creative practices? Either that feed into your professional work or maybe allow you an escape?

I used to always really love to draw but it’s something I don’t do often anymore. I think in general being creative and working with your hands is something that a lot of people really enjoy but forget to do because you get caught up in all the other things you have to do. That’s what led us to do creative workshops at our events -sometimes you just need to plan that moment. I don’t think a lot of people would easily say, “OK, tonight after dinner I’m going to sit and draw.” I try to sometimes but it’s really easy to get caught up in other things or maybe watch a movie, which is also nice, but it’s not really feeding into your creativity. I think it’s really healthy to do it also.

Maybe you’ll be inspired to do a bit more drawing now! Moving from creativity to culture – TEN has done a few international events now. How does the different cultural setting feed into the experience? Do you feel like each country creates a different vibe for the meet ups?

It’s something that we find super important and that’s why we work with local women when we go to other countries. We really believe it’s a synergy. We bring our concept of finding connection with one another, which is kind of universal – you don’t need language to find a connection with someone. But, of course, there are many different cultural ways of interacting. For instance, in New York people are really outspoken, whereas in Holland, people are more introverted. Our local teams are very valuable to us as they understand what works best.

So, events are tailored to your location?

Yep, and I think this is also something that we want to explore more in the future, to see how we can more specifically tap into the different cultures that we enter.

Do you have a story from an event that stands out as encapsulating what TEN is all about?

It’s difficult to describe only one! I think for Luca and I, any event is really rewarding to us. We both feel really grateful for the gratitude we get from the women who join us because they have felt a connection with someone. We’ve researched that and it’s a basic human need to have these connections. A lot of us don’t even realise how disconnected we all are.

Finally, what are your hopes for the future of TEN?

We want to build our network internationally but also outside the western world because we really want to see how we can connect women globally!

CONNIE LIM

CONNIE LIM is a talented ARTIST and DESIGNER who has collaborated with luxury brands and been featured in top PUBLICATIONS. In this edition of CITIZENS, she shares her creative journey and upcoming projects.

19 Apr 2023

Tiffany Chung

Hey Connie, tell us about your path into the world of fashion illustration.

I started my art when I went to Art Center in LA. Originally, I wanted to design video game characters, but we had to mandatorily take a fashion illustration class and I just fell in love with it. I was really interested in the clothes and my tutor said I had a good expression of fashion. But at the time, I wasn't very confident in myself as an illustrator, so I decided to go into fashion design and moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins. While studying in the program, I realized I didn't want to make clothes, I just wanted to draw. I wasn't passionate about fabrics, but I could illustrate things really well. I'm glad I came to London because of all the connections I made and the creativity in the city. Being in the center of it is quite nice. Now, I'm kind of rebranding at the moment as a live events illustrator. I draw backstage at fashion shows and for brands. I really like drawing live people.

Why the change to event illustration?

I discovered that it’s the thing I love doing the most and I'm probably better at that than anything else. I've recently finished a job with Alexander McQueen at their store in December. I think it has helped me be part of the community because you meet people who actually buy the garments, and you build better connections with brands. So, it's my goal this year to fully transition.

What do you feel was your ‘big break’ project?

When I graduated, for one of my final projects, I produced playing cards and they were produced by the company that does all the Las Vegas cards. That was quite a big moment for me as a personal project. When you have something produced, you feel a little bit more validated as an artist.

Biography

Artist, illustrator, designer, and educator, Connie Lim, has worked with brands such as GUERLAIN, BULGARI, and LOUBOUTIN. Her work has been featured in books including MARTIN DAWBER's Great Big Book of Fashion Illustration, and Beautiful by GESTALTEN and the latest by TASCHEN, The Illustrator - 100 Best From Around the World.  In this edition of Citizens, she talks to us about her inspirations, how she got her start in fashion, and her next evolution as an illustrator.

3 must-have things while you work.

All my pencils because my starting point is always with line drawings. I need my speakers and I need my coffee, then I'm good and I can just do my thing.

Describe your artistic process.

I always start with a line drawing and an idea. Right now, I'm dabbling in different materials. I'm doing oil pastels because I'm getting bored. I'm kind of mingling with different materials and just trying to find my new identity.

AI image creation tools are predicted to change many different industries. How do you think it’ll affect yours?

I checked it out and I’m signed up for Dall-E. It’s interesting but my own practice is special to me, and AI would never replace it. That's my feeling towards it, but of course the world is different, and you do have to be aware of those kinds of things. But I think people are always drawn to human touch and handmade things. That's why I love life drawing, you're in the moment, there’s no ego, there’s no influence, just you and the material and that's it. You can't hide, you can't copy, you have to be in the moment, it's very present. I feel like it's really honest. For me, that’s the most important thing.

Who is someone you are dying to collaborate with?

I would have loved to collaborate with McQueen when he was alive. I really admired his work and was actually my main inspiration going into the fashion route. His work has so much depth and meaning both personally and socially that resonated deeply with me. Since I am more of an illustrator, it would have been cool to do some prints for his collections and drawings backstage at his shows based on his inspirations.

How has working in fashion affected your personal style?

Growing up in LA, I always carry an element of the relaxed and hobo-like aesthetic. However, since being in London there has been a great addition of blacks into my wardrobe. I'm not sure what to call the mix.

What do you wear to live events?

It depends on the brand, but I generally do try to dress up a little bit more, like suit trousers or a blazer. I also wear my apron if I am using more of a messy medium such as paints/oil pastels.

Who's the most interesting person that you’ve illustrated?

Yen Zhao, her Insta handle is eagle_yen, she’s a stylist. I drew her at McQueen, I thought she was really interesting because she was wearing leather boots and didn’t fall into what we perceive a Chinese mom or auntie should be. As an Asian woman, there’s this idea that when we get old, we turn into dumplings or something, but she's this very stylish woman.

This or that, monochrome or colorful?

I used to be monochrome but now I think I'm colorful.

Eat to live or live to eat?

The one that enjoys food, live to eat.

Light packer or over packer?

Light packer.

Do you prefer being in publications or Exhibitions?

I would say exhibitions because I think it's different to see the artwork in person than in a photo.

Who has been your most meaningful mentor?

Nancy Reigleman. She was my tutor at Art Center. She sadly passed away a few years ago right when COVID happened. She changed my life. I was her assistant briefly, doing some odd jobs for her and she’s the one who told me to go to London.

And now you yourself are an educator. What do you like about it?

I like that I get to be around people. I'm an introvert and spend a lot of time in my studio alone. Teaching gives me a chance to really connect with other people and, it’s a bit cheesy, but I feel like I'm giving back in some way. When you see that your advice changes someone’s work for the better, it's a really good feeling, like maybe I'm making a difference to somebody.

To wrap things up, name a person, place, or thing that inspires you.

A place that inspires me is Spain. I love it, it's my favorite country. A thing that inspires me is this William Kentridge exhibition I recently saw. He is also the person that inspires me. I really admire his craftsmanship. I love old masters because they had no social media and they worked on their craft for years. I generally find people want instant gratification these days, but it takes so many years to get to that level. For me, that symbolizes a level of commitment to artistry, and I feel that is getting lost because people are just so distracted these days.

LOUIS A. W. SHERIDAN

To travel is to live and Louis A. W. Sheridan has elevated travel into an aspirational lifestyle. Through photography, writing, and a keen creative eye, Sheridan has become an industry expert. In this edition of Citizens, he tells us about his journey from fashion writer to founder of Discover & Escape studio and creative director of Mr & Mrs Smith – the travel club for hotel lovers.

14 Feb 2022

Paolo gattone

Hey Louis, how did you get into photography and writing??

“I started taking photos when I was pretty young, like a teenager just carrying around a camera, taking pictures of friends skateboarding and street stuff, really trying to find my vision. Later on I studied photography which started to kill my love for it a bit. It made it a very formulaic process and removed some of the magic for me.

At the same time, I started to write more and found myself feeling like writing was where I could be creative and engaged without barriers. So professionally, I started out in fashion. I was a writer first and foremost, reviewing shows, writing stories for some niche magazines, and then interning for the bigger ones. Alongside this my photos started to become more fashion focused. I was shooting new faces for model agencies and the odd editorial, which felt refreshing."

How did you make the transition to travel?

“Through fashion, I found that travel was the most engaging element to anything I was doing. That was the part that was standing out above everything else. New people, new places. It was a natural segue into travel – I created an editorial platform, D&E (Discover & Escape) with my partner, and started trying to blend these two worlds. We were approaching people in fashion, film, and music but sneaking to them purely about travel. ‘Everything through a travel lens’. Everyone had so much to say about this wild world of travel, and it snowballed from there."

So, from that platform you created your studio.

“Yeah, it started off as an editorial platform and gradually transformed into a creative consultancy slash studio. We've got photographers, writers, designers, developers globally and are connecting the dots between businesses and creatives. There was luck involved in that we started at a time when Instagram was first taking off, so aesthetics became more important to businesses than ever before and we had the keys."

Any tips on starting your own studio or business?

“Honestly, some of my tips are probably outdated because so much happened organically and the landscape changes weekly. I guess if I were to do it now, I would say, it's worth having either an exit plan or a scaling plan from the very beginning. It’s not cool to talk about in the creative world but if you get to a certain point where you know you either want to move on to something else, or you want to bring other people in, but everything behind the scenes is really messy, it's going to be difficult. The other tip is that the personal relationship is always the most important part of the working relationship. Wherever you are in the world, you're probably not that far from an extremely talented writer, photographer, social media manager, designer, or whoever you need, and so you can afford to be picky and work with someone you identify with on a deeper level."

As creative director at Mr & Mrs Smith, tell us what kind of hotel makes the list..

“Hotels with genuine soul. Passion projects, dreams that have been realised, and places you’d actually want to live. They have a focus on design and style whilst still being authentic, and your overall experience there is a memory you play on repeat. We’re also looking for hotels that transcend travel, the places that consider their local impact and how they can weave sustainability into what they do. We have places like an isolated cabin in the wilds of Norway, and then there’s an old school New York hotel with bellboys and tasseled keys – the common thread between those places is they both care about what they're doing. There is an obvious love for what they do, and it’s infectious."

What are your 2022 travel trend predictions?

“The last few years we’ve all spoken about experiential travel a lot. But I think we’re moving beyond it, more the idea of fully immersing yourself in culture and embracing a lifestyle entirely, it's no longer enough to just pick from a list of experiences. Instead, it's a more engaged way of travel where you get to experience and gain insight into how other people really live. Like your own alternate reality is out there waiting for you."

How do you think the pandemic affected a traveler’s mindset?

“I think the pandemic almost forced people into looking at what it is they actually want to do when they have the choice, what drives them most, and every decision on how we spend our time is even more important than it was before. So, I think with travel, there's a lot more meaning and emphasis on each trip we take. We’re looking for those memories we can play on repeat in the future."

Name your top 5 must-have travel items.

“Camera, number one. A laptop or my phone. With a fully charged phone you can do anything. A USB for impromptu DJ sets. If there's a chance to get behind the decks, it's going to happen. A double-breasted blazer or sports jacket. You never know where you're going to end up, and sometimes “black tie” is like an access all areas pass. And then a pen, a sharpie specifically."

Do you dress for style or comfort on planes?

“Style. I blame the fashion background. But I can still wear stuff that looks cool and is functional. I like to travel as light as possible. I have this Jacquemus field jacket I always travel with. It's got like six pockets on the front that I can fill with batteries, passports, chargers, anything. That's always a good one."

Let’s play a ‘this or that’ game, travel edition.

Mountain or beach?

“Mountain."

Winter or summer?

“Winter."

City or countryside?

“Countryside. I'm going for wild here."

Car, train, or plane?

“Car, or all three?”"

Travel alone or together?

“Together."

Plan or go with the flow?

“100% no plans… with some advance planning."

When you're not traveling, what are you doing?

“As a photographer, I might be shooting projects for different brands and magazines or personal projects. I’m DJing and working on events and music with the Audio Coming Soon guys. I'm dabbling with more art focussed projects at the moment and getting ready to release some works for the first time. It's exciting, I've been working and drafting for years and now I feel so ready to just put more things out into the world. I'm in a fortunate position in that everything I do sort of flows into one another."

Do you think London is always going to be your home base?

“I don't know. I'm originally from the countryside so I'm still always drawn to nature. But I love being around people, I love meeting new people, and I feel like the energy in London is so good that it makes me feel driven in a way that’s hard to replicate. I love being in the city, but I travel quite a lot. If I had to be home full time, I'd maybe choose somewhere that was even more closely linked to nature."

Speaking of inspiration, name a person, a place, and a thing that inspires you.

So many people, from my friends and family to random encounters that stay with me. The well worn phrase that “ everyone has an interesting story if you look for it” really is the most obvious truth. I read a lot and I'm inspired by a lot of writers, at the moment it’s Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and Haruki Murakami. I also love people that just do things differently and are open to new ideas. Obviously, Virgil Abloh is a massive inspiration just in terms of leading with a sort of radiant positivity about everything and everyone.

A place that inspires me… at the moment maybe the Swiss Alps or Rajasthan. I know they're both worlds apart. But Switzerland is addictive, visually ridiculous and time there is deeply restorative. And India is on another level. Everything is more vivid, the colours, sights and sounds are all dialled up to an extreme that makes everywhere else feel flat for a while afterwards. I think it was A. A. Gill who described it as 'the world with the lid taken off.

For a thing, a blank canvas is very exciting to me. Or even hotel stationary, a blank notepad and there's a pencil or pen next to it, I can't not be writing or doodling or doing something on there. As part of the studio here, I have an easel set up with canvases. If it's blank, I feel drawn to it. I want to create. I want to do things."

EMMANUEL LAWAL

Emmanuel Lawal is a man of many talents: model, DJ, music producer, brand consultant, but first and foremost, creative entrepreneur. In this edition of Citizens, the born and raised Londoner tells us about his city, career, and latest project – The ACS Show.

29 Nov 2021

Paolo gattone

Hey Emmanuel, how’d you get your start in music?

“In terms of knowing what I wanted to pursue in my career, it was from being at fashion events and afterparties. I wanted to do more than just be a guest. I knew I’d love to be part of it, do nights, program nights, DJ, and everything else. But my actual start in music was just from being around musicians in general and having a community of musicians that gave us the opportunity to DJ for them, produce for them, and get immersed in their own careers."

How did you and your business partner, Ashton, meet?

“We were signed to the same agency when we first started modeling. I was 19 and Ashton was 16. Going to Milan, Paris, all these shows in Europe and America, we just created this bromance from traveling, living, eating, and working out together. Being like-minded individuals, we decided to join forces to create something."

Is there anything that you want to try next?

“Not really. I just want to keep carrying on with the broadcast and keep creating spaces for me to breathe in when it comes to fashion, music, and lifestyle. Everything else is just up to destiny. I'm just happy with where I'm at now."

Music, fashion, travel, sport. If you had to give up one for the rest of your life, what would it be?

“Easily sport. Music is something I listen to every single day. Fashion is something that I have to think about in order to get ready. Sport is something that I do when I have the off time, it's a bit of a hobby, and I'm definitely not making any money from sport haha."

What is the best and worst advice you've ever been given?

“Worst advice is probably somebody telling me somewhere along the line of ‘this is impossible, and you can't do this’. The best advice was ‘move towards it’. It wasn't even advice; I was speaking to one of my mentors at the beginning of the year and saying how much juice and energy I have at the moment and how much I wanted to create. His response was actually just ‘move towards it’ and it made me realize that even a step forward is better than a step back, even if it's a tiny step forward. "

What has been your favorite brand to work with?

“Prada. I loved Prada since I was a child. From the age of 12 to 15, I wore Prada to school. I didn’t go to an affluent school where people had unlimited pools of money, I saved up so much money to buy it. So, it was one of those full circle moments working with them. It wasn't something I did for the paycheck, I'm proud to wear the stuff because of the child in me that just loved to wear them in school."

What's your staple fashion item?

“My staple item would probably be jewelry because we change clothes. So, I would say somewhere between my Cartier bracelet and my Rolex."

Three songs that best represent you.

“At the moment:"

Name your favorite part of London.

“Greenwich, probably. I grew up there and it’s so different anywhere else in London. It’s not super fancy and it's not super hood, it's just normal. It’s so diverse, it’s got both historic and new monuments, and the O2 arena. It’s a good balance."

If you were to live in another city, what would it be?

“Berlin. We love Germany. We haven't been able to go back for a while, but we’ve been fortunate to play a few things in Berlin. It's not like there is a massive hip hop presence but the kind of people there just love the music and are there to have a good time."

Best music venue ever?

“The Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. I’ve never been there but I’m dying to go. It's incredible, from the layout of it, to the chairs, the light, acoustics, the whole thing. The design and architecture make it the best venue in my opinion."

Name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

“Person. That’s a hard one. Can I say God? I’ll say God."

“A place that inspires me is London. Naturally. London has so many success stories whether it's football, music, fashion, community lifestyle, culture, business. So many people have made it here."

“In terms of a thing that inspires me, I would probably say, it’s an idea. The idea of achieving everything. Knowing that you could possibly achieve what you put your mind to. Even if you haven’t achieved everything that you want to achieve or know how to exactly, it keeps you going, getting to one hurdle, conquering it, then another. Then you realize everything can be done. I think that is so inspiring."

CYNTHIA CERVANTES

From working in educational reform and becoming COO of a high school, to cofounding a creative studio dedicated to celebrating stories of black, indigenous, and communities of color, Cynthia Cervantes has spent much of her career focusing on building a better future for the people around her. In this edition of Citizens, Cynthia tells us about her new city, life as a working parent, and Maroon World, the studio she launched with her husband, Travis Gumbs.

03 Oct 2021

Paolo gattone

Hi Cynthia, tell us how Maroon.World got started.

“It grew out of frustration of having very veiled conversations with clients who wanted a specific look – at that time, everyone was calling it ‘urban content’– but they didn‘t have the language and were not in a position to say what they wanted to say. We wished we could do work that spoke to our own communities in a way that was authentic - made by US for US, so we decided to just do it ourselves. Everything we worked to put out in the world was made specifically for people of color, made by people of color. That’s where it was born from."

Do you have any advice for clients on how to have those conversations?

“If you’re a brand, it starts with having a diverse team. Not just bringing in people to fill periphery positions. When we’re at a table and speaking to a creative team, VP, or whoever is in charge of making decisions, those people need to be people of colour. You have to have people representing the audience you’re trying to connect to."

Biography

Cynthia Cervantes dedicated her career to community betterment. She co-founded Maroon World, a studio that celebrates BIPOC communities. In this Citizens interview, Cynthia talks about her new city, being a working parent, and Maroon World with her husband, Travis Gumbs.

How do you overcome any challenges you face in your work?

“I try not pressure myself to create anything or be creative at all. I just focus on the present and do something that makes me happy like meditate, cook, or spend time with my son. He likes drawing, so we draw together. It helps me get to a place where it feels good to create again."

Name a project or accomplishment from your career that you’re most proud of.

“Now that our lives are so different because we have a child and our energy is divided into many different arenas of life, I think differently about my past accomplishments. I am thankful for them, and for the path that has led me to this place in my life, but more than looking backwards at the past, I am more so inspired to think about what my future accomplishments will look like."

Can you share news on any upcoming projects?

“I am very excited about a project my husband has been working on for almost two years now. It‘s an extension of the work we’ve done together, specifically in regards to honouring our cultures and ancestral knowledge. It’s called Medicinal Plant Index. It’s an herbal supplement line and resource guide for medicinal plants. It’s going to launch at the end of the year. We’re currently working on building out the resource guide, which explores traditional uses of herbs, documents the people that have been working to cultivate medicinal plants , and provides an understanding of how herbs can be incorporated into our daily lives."

You work with your husband a lot. Has parenthood affected the way you work together creatively?

“Parenthood has exposed very specific parts of our partnership that are very strong and that we rely on daily in order to make it through the day. We often talk about the fact that because we’ve known each other for so long and have worked under extremely difficult circumstances professionally, our transition to parenthood has been really interesting and fun. I think it has also made us reevaluate where is it that we really feel is important that we show up for each other."

Okay, let's play a ‘this or that’ game. New York or Mexico City, which do you prefer for food?

“Mexico City. Hands down. We don’t eat gluten and we eat a mostly plant-based diet, so the food in Mexico City is next level - you can just spend every single day eating your way through the city."

What about a night out?

“New York! A lot of my friends are in nightlife so it’s always just a cute vibe. Also, there's such an incredible mix of people and cultures."

Which city do you prefer for art?

“That‘s really hard. I‘m going to say a tie. New York and Mexico City are so inspiring in such different ways. Both places really push you to want to make work, but I think the vibe is so different in each place. I think Mexico City is much more experimental."

Last one, New York or Mexico City for style?

“That’s so hard. They're so different! For me, in Mexico City, the best style is found on people you pass on the street, who aren’t necessarily in the fashion or art world. In New York, the looks I find most incredible or inspiring are usually on people who are in the scene."

REGINALD SYLVESTER II

Reflecting the world we live in today, Reginald Sylvester II is an abstract artist that captures moments in time on canvas. In this edition of Citizens, the New York-based painter tells us about his foray into the art world, his creative process, and the characteristic an artist needs to push the work further.

08 Aug 2021

Paolo gattone

Is the business side of being an artist something you had to learn as you go?

“Most definitely. You learn as you go. The unique relationship I have with my Dealer and good friend Max has been fruitful in the sense that I’ve been able to learn as he grows. Having full transparency with your business and business partners is key."

When you're creating a piece where do you start?

“It all depends on the day and circumstance. I’ve noticed since I'm right handed it’s usually the upper right hand area of the surface that is confronted first."

How do you know when you're done a piece?

“Hard to say. Paintings are like time stamps. I suppose when I’ve lived with a work long enough, when that time is finished the work itself is finished. Then again you could say it’s never finished until it’s realized in front of the viewers beyond my studio walls."

When you're in the studio what do you need to help you work?

“Music, then sometimes silence. Focus."

What music are you listening to?

“A lot of different things. From Hendricks to Miles to Jay Z. I’ll transition into Hans Zimmerman then to Lupe Fiasco to Mary J. Blidge. Depends on the feeling, time and day."

What do you wear in the studio?

“Painters pants, tee, and Rick Owens Birkenstocks."

Do you ever feel insecure about your work?

“Without a sense of insecurity there’s really no need to feel as if you need to push your work forward. No room for what ifs."

Complete this sentence. ‘An artist should always…’

“Create with humility."

True or false. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

“Possibly true to a certain extent."

Here's a difficult question, do you have a favorite color?

“Navy blue, brown, and black."

Which artists do you pay attention to or think other people should be paying attention to?

“Artists that excite me are Janis Kounellis, Frank Bowling, Julian Schnabel, and David Hammonds to name a few. Artists to pay attention to today: Tschabalala Self, Spencer Lewis, Somaya Critchlow, and Coco Capitan.">

As the art world becomes more digital, what are your thoughts on NFTs?

“No real thoughts on NFT’s pertaining to the world of art. I feel there’s other areas of focus that are more important to me at the moment."

To wrap things up on an inspirational note, name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

“I think my dad is super inspirational in the sense that he just wants to build. That's all I want to do. So, the conversations that we have had as of late, or as I've been becoming my own man, they've really been based off of building belief systems, family, generational wealth, heritage."

“A place that inspires me is tough. It’s between Mexico City and Tokyo. They actually remind me a bit of each other. Tokyo is more of a grander place and definitely more industrial, but I think the things that I like about Japan are the little nooks and crannies. I like how things are kind of crammed together. I think with Mexico City, you find little essences of that. But the biggest reason why I like Mexico City is just the balance I feel between nature and city."

“The thing that inspires me is the act of making. The fact that you can think of something and use objects that already exist in the world in order to create something new. I just think it's like the closest thing we can get it to God, aside from women being able to give birth to children. Making something that didn’t exist at one point and then does for a minute, day, year, is just inspiring."

Our latest CITIZENS event at SOHO House in Amsterdam with: SHARKY, Mathieu Hagel (STUDIO HAGEL), and Iris Skrami (RENOON).

TYLER ADAMS

Tyler Adams is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in photography, art direction, and casting with a wide array of clients such as Def Jam Records Opening Ceremony, Beyoncé x Adidas. In this edition of Citizens, the LA native tells us about his early creative beginnings and shows us that there is more than one way into the industry.

12 Jun 2021

Paolo gattone

Hey Tyler, you wear several hats. Put these three things in order of importance to you: photography, creative directing, casting.

“Oh wow, okay so photography is definitely the most important because it's what led me into the other avenues of my creativity. After that would be casting and then creative directing. Uh, wait, no. But that's hard to be honest because when I first started shooting, I was doing all these things in my personal work. I wanted to create images, but I wasn’t seeing the type of people that I wanted to shoot, so I started casting for myself. I didn’t have budgets to go to a showroom and pull clothes, so I was either putting together things that friends or the talent were bringing or even pulling out of my closet and putting that together. So, all of it is kind of important to a degree in order to make art. But I guess photography is the most important because that’s how I got into all the other things."

Why did you gravitate to photography in the first place?

“It was kind of an innate thing. I say that I've been shooting since I was 5. Growing up, my grandma had an old school Polaroid 600, and I would just run around with it, create, and shoot things. It's always been something that was there and that just started my fascination with it. I've always been a visual kid."

Biography

Tyler Adams is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in photography, art direction, and casting with a wide array of clients such as Def Jam Records Opening Ceremony, Beyoncé x Adidas. In this edition of Citizens, the LA native tells us about his early creative beginnings and shows us that there is more than one way into the industry.

You've worked with a lot of brands. Any favorites?

“That’s a tricky one. I don't want to play favorites but if I had to choose...Opening Ceremony was one of my first big fashion clients. Just being a fan of the brand, that was like one that I really wanted to work with. I shot with them for a while, I did some social and editorial stuff. Then, they let me shoot fashion weeks and I worked on a couple of their shows. So, that may be my favorite one because that got me to where I am today."

Was it hard breaking into the industry?

“Oh my god, yes. My friend and I laugh about it now. Photography has changed. It's mind-blowing how different photography and the whole industry is now versus what it was like 6 to 10 years ago. At the time when I was in college, the mindset was that you went to school, you built your book, you took your book and you moved to New York. It wasn't until you worked in New York that you would pop off and actually get to work. But out of college it was like you assisted somebody for years and then at some point you move from being 30th assistant to 1st assistant before having your break or whoever you are assisting being like, ‘I have a job that I don't want to do, you can do it’, and then that's you’re beginning. I didn’t go that route because I was like if this is what it's going to take for me to put food on the table, it’s going to take a while. But I didn't want to move outside of my creativity.

SO I started helping a really close friend of mine who was an upcoming stylist. She occasionally needed help and I feel like that’s what changed it for me because being on set in that capacity is different from being a photographer's assistant. When you assist a photographer, they don't want you to speak to the client. But everybody else has a different relationship, when you're with the stylist and those people for 8 hours on set, you actually get to know people by name. It allowed me to build relationships and be like, ‘oh you know I'm helping the stylist, but I actually shoot.’ Photography assistants can’t do that. They can’t say, ‘yeah check out my work’ because it feels like he's trying to take the photographer’s clients."

What’s your most memorable shoot?

“My second time in Paris was pretty memorable and cool for me because the first time I went to Paris I didn't shoot which I was bummed out about. I always try making an effort when I go somewhere new or somewhere different to actually create work in those spaces. So, I was with Kendall, and we shot in the Tuileries Garden. There was a carnival, and he just grabbed his skateboard, and we were just chilling. It was an evening in June, so the light was amazing, the weather was nice, it was a good time."

When you cast people for a shoot, do you keep diversity and representation in mind?

“Always. That's the first thing. When I was starting out there wasn’t any. Even now, if clients ask for diversity, there aren't a lot of options of people who look like me or people who come from the areas I come from. In general, I'm usually trying to extend opportunities and bring more people in, to experience being on set and working, or being in front of the camera. The cool thing about today is that you don’t have to look like a runway model to book a campaign or to get work."

What would you say makes a great photograph?

“Great’ I feel can be subjective. I think perspective is very important, not so much composition, but I mean like my personal chase. Like what I may think is a great image may not be a great image to you. You may be into colors or compositions or location, but all of that has to do with your perspective and what makes the most sense to you or what you move to personally."

Do you have a favorite photograph?

“Yes. Actually, I do. My favorite photograph of all time – I get so excited thinking about it – is Richard Avedon’s portrait of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar before he was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In New York, it's a picture of him on the basketball court. He's tall and lanky. His posture and everything is so elegant and beautiful. It's the freshest thing. I've tried to recreate the essence of it in my own work a couple times."

So, do you prefer to photograph people?

“Professionally, I do shoot a lot of people, like fashion portraiture. But I still have some weird tether to wanting to photograph cityscapes, different vignettes of buildings, or graphics and shapes. I usually try to make them both kind of work together in my work – people, spaces, and architecture."

You've worked with a lot of brands. Any favorites?

“That’s a tricky one. I don't want to play favorites but if I had to choose...Opening Ceremony was one of my first big fashion clients. Just being a fan of the brand, that was like one that I really wanted to work with. I shot with them for a while, I did some social and editorial stuff. Then, they let me shoot fashion weeks and I worked on a couple of their shows. So, that may be my favorite one because that got me to where I am today."

Was it hard breaking into the industry?

“Oh my god, yes. My friend and I laugh about it now. Photography has changed. It's mind-blowing how different photography and the whole industry is now versus what it was like 6 to 10 years ago. At the time when I was in college, the mindset was that you went to school, you built your book, you took your book and you moved to New York. It wasn't until you worked in New York that you would pop off and actually get to work. But out of college it was like you assisted somebody for years and then at some point you move from being 30th assistant to 1st assistant before having your break or whoever you are assisting being like, ‘I have a job that I don't want to do, you can do it’, and then that's you’re beginning. I didn’t go that route because I was like if this is what it's going to take for me to put food on the table, it’s going to take a while. But I didn't want to move outside of my creativity.

SO I started helping a really close friend of mine who was an upcoming stylist. She occasionally needed help and I feel like that’s what changed it for me because being on set in that capacity is different from being a photographer's assistant. When you assist a photographer, they don't want you to speak to the client. But everybody else has a different relationship, when you're with the stylist and those people for 8 hours on set, you actually get to know people by name. It allowed me to build relationships and be like, ‘oh you know I'm helping the stylist, but I actually shoot.’ Photography assistants can’t do that. They can’t say, ‘yeah check out my work’ because it feels like he's trying to take the photographer’s clients."

What’s your most memorable shoot?

“My second time in Paris was pretty memorable and cool for me because the first time I went to Paris I didn't shoot which I was bummed out about. I always try making an effort when I go somewhere new or somewhere different to actually create work in those spaces. So, I was with Kendall, and we shot in the Tuileries Garden. There was a carnival, and he just grabbed his skateboard, and we were just chilling. It was an evening in June, so the light was amazing, the weather was nice, it was a good time."

When you cast people for a shoot, do you keep diversity and representation in mind?

“Always. That's the first thing. When I was starting out there wasn’t any. Even now, if clients ask for diversity, there aren't a lot of options of people who look like me or people who come from the areas I come from. In general, I'm usually trying to extend opportunities and bring more people in, to experience being on set and working, or being in front of the camera. The cool thing about today is that you don’t have to look like a runway model to book a campaign or to get work."

PIETER KOOL

Pieter Kool is the founder of strategic spatial design agency, CARBON STUDIO. He has worked with names such as Pharrell Williams, Marc Newson, Rem Koolhaas as well as the Prouvé family. In this edition of Citizens, Pieter talks to us about what inspires him, his approach to design, and his latest project.

09 Jun 2023

Tiffany Chung

Hey Pieter, you’ve created spaces for brands such as G-Star, Ace&Tate, Precinct 5, and most recently, OLAF’s new HQ and flagship store. Tell us about the design.

Olaf had a lot of confidence in me and gave me a lot of freedom. The brief was very loose which I really enjoyed. I think that’s also very typical about Olaf and the people that work at the company, there’s a lot of trust. To start the design, there were two main factors I looked at: one is the brand and the second is the context of the space. In my conversations with Olaf about the brand, there was a lot of talk of streetwear, but OLAF is a bit more high-end so that's what is reflected in the store. We came up with this idea of a minimalist display to really let the clothing speak, but at the same time it‘s not the hard, cold minimalism that you see in many stores. That just didn’t fit the character of the brand. So, we came up with this ‘friendly minimalist’ concept. Second, was looking at the retail space. It’s two adjacent ground floor spaces of two separate buildings that have been connected through a small passage. The idea was to create this sort of gallery with a continuous horseshoe wall connecting the two spaces. We placed clothing on the inside and outside of the horseshoe and in three places the wall is punctured by two displays or vitrines, and the third puncture connects the horseshoe with the courtyard so light comes in from the back. The courtyard is another really nice feature of this space because it helped create a very logical area for fitting rooms – it’s a little bit back in the store, so you feel secure, but there's beautiful daylight. Then, the question was ‘How do we build it?’ The materialization philosophy for the brand that we developed is for both the retail space and the headquarters. They are developed as one concept. The idea was to design something that is not fixed but basically designed for change. Just like the way people grow and change, brands like OLAF do too. So, I view the office and the store as platforms and we design the rules for those platforms that allow change to happen very easily.

Biography

Pieter Kool is the founder of strategic spatial design agency, Carbon Studio. He has worked with names such as Pharrell Williams, Marc Newson, Rem Koolhaas as well as the Prouvé family. In this edition of Citizens, Pieter talks to us about what inspires him, his approach to design, and his latest project.

Is that how you would describe ‘future-proof design’?

Yes, but you cannot design for every possible change. A good design considers which things will or might change and which things are stable or permanent. For OLAF’s office space, the variables are bigger than the retail space. After only half a year, we’re already working on the first big overhaul. That’s how the idea of the cardboard tubes came out. They are flexible building blocks: one tube is one unit and by combining units you can create walls, supports for tables, and those kinds of things. What I also like about the cardboard tube is that it really fits the ‘friendly minimalist’ concept for OLAF. It's round and very soft to the touch which really works for the brand. Secondly, and more importantly, cardboard is one of the most circular building materials you can find. It's local, it’s always so cheap, and if you throw it away it's not downcycled into something of less value, you can basically just make it wet and make new cardboard to reuse again. That’s why cardboard became such a theme in the design. The flexibility and sustainability combined with the aesthetics of being round and soft fit well with the brand.

Do you try to be sustainable in all your projects?

Definitely. I find that many times clients are not ready or asking for it. So, for every project, I find some way to be sustainable, but every project is completely different. For instance, for Ace&Tate, I used corrugated steel which is extremely lightweight but extremely strong. It‘s painted with natural paints and can easily be recycled. In other projects, I also use steel to create building blocks that can be combined like LEGOS. This makes the steel an investment energy-wise because things can be reconfigured and reused, and the material lasts a very long time. I always make sure things are easily recyclable and not downcycled.

Is that your own traditional philosophy in approaching architecture or is this something you experienced with past companies or studios that you've worked in?

It is more what I, as a studio, think is important. It's my job to design a good interior and translation of the brand, so of course it's important that the store has a sustainable impact. When I sit down with many of my clients and we discuss sustainability, I always recommend that they invest a lot of money in things like the most energy-efficient air conditioning system. It’s really boring but the interior, the tables, the floor, are neglectable compared to the energy use of air conditioning. This is just reality. Sustainability is not sexy. It's just about making an investment in good installations. Considering the environment, it’s much more effective than putting hemp wallpaper on the wall.

What has been the most challenging project that you've worked on so far?

A project comes to mind. I was the Global Creative Director for G-Star RAW for years and I had to develop a global concept that had to fit in many different locations: from Helsinki to Abu Dhabi. Sometimes you're in very clean shopping malls and sometimes you're in a 600-year-old building in Brussels or Marseille and it all has to feel like the same brand. To execute a global-sized project like this right takes a lot of time, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of intelligence to come up with a good solution.

Do you have any interior design pet peeves?

Many. But something that I feel is always obsolete is interactive screens. People already have their phones and digital content is a personal experience. What you have on your phone is yours and it's yours only. In my experience, everybody hates going to a screen and interacting with it while everyone can look at you and see what you’re doing. Nobody does it. I have yet to see the first proper application of it, so for me, that's definitely a no. Another reason is that you can do so much online that when you actually decide to venture into the physical world, you're looking for a social and very physical experience where you can meet people and touch stuff.

Is there a space (that you didn’t design) that has left an impression on you recently?

I was in Barcelona last month and I went to the Joan Miró Foundation. He made these beautiful wool tapestries. The wool is really thick but, in some parts, it just comes out like half a meter, it's a landscape that he made. And in the same museum, there is a mercury fountain by Alexander Calder. I just stood there for one hour looking at it. Mercury is a metal but it's liquid and you expect it to behave like water but it's so different. It’s so cool.

Speaking of impressive spaces, tell us about your houseboat.

Yeah, I’m an Amsterdam guy and I live on the water on a newly built houseboat. I, together with an architect, designed the exterior, the whole interior, the flooring levels, staircases, and stuff like that. The materialization, I designed myself. So, it's really a custom-made design and it won the ‘Houseboat of the Year’ award. I can give a day-long lecture on the concept of the house, but the idea is that it really plays with your expectations of space. For some spaces, the ceiling is very low and some spaces the ceiling is really high, and this really changes your experience when you walk through it. I really like this concept that I call ‘non-space’ where if you have something like a corridor but make it twice as wide so it becomes a space where different activities can happen. By playing around with the dimensions of spaces and how they are connected, you can create a lot of moments where it's not clear what the function of the space is but if it's designed well people can come up with many things to actually do there. For instance, in our house, there's a split level and one floor is about a meter higher than the adjacent floor. This is a really nice place to sit because you can look out over the water. The cat always hangs out there because when we pass by it's right at petting height. But when we have people over for dinner, this floor becomes the buffet. At parties, people always sit there because you're sort of in the middle of things and when you sit there, you're still at eye level with the people that stand. It has a million functions that were not specifically assigned to it creating a certain context that encourages play.

What are some of your trend predictions for the future design?

Personally, I don't bother with trends very much. But of course, the big thing right now is AI. Everybody is on experimenting with writing copy and generating images. AI is not able to design interiors for you yet, but it's an extremely handy tool to come up with solutions.

So, are you interested in AI?

Definitely. We have these ongoing research projects that we do at the studio. With ChatGPT and DALL-E, I've been doing small experiments but I wish we were a big brand like Nike so we can get dedicated teams working with AI because there's so much to learn.

Since OLAF celebrates citizens, countries, and cultures, we like to wrap up each interview with the same question: Can you name a person, place, and thing that inspires you?

The mercury fountain is the thing that inspires me because something as simple as a bare material can just sort of really shake your foundation of how you look at it.

A place that inspires me is basically any artisan's workshop, like a specialist that's super good at working with only aluminum or just weaving wool. I love that there's so much to learn, to see, and to experience in a space where you don't understand 5% of what the person who runs it understands. Or like a surgeon who only operates on ankles all day. To us, it’s just one part of the body, but to them, the ankle joint is a universe in itself where every angle is different, and they could talk about it in detail for hours with a sort of love and fascination. I'm always a sucker for these kinds of people.

A person that inspires me is the designer, Jean Prouvé, who is passed away now. He was a modernist designer, but I think he was more of a hardcore one. His aesthetics are much more difficult to like. His stuff was a bit weird but, in a way, I think he was truer to the modernist principles than all the other designers at that time. He just didn't care about public opinion. What I also like about him is that a lot of his clients were just factories, they would come to him and say we need some furniture for the office, and he would he just produce the most amazing stuff. He over-delivered on every aspect of the brief and was completely true to his own ideals. That’s why I always see him as a great designer.

STUDIO HAGEL

The world has experienced a major upheaval in 2020 and everyone’s plans have been thrown off course. In these uncertain times, we can all learn to take a page from Mathieu Hagelaars’ book. The footwear designer and founder of Studio Hagel embraces the unexpected, isn’t afraid to change course, and finds innovative solutions in what others might see as mistakes. In this episode of Citizens, Mathieu shares how his experimental process has shaped the outcome of his projects and success of his studio.

02 Nov 2020

Jurjen Beelen

Hey Mathieu, so you’ve said that you started your own studio because no one wanted to work with you. Now, you’ve worked with big international brands and great creative minds like Virgil Abloh, Daniel Arsham, Takashi Murukami. How does it feel to have come so far?

“Well, I feel blessed of course. When I first started I never expected I would work with these kinds of creative superheroes. I never expected it. When I started my studio five and half years ago, I never thought I would go abroad. I thought I would work with Dutch brands, but I never imagined going international."

Five and half years is fast.

“Yeah, that’s record fast. I’m still amazed by it and it wasn’t planned like this. I didn’t say okay within five years I’m going to work with the names you just mentioned. But I did focus on what I really wanted to do and knew that I wanted to do it the best. And thanks to Instagram, I had a stage to show my ideas.”

Wild concept made in collaboration with @opblaashelicopter &nbsp Right: Mathieu Hagelaars.

Do you find that Instagram really helped you get off the ground?

“Yeah, sure. Still now people are asking me ‘Why are you sharing all your ideas?’ because people can just grab them from Instagram. But one of my best decisions was to share my ideas on Instagram. All the projects that I got came directly and indirectly from Instagram. It was the best way to start working and connecting with people."

Biography

Since being founded in 2015, Studio Hagel has established a reputation as the world’s leading experimental footwear design studio. We design and develop collections that are rooted in a creative concept that can be applied to everything. Whatever we do, we don’t settle for the ordinary.

STUDIO HAGEL designed and made this pair of custom sneakers for the @TakashiMurakami's exhibition #sneakersforbreakfast at ComplexCon.

Looking back, is there anything that you wish you knew when you were first starting out? Any advice you would give your past self or anyone looking to start their own studio?

“Man, that’s a question...I guess things are always going to be different from what you think. In the beginning, I had an idea that everything I was going to communicate, everything I was going to show, was going to be done by pen and paper. Everything had to be done the traditional way because that's how it was always done.That’s what I always had in my mind. My Instagram feed had to look like a clear story, so my wall had to look like a clear story. But when I said fuck it all, I’m going to do whatever I want and follow my intuition, far better ideas came out. And maybe my wall looked like a big mess, but I started to see a signature of what I was doing. In a way, I found my signature with a looser and freer approach.”

Would you relate that to your ‘driven by experimentation’ process?

“Yeah, exactly. Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Don’t be afraid when things turn out differently than what you had in mind.”

Can you share any failures that you experienced?

“Definitely. Product-wise, I had an idea to make moulds and I’m horrible at making moulds. I wanted to experiment with all kinds of resins and the whole studio became one big mess. It ended up making an interesting texture but that was it. It all stuck together. I ruined a really expensive resin and the shoes that were in it. Business-wise, you learn things the hard way, like reaching out to people who are more important than you thought. One failure, I forgot a really important meeting and remembered two days after it was scheduled. That’s one of those things you do once and then never ever again. Now, I'm always on time.”

Do you have any projects that you’re particularly proud of?

“The very first shoe that I did with Virgil. I have really nice memories from that project. That was my “breakthrough moment”. It’s a horrible way to describe it but I would say that was my international breakthrough. Virgil reached out to me saying, ‘hey, I like the things that you’re doing and I want to make a shoe with you’ and that ended up being the Off-White Off-Courts. The way we approached it was super hands on and similar to my other Makers Monday projects. That shoe was a big success for Off-White and really good for my studio.”

So, you probably learned a lot from that experience.

“Oh yeah. Working with Virgil was a different approach. I never worked like that before with other art directors on past projects. Also, I got to be in the factories and go through the whole process from creation to prototyping. Everything.”

Design and development men's footwear collection for Off-White. Working alongside with Virgil Abloh.

Are you working on anything exciting right now?

“I’m working on my own brand. I’m really excited but it's also scary because it's your baby that you’re going to create. It’s also a super interesting subject to do research for because you’re going to ask yourself a lot of questions: What is the thing that people want to see from you? How are you going to challenge yourself? In what way are you going to stand out from what's already out there?. During Corona, I used the time to anaylze myself, think about my own brand and what I wanted to be or not be. That's the most exciting and difficult part.”

It’s probably a big task to define yourself.

“Exactly. I’m approaching it as an experiment. For me, it's more about this thing I want to do and hopefully I’m going to constantly improve it. Like I said in the beginning, you never know where it's going to go. So, I can't say this is the way I'm going to start my brand, this is the way it’s going to look, and this is the person who’s going to wear it. It’s not going to work that way. You’re always going to have pleasant surprises and mistakes, maybe some failures, but that's all part of the experiment. That’s the exciting thing.”

#Makersmondays.

When you get a creative block, what do you do to get out of it?

“I like cycling. I have a racing bike. It takes a long time and you're by yourself in a different environment. It’s meditative for me. So, it's a good way to rethink everything I’m doing. If you're stuck, move away, get away from it, and when you come back, you might have a different approach.”

Do you see yourself expanding beyond footwear and experimenting with other clothing?

“I believe in specialising. I think I’m still learning a lot from footwear and still have a lot to learn. There are still so many areas to explore when it comes to footwear. It’s a complicated product and that's also the challenge I have with footwear design. I’m not saying I’ll never do anything else. But right now, there are so many challenges in footwear for me to explore. Like different kinds of techniques and a whole spectrum of footwear – from women’s heels to men’s sandals. There’s so much to do in the world of footwear.”

The NB x Bodega X-racer is meant for "All Terrain”, so we pushed that concept to more extreme terrains.

SUZANNE SCHULTING

In this episode of Citizens we talk to Suzanne Schulting. Not only is Suzanne an Olympic gold medalist, world champion, European champion and 2018 Dutch Sportswoman of the Year, she’s managed to achieve it all before the age of 20. Ambitious and unstoppable, the now 23-year-old speed skater talks to us about life as an elite athlete and her goals for the future, making it clear that she’s far from the finish line.

13 Nov 2019

Paolo gattone

You’ve achieved so much at such a young age, what’s your next goal?

“The next goal is the World Championship this year in Rotterdam. So yeah, I want to become world champion because it’s for the home crowd. I don’t think there will be any crowd because of Coronavirus but still I really want to become world champion. Also because last year in March our World Champs got canceled because of the virus. So yeah, I want to be world champion again and the year after Olympic champion in at least one distance, maybe more. Maybe two gold medals or three gold medals. At least one."

What drives you to keep going?

“What really drives me is the gold. The feeling of winning the gold medal is the best thing ever. You train so hard the whole summer just for the feeling of crossing the finish line first. I scream my guts out when I win. That feeling really keeps me motivated and it’s like a drug. You want more and more and more."

This year must’ve affected your training.

“Yeah, it's all different. Normally, we get rest or go to camp or something like that. At this period right now, I would be in Calgary for 3 to 4 weeks for competition and enjoying the nice weather. But now we're in Holland and it's raining. I miss traveling and being abroad. But that’s the way it is."

What do you miss about traveling?

“In the winter, we start traveling the first part of the season. October, November we always travel to America or Canada. End of November or beginning of December, we’re always in Asia like Korea, Shanghai, or somewhere in Japan. That’s 3 weeks abroad. After that, we stay in Europe. We do training camps and competitions. I miss the competition. That’s why we travel, we’re there to race. They help us stay motivated because we have a reason to train. There’s a goal."

Are you based in Amsterdam?

“No, I’m based in Heerenveen. A really small village in the north of Holland. It’s like a 75 to 90 minute drive away from Amsterdam. I’m also from this part of Holland. I’m from the north, but my boyfriend lives in Amsterdam so I’m there a lot."

You’ve been speed skating since you were 8-years-old. How did you discover the sport?

“Well, my parents live in the middle of nowhere with little canals around their house. So, they were like, ‘okay, if it's frozen in the winter you can do some speed skating’, and that’s how I learned to speed skate. That’s where it all started."

Did you love it right away?

“First, my mom took me to see what kind of skating I wanted to do — speed skating, ice hockey, figure skating. So, for my first year of skating I did figure skating but I hated it because it was so boring and I wanted to do something different. All my friends from my village did speed skating so I did that instead."

What’s a training day like for you?

“I wake up in the morning around 8. I go to the arena around 8:45. Start doing my warm up, sharpen my skates, and then I will be on the ice around 9:45 until 11:15 or 11:30. Then I go home, make my lunch, eat my lunch, maybe take a nap. Just chill. I go back to the arena to do weights or some cycling from 3 to 5. Then, I go home and eat at my parents place or make dinner for myself and my boyfriend. So, that's my day and that’s 6 days a week."

What do you do on the 7th day?

“On Sunday, I always rest. I watch television or sports, or maybe go drink coffee somewhere or go out for dinner in the evening. Just really chill."

On the days when you feel off or your performance isn’t as good as it should be, how do you deal with that?

“Yeah, that's hard. Sometimes you feel that you just don't have the legs to win. But you have to reorganize your race and come up with a different strategy or adjust it. And you have to believe in yourself, it’s the most important thing."

What was it like to meet the other athletes at the Olympics?

“I was really impressed the first time I went to the Olympic village. You eat all together in a big venue and see all the other countries and athletes like Lindsay Vonn, the super famous skier. It’s super cool to see all the different kinds of sports and all the athletes working towards the same goal."

How did it feel to represent your country?

“I feel really honored actually because in Holland it’s all about speed skating. It’s really a big thing. It’s really nice to skate in the suit and have the orange helmet. It feels really good to represent such a small country."

Do you have any competition rituals or anything that you keep with you for luck?

“No. You have a routine in your warm up, but I’m not kissing something for luck or anything like that. I know some athletes have little things like always wearing the same underwear, but I don’t have anything."

Are you more comfortable in skates or shoes?

“I’m the most comfortable in skates because I really know what I’m doing. I’m really in the zone. I feel the most confident when I’m wearing my skates and my suit because I know I’m the best at doing what I’m doing in the moment. When I’m in my shoes I’m also confident because I really have my own taste."

What is your taste off the ice?

“It really depends. I really like clothes that aren’t too tight. Loose fit. I like boyfriend jeans and really love sweaters. I’m just living in sweaters. Sometimes I like hipster style too. I also love a really beautiful dress for a special night out. But most of the time, it’s all laid back and not too complicated. Just a nice sweater and boyfriend jeans and I’m a really happy person. Oh, and Dr. Martens too."

You probably get asked a lot of the same questions in interviews. What’s something people might not know about you already?

“Ooo. Well, I play piano. It’s funny because most athletes don’t know that I play piano. Most of the time I’m a really busy person, like, I react to everything and everybody. So, when I’m just sitting there and playing piano, people are surprised when they see me and say it doesn’t fit me. I also like to party. I really like to party but we can only do it at the end of the season."

When you meet younger athletes what do you say to inspire them?

“The most important thing is to stay focused. Don’t get distracted by side things.The only thing that matters is skating. All the press and photoshoots, of course it's nice and fun, but it's all about skating. The only thing that can really make you happy is skating a good race or earning a medal."

What do you find inspirational yourself?

“I’m really inspired by athletes who become legends in their sport. That’s my inspiration, I want to achieve the same. To become a legend because I have so many medals. I want to be legendary. That would be really nice."

ALEX ZETA

Alex Zeta is an intuitive creator that transforms emotion and feeling into works of art. In this edition of Citizens, the up-and-coming artist talks to us about how life in Spain, The Netherlands, and the pandemic have shaped his body of work.

09 Mar 2021

Paolo gattone

Hi Alex, you’re the first artist to ever be featured in the new ØLÅF window gallery. Tell us about your installation.

“It’s called ‘Now, but not now, but maybe even never’. It’s inspired by the sadness I felt my first winter in Amsterdam because of the lack of sunlight and the anxious time we are all living in now. It’s a concept called ‘solastalgia’ which describes the anger, anxiety and different feelings you get when your environment is changing around you. So, I created this fountain that combines fabric and liquid representing a kind of fluidity and adaptiveness to change that brings hope and new energy. I also used tanning bed lights to give the feeling of sun and combat the lack of light."

Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

“When I was a child, I used to say to my mother that I would be an architect. But I studied graphic design in Spain and worked in a design school for 4 years as a graphic designer. I decided to quit my job because I needed something else. I was more interested in creative spaces, how objects work in spaces, and creating atmospheres."

Was the decision to quit and move to Amsterdam easy?

“I thought about going to Berlin first. But I visited some friends in Amsterdam and decided to apply to the Gerrit Rietveld Academie instead. I started contextual design but realized that it wasn’t for me. So, I switched to another department called ‘Design Lab’ that is based on material research. It's very open and very free."

How has Spanish culture and Dutch culture influenced you creatively?

“They’re really different. I think there’s something very special and particular to Spain, the atmosphere of the people, and I would like to do something creative with it in the future. In the Netherlands, there are many artists from different countries here so this can inspire and blow your mind."

Where is your studio?

“In Amsterdam Noord. I'm quite lucky because I literally live in front of my studio which is something that I never thought could happen. It's super cool. It's very important to be in a domain for you to develop your things."

Do you listen to music while you work?

“Yeah, it depends on how I feel. My work is very intuitive, my methodology is guided by emotions most of the time. I like techno or electronic music when I want to keep my energy up, but sometimes I just need something more pop or relaxing. Sometimes I need silence."

You seem to work with ceramics a lot. Do you prefer it?

“It’s funny that you ask that because I think that’s the expectation now but it’s actually because of this situation with Covid. I was not feeling very good, being alone every day, not in the studio. Then, I met some people that were working with ceramics and I thought I’d try to just make something out of nothing. No serious expectations, just fun."

That’s how you started your @bufffetbufffetbufffet account?

“Exactly. I made some vases, tiny pieces, and then I decided to make candle holders. Basically, I started to post on Instagram as a way to make some income during Corona. At first, I was afraid to post and wanted to delete it, but then I got many messages from people that liked it. So, I continued to do more and found myself selling candle holders."

What do you see yourself doing after school?

“I have no clue. I really want to try to explore more things and see what I can do with it. I want to develop conceptually. I want to move to another city too. When you move to a place, you get new ideas. I love Brussels. I think it's a very good city because I like the flow of the people and I like that it’s a bit dirty. It’s also a very queer city. There are also possibilities for creators, like designers and artists. Then, I’d like to go somewhere else like Mexico."

MYLES O'MEALLY

Founder of Areté - A progressive product creation studio that sits at the intersection of research, design, engineering, production, and brand. From working as a footwear engineer at Nike to founding Areté in 2019, Myles' entrepreneurial journey is a testament and representation of the diverse cities and cultures he has experienced.

27 Feb 2024

Lodia Sebit

Hi Myles, where are you today? Can you set the scene of your creative space for our readers?

I’m in our studio in Amsterdam. It’s quite minimal, not too much colour. My team always teases me about that! Lots of steel, grey, black and concrete. Quite industrial design studio vibes. And it’s split over 2 floors. The downstairs area is a bit more relaxed and a bit cleaner. People work from here sometimes and friends come to hang out and have lunch.

Then upstairs is the design space where all the samples and reference pieces are. It’s a bit messier - you’ve got the wall with all the work that’s going on so that’s really our creative space. We’re south facing and are blessed that it’s got a floor-to-ceiling glass front with so much natural light coming in. It’s really a beautiful place to be.

You started Areté after working at Nike as a way to build your own happiness. What does happiness look like to you?

That’s a big one isn’t it! There are so many different ways you could answer that question. Within your career, I think happiness is really driven by how far you’re into your passion. Finding something that you’re excited about getting up for every morning gives you real purpose and fulfilment. That obviously makes you happy. Then getting better in that passion and seeing yourself develop and improve really adds to it.

In your personal life, I think stability and being surrounded by loved ones obviously really makes you happy. I think if you have really good friends and really good family, you can get through any challenge in life.

Biography

Founder of product design and engineering studio Areté. Born in Birmingham and now based in Amsterdam by way of a three-year stint in Vietnam, O’Meally is a true global citizen who channels his experiences into a rich creative life.

Sticking with the personal life aspect, how do you disconnect from work?

Sport, fully sport. I was raised as an athlete first and foremost and I used to play tennis to a high level. The creative stuff and the design engineering came second. Playing, watching, working out - that’s the way I disconnect massively. I do a lot of football and padel tennis as that’s easy with friends just to mess about.

Then being with family and friends from back home in Birmingham is also nice as well, you know.

Is that sporting background what led to Areté’s sneaker focus?

The sneaker focus comes from my background at Nike combined with where the industry trends were when I started the studio. But we’re setting the theme. We can create almost whatever the client wants. For Raf Simons we did a number of different boots. We were even working on a woman’s heel towards the end and for A-COLD-WALL* we did loafers.

So, you’re not necessarily a sneakerhead then?

I’m not a sneakerhead! In the traditional sense at least. When I was younger there were, of course, particular models that I loved and had. Supreme just brought back a shoe called the Courtposite with their latest Nike collab. It’s a tennis shoe and I had it when I was like 15. I thought I was the sickest kid in these shoes. But I didn’t study footwear design at school. It was more the making of products, the engineering and the industrial design process that I liked, then I fell into footwear because my first job was Nike.

It feels like you can’t talk about creative industries right now without mentioning AI. How do you feel it might impact the future of shoe design?

I’m actually really fascinated by it as part of the concepting phase. When you do your research into your topic, you’ll of course have your own concept ideas that come out of that research. But feeding that into AI and seeing what that spins out will support your own thinking. For me, AI will never replace the top-level creatives because they’ll just learn how to use that to make their own ideas even more developed and advanced. Because if you feed in rubbish, it spits out rubbish. But if you feed in the right stuff, the right concepts, the right references, the right text, what it feeds out can be very interesting. How you then take that to design your piece is then back to the talent of the individual creative.

We’ve used it for a retail project we’re working on right now as part of the early phase of ideation and it was really interesting. It was really fun to use actually.

The tech is useful but the people are still essential! Can you talk us through a human element of shoemaking that really stands out to you?

My eyes were really opened up to the level of skill in factories in the three years I worked for Nike in Vietnam. Of course, you’ve got amazing developers and designers that are sat in Nike’s headquarters. But the unknown, quieter side of things, which is less spoken about, is the amount of skill and experience that exists in the factories. It’s insane. I became big team factory over those three years. Obviously design and the engineering pre-hand over to the factory will have a big impact on the end product, but the biggest impact comes from the quality of the factory you’re working with and the quality of its team.

Any insights into what the future holds for Areté?

Right now, we’re in the process of evolving from footwear studio to product design engineering studio. Footwear will still remain a core part of what we do but we’ll be expanding into new areas such as spatial design, installations, accessory design and apparel. We’re working with the artist Skepta designing his full collection for Puma for example. So we already have a few projects that we’ve started at the beginning of this year which feed into that evolution, so next year you’ll start to see a broader range of projects coming from the studio.

I’ve also started an area in the studio called Future Scope. It’s a small space for us when we have the time to explore ideas that we wouldn’t normally be able to with our client-based projects. It’s more research and innovation focussed. It’s more slow burn and there are no deadlines to hit. So, if we get a topic that we like the sound of or an opportunity to work with a partner on something that we can go deeper into through the lens of innovation, sustainable design or circular engineering, we can put it under Future Scope.

Touching on sustainable design, how easy is it to do within the footwear world?

It’s really difficult. We do the bits that we can – we work with organic cottons and recycled or upcycled materials. But there are still commercial objectives for a lot of our projects and that makes it difficult to go as clean as you could do. We’re working on a project right now within Future Scope that explores this topic with a company in Portland, America, so hopefully we create something that’s ready to share next year.

OLAF stands for Our Life As Friends, which encompasses how we thrive on making connections with countries, cultures and citizens around the globe. How has a life of meeting friends from the different cultures you’ve lived in around the world influenced your life?

I think that it balances you and makes you more of a complete individual because you’ve got so many references to pick from, learn from and absorb. I take bits that I really respect and value and then try to incorporate them into my character. In some ways it helps elevate your thinking just to be exposed to so much. You see the right and wrongs in things. You see how people might approach a certain problem or task in different cultures. I’ve learnt from people of different religions, too. A lot of my friends here in Amsterdam are Muslim and I’ve learnt so much from them about Islam. I just enjoy being a citizen of the world.