The show goes on! For our spring kick off we met Nicolas Simoneau, the creative mind behind Kaltblut Magazine and compared notes on clothes that “set the mood” instead of making a statement.
Œ Magazine: Do you remember the first time you were aware of fashion around you?
Nicolas: Looking at people and their clothes was always a hobby for me, starting at a young age. It’s something of a cliché, but in Paris, where I come from, putting some effort into your look isn’t uncommon. Even the people living in the banlieues have this sense of fashion, and it’s probably better than most people’s fashion sense in Berlin… somehow it’s there. Then, of course, you can embrace it or not, but people really do dress well everywhere! I remember becoming more conscious about fashion around the time I was in high school. That’s when I started reading Numéro among other magazines and following the fashion shows.
Œ Magazine: When did you start caring about your own clothes? How would you describe your relationship with fashion?
Nicolas: Probably when I went to Art school in Paris and then interned with Martin Maison Margiela. At the time I was very involved in the fashion world. And again, in Paris, every time you leave the house you think about your outfit, it doesn’t matter if it’s Sunday and you’re just going to the baker across the street! When I moved to Berlin, ten years ago, I thought “Wow! This is cool, people don’t seem to care here, they are so free! As for me, it’s not like I stopped caring now that I live here, but these days I try to feel comfortable rather than to show off.
Œ Magazine: Do you ever wear the clothes you used to “show off” in Paris anymore?
Nicolas: No. In France, within the fashion world, it was always about making a statement. The pieces I bought back then feel ridiculous now and I ask myself, “why did I spend so much money on these designer things that don’t represent me?”
Œ Magazine: So how exactly did your style change when you moved to Berlin?
Nicolas: It’s more casual now.
Œ Magazine: What does “casual” mean to you?
Nicolas: Casual, as in comfortable. Practical even. Before it was more about the meaning and the allure. Now I like things that feel nice and fit well.
Œ Magazine: So you’re not preoccupied with the statement and meaning at all these days?
Nicolas: No, I still care about the meaning on some level, but I don’t think about it as much! Before I would worry about the impression I was making on others and now I just want to be pleased with what I see in the mirror, you know? The rest is secondary.
Œ Magazine: What do you think about when you’re standing in front of the mirror before leaving the house in the morning? What is the first thing you pick when you put together an outfit?
Nicolas: The first thing I do is look out of the window to see what the weather is like and observe what people are wearing on the streets.
Œ Magazine: Do you choose the bottom or the top first?
Nicolas: The top! The way my room is built, it’s easier to pick the top first. Except if it’s sunny and warm. Then I will be wearing shorts, so I would start from there.
Œ Magazine: Show me a typical you outfit.
Nicolas: Lately I’m wearing the same things all the time. T-shirt wise, I’m definitely back to basics. Like American apparel T’s with little or no type on them.
Œ Magazine: Colored ones though! That’s refreshing. How do you feel about the total black look?
Nicolas: I find it really boring! (laughs) Sometimes I like to wear a black tank top or so but I wouldn’t go totally black anymore.
Œ Magazine: Can you think of any other criteria you apply when choosing an outfit?
Nicolas: Mmm… I guess the choice also depends on where I’m going. I wouldn’t wear the same things for going to the Bild office and for going to Kaltblut Mag office. For example, I would never wear a T-shirt saying “fuck you” at Bild.
Œ Magazine: Why? Is there a dress code at the Bild office?
Nicolas: No, but I don’t feel like I could go wearing just anything. This outfit right here for example (shorts and graphic t-shirt), I wouldn’t wear it there because I think it wouldn’t match their work vibe. But perhaps this has more to do with my Idea of what’s appropriate and what’s not. Because I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t send me away for it or anything (laughs). It just doesn’t correspond to my idea of what should be worn in a big company. It’s not corporate enough… Does that make sense?
Œ Magazine: Absolutely! Dressing for the occasion is so much more than choosing between a suit and a pair of jeans. It’s quite personal really and has everything to do with what makes us feel good or at ease in a certain environment.
Nicolas: Exactly! It’s a bit like with underwear, you know – I only wear briefs because I think they work best on my body. Of course, no one is going to see my underwear but they set the mood, you know? If the mood is right and I’m feeling comfortable in my clothes, I feel more comfortable at what I’m doing. So, when I consider what to wear at Bild, I’m not actually worrying about someone commenting on my look not being appropriate, but I know that if I go dressed in a certain way I will feel better within my environment and interacting with my colleagues.
Œ Magazine: There you go! (Laughs). You seem to have a lot of sneakers. Are they all yours?
Nicolas: Yup, that’s all me, and to be honest, I have double if not triple this amount in the basement. It’s ridiculous because I’m actually always wearing the same two pairs.
Œ Magazine: Do you enjoy shopping?
Nicolas: Yes, but it would be nice not to consume so much. That’s why I decided not to buy shoes and clothes for a year!
Œ Magazine: That’s pretty cool. How’s that working out for you?
Nicolas: A few times the temptation was really strong but thankfully I could always get a hold of my consumerist instincts.
Œ Magazine: Would you describe yourself as an impulsive shopper?
Nicolas: Not quite. Most of the times when I go shopping I like to know I have money. And when people say “Hey let’s go and see!”, I’m thinking “No! If I don’t have the money to buy something, I don’t want to risk falling in love with something that I can’t afford, leave the store, and feel that wired void!” It’s dramatic. But I guess I have a bizarre relationship with shopping. After purchasing something, I always smoke a cigarette and that doesn’t really make sense either. I’m feeling happy, you know, fulfilled, yet I need a cigarette.
Œ Magazine: I can relate to that feeling! Is there something in your wardrobe you can always go back to? An all-time favorite T-shirt you throw on when you have a bad hair day?
Nicolas: Yes. I used to have something. I wore this top with written “N.2 Chantal – Kreuzberg” all the time when I went partying. I was wearing it so much when going out that once a friend told me,”Do you only have one t-shirt? Every time I see you, you are wearing this top!” (laughs)
Œ Magazine: What do you like about it?
Nicolas: Just that it’s funny but also says “Hey, I don’t take myself that seriously…”
Œ Magazine: What inspires you fashion-wise? Do other men ever catch your eye on the streets?
Nicolas: Sure! I noticed that I’m rather attracted by those keeping it simple, where the clothes really fit. Of course I also notice the eccentric, over the top people styles, but often my reaction is “Why do you have to try so hard?” Also, when the summer arrives in Berlin I’m registering and taking in a lot more. There is so much skin out there and everyone is so sexy!
Œ Magazine: Do you have a style icon or a favorite designer?
Nicolas: I think what Jeremy Scott does is really “for the people”. But I’m not into designer things like before. I have a jacket from Yves Saint Laurent that I bought at this sale. I was in love with it, but I literally never wore it. Ironically, I even took it with me to Berlin and kept not wearing it.
Œ Magazine: Why not?
Nicolas: I just don’t feel comfortable, the way we discussed earlier, in it.
Œ Magazine: Is there anything that you would describe as “typical Berlin” in your closet?
Nicolas: Hmm I’m not sure…
Œ Magazine: Okay, is there something you would wear here and wouldn’t wear in Paris, then?
Nicolas: Well I bought a kilt here that I sometimes wear and wouldn’t wear in Paris. It’s actually black and really simple, but I still find it easier to wear it here. Perhaps at the moment, I also feel more comfortable in Berlin than in Paris.
Œ Magazine: Anything else you associate with Berlin? I’m trying to understand what the stereotypes feeds on.
Nicolas: It’s interesting you would say that because I remember quite clearly appreciating the absence of fashion stereotypes in Berlin, the fact that people didn’t care, you know?
Œ Magazine: Yes, but don’t you think there are some recognizable trademarks?
Nicolas: Okay, yes. You might notice a difference from party to party or from scene to scene and the amount of Adidas varies depending on the kiez you are in. And I suppose that when you dress in Berlin, you also want to show which scene or neighborhood you belong to. So, now that I think about it, I have to admit that my getting dressed is about more than observing the weather or thinking of being comfortable. There is also this other level of influence.
Œ Magazine: That’s right! But isn’t belonging somewhere and showing it also a way of “showing off”? Do you have some Berlin style cliches on your mind?
Nicolas: Yes, there’s a lot of black and black, and right now a lot of black and boring. I think things have changed a lot in the last ten years. But at the time I moved here, I was also coming from the extreme opposite, so things might have felt freer and more open-minded than what they actually are. I’m sure many people share this first impression, the excitement of seeing Berlin kids wearing two different shoes and no one caring. Then you understand that what looks like freedom with no visible code or rules is really just a code of it’s own with rules that your not familiar with.