We conducted a Friends & Family interview with our project partner Maya Rémie in Cologne. You can find out who she is, what she does and how she found her style in the first part of the interview "I always wanted to do something with fashion". Today, in part two, it's even more about her profession as a stylist.
Thanks again to Maya for her time and insights. We look forward to our future collaboration!
In Part 1, we also talked to Maya about style breaks and breaking the rules in fashion in general. We now want to pick up where we left off:
What rules do you like to break in your job as a stylist?
There are a lot of them. I totally like combining clothes from the 'chic' world, the classic fashion so to speak, with fashion that you would have only worn at home in the past. Which means reducing a sweater and suit trousers with sneakers or, for women, a reasonably chic dress with sneakers and tennis socks. Or the other way around, for example, combining high heels with jogging pants.
But you can also relate that to jewellery: Combining a pearl necklace with a hoodie or, for example, when men wear a pearl necklace. These are things that I like, that I celebrate.
Can men break even more rules than women do today?
I don't think men can do more, it's just different. I, for example, wear men's clothes very often, they even make up 60-70% of my wardrobe. On the other hand, I know many guys who prefer to wear women's jeans because they say they are better cut. Why not?
Will there only be unisex in the future?
It's quite often the case that the boundaries are blurring. Of course, we don't know where this will develop, but I think that many brands that focus on unisex work very well because they simply appeal to a larger target group. From a purely marketing point of view - where I come from - that alone makes much more sense. Nevertheless, offering women's and men's clothes, but simply combining them in a sensible way, that's what makes the whole thing a fashion trend.
You probably also often see socks combined with, for example, Birkenstocks or Nike sandals. In the past, everyone would have said 'eh, it's still going on', but I celebrate that. I wouldn't wear it myself, but I like it on others. In the past, people simply didn't wear it, but today they do.
We have already talked about your passion for tattoos. How did it start for you?
It started early, when I was 16. My mother is very easy-going and didn't forbid me almost anything. Besides, she can't say no very well. I kept talking to her until she said yes. Generally, when I set my mind on something, I try to get it as quickly as possible.
Are you a fashion statement?
That, but also because I think it's nice to tell stories on the skin. To make myself a bit more interesting, because when I saw tattoos on others, I always wanted to know the background. That was exciting and I also had quite a lot to tell myself, about myself and my life. Because I didn't grow up in an ordinary family, but always had to do my own thing somehow. That's why I wanted tattoos, again as a complement to fashion and my style.
Do the tattoos all have to have a meaning for you?
No, not necessarily, because then at some point you start to think of something. If you find something beautiful, then you should do it. It's the same with fashion.
"Just do it!"
I think it's nice to be able to tell a story with some tattoos, but not with all of them. As many as I have by now, I don't have that many stories. Some stand for moments, others for experiences in connection with my loved ones. I have tattoos for my family, the cohesion, how I grew up and they give me support. But they are not that noticeable. I have one for almost every family member, but some don't even know it. I don't want to say the compliments so directly to their faces, I'd rather do that to myself.
No one in my family has tattoos either. My mother was afraid that I would ruin something or spend money that I didn't have during my studies. But she actually gave me my first tattoo for Christmas and got the ball rolling. At the time, she said, 'Don't do any more,' but later she understood that it was good for me because the tattoos lead me to myself. They define me and she is now very proud of them.
My grandmother is an artist and I kept it a secret from her for a long time. I even used to wear long clothes when I visited her. Two years ago it was her 80th birthday and it was so warm that day. My mother said: 'Maya, why don't you wear the dress now'. I was kind of afraid that I would get negative vibes.
But the reaction was actually quite different from what I thought. I got so many compliments, while hardly anyone in my family even knew about the tattoos. My grandma asked afterwards why I hadn't told her.
"She wanted to hear all the stories and said I looked like a work of art. I would never have thought that in my life."
The more tattoos you have, the less serious you get, at least that's how I feel. In the meantime, I have also tattooed a coat hanger, a wine glass or even a raspberry. My first tattoo was a microphone with a clef, but the second one is much more worth talking about because it's for my mum. I surprised her with the tattoo and she cried. She still talks about it proudly today.
Even though they say fashion is a woman's business, the industry is still professionally dominated by men. Have you had to prove yourself?
Yes, every day. When I'm on set, I'm usually the only woman - apart from the models. Unless I have assistants with me, which are actually always girls. As far as photo and video shoots are concerned, it's a very male-dominated profession, because it's very technical and most women don't dare to do it. I used to learn photography, but it was always too technical for me, too.
It's also a very physical job, photographer and stylist. I always have to carry a lot of boxes and clothes. Of course, these are also factors that discourage many. 90% of the photographers I work with are men.
What about fellow stylists?
My team is female, as I said, but also in the industry itself it's mostly female stylists. I also know guys who would like to do it, but I don't know why they don't do it. I think it would be great if more men dared to do such a job.
What is your opinion on the sneaker scene?
The sneaker scene is still very male-driven, I would say about 80 to 20. I also hardly know any female collectors. I also have to say that I don't collect sneakers in the sense that I'm involved in every raffle or that I'm mega after them. But if I really like a shoe, of course I try to get my hands on it, but then I have to be really keen on it. I don't want something just to have it, but because I think it's beautiful, which can sometimes be very valuable ones like my Jordan 1 Union LA or my Jordan 4 Off White.
Sometimes I find the sneaker scene very exhausting, because it always seems as if many people are after something just to have a supposedly better standing in society. And not always just because you find the shoe beautiful yourself. At least that's my impression often. I don't want to get there. I could probably get a lot more by now through my network, but that's not what I'm after. I want to have shoes that I stand behind. Moreover, I define the value myself and individually, not because someone tells me how much the shoe is worth. That's my emotional value.
Where have you had to struggle as a woman?
I think you have to do that every now and then and that's part of it. Especially in the hip hop scene you often hear that and there are many who live up to their cliché. That means that I've often reached my limits in terms of interpersonal relations, because you're "pushed around". I've styled more famous people from time to time, that's cool too and most of them are really nice. Nevertheless, there were shoots where I had to put up with comments and fisticuffs, which is just beneath me.
This is the moment when I question everything. I must add that as a blonde, tattooed woman I might fall into their pattern, that's just the way it is. Still, that's not cool and especially not a free pass. There were moments after which I had to talk to the management again afterwards.
Even if I showed my limits in the situation, the reaction was often condescending. But just because the person may have been in the right place at the right time and their music is selling well, that doesn't mean they can get away with anything. That is what then resonates. Even if you are on the set with other men, i.e. colleagues, many simply don't notice that. Of course, because they are simply busy with their work. Still, you get a lot of support from your own team in such a situation. I also prefer working with men much more than with women.
It's more relaxed, they all pitch in. And there's not this competition. Most of the time, the guys are especially helpful when you're the only woman on set. The ones who come to the set and think they are just anybody, those are the ones who sometimes make your life difficult. Sometimes I say deliberately, because it's really not always like that. Usually it's always really nice and you work together a second time or more.
"But if someone comes at me stupidly, then I say that too. I don't want to put up with everything."
Maybe a lot of people in the industry do that, I don't know. Sometimes I'm also cheeky because I fight back, but sometimes you just have to be. It hasn't done me any harm so far. My well-being is more important to me first and of course fair treatment.
Of course there is competition on the set, but that is to be understood in general. Some are already interested in the well-being of the other, while many just think, I'll see him once here on the set and then never again. I don't have that attitude, because in my opinion you see each other at least twice in life.
It has also happened to me that I have seen them again. That's karma. Things happen because they are supposed to happen. There is a reason that doors close so that others open again.
Maybe it was meant to be, the day I had to jump in at the deep end and had my first styling job. I was overwhelmed, but in the end it fit. I did everything on my own and sometimes I went home so overwhelmed and sad and thought I would never make it. But that always makes you stronger. Sometimes you have to prove yourself and assert your opinion. It's the same in fashion.
The client often doesn't understand what I have in mind until I can show it. Every now and then I come up with outfits that I think are super coherent and mega cool, but then they don't work on the model. And sometimes clothes work better in the photo than in real life. Of course, you have to convey that to the customer, you have to assert yourself. Then you need good arguments and have to consider many things at the same time.
Do you have any tips for our community on how to be more true to yourself?
I think a lot about how other people are doing. Empathy is very important to me and I often ask myself how I am doing and how others are doing in comparison. I reflect a lot and then I am also satisfied with little things.
"The important thing is to know where you belong, to pile deep and always start from the smallest and be satisfied even with small things. You can be consciously happy about all the extra 'luxuries' (sneakers and clothes, for example)."
Then it's also wrong to use Instagram role models. Because that's where you get all the negativity. I think that's a shame. Instead, ask yourself: What do I really want? What are my values? What can I be proud of for myself? I think that's better than orienting yourself to the big picture and setting your goals too high. I have everything I need and the rest will come with the time and work I put in.
For me, too, styling was no longer enough at some point. I can do clothes, but so can others. That's why I tried out a lot of other things: Art direction, writing concepts, personal shopping, fashion shows, creative direction. I do a lot of areas by looking at what I can already do and where I can apply that in turn and also where I can naturally develop further. So I can offer my clients a wide range of skills.
What was your coolest shoot or set?
There are so many different ones. If you really ask for cool, it was New York in January 2020, simply because it also involved a long journey. Then, of course, there were some that were exciting and action-packed and others that were emotional. To be honest, I don't really know where to start answering this question, every shoot has its own story to tell. It can be mega cool, stressful, crazy, unplanned or totally relaxed, no day on set is comparable.
A shooting in Berlin, for example, went totally wrong. It was with two artists, two German rappers. I don't even know what the mistake was, somehow we talked past each other with the production. So we thought the shoot would be on Saturday and drove to Berlin relaxed on Friday, when we got a call at the first coffee stop saying where we were, that the whole crew was already waiting for us.
We still had a four-hour drive ahead of us and I had the entire collection in the boot. I then had to book a new model on the motorway and change everything, and the rappers also had to be told that they would have to come later now. When we arrived in Berlin, everything went very quickly. In the end, we only needed a third of the scheduled shooting time and managed to get everything done. Then you realise what is possible in such a short time.
What is the status of fashion (in society)?
Fashion absolutely has a value in society. Of course, not everyone is equally interested in it, but of course everyone needs clothes. For me personally, it is my biggest interest and makes up a large part of my life. At the same time, the subject is of course ambivalent. It's not like you can't survive without it. It's not essential and especially in my job it's not open-heart surgery. Sometimes I get calls about supposedly big problems and I just think to myself 'guys, it's about shoes, it's all right, it's going to be okay'. That's exactly what I mean.
Especially in situations like Corona and the suffering in the world, you naturally think: Can't I do something that gives me back a bit more, because I can help people with it? That's how I started a development project in which I put cultural backgrounds into fashion and sell the content that results to various brands and magazines and donate a large part of the proceeds. This way I can take it to another level.
I wanted to give something back to people with what I do every day anyway, without them just wearing a nice outfit afterwards. That has much, much more content. The balance is important. You sell lifestyle, which of course is part of your life and also gives you a lot as a person. Of course, we all like to dress up and make ourselves pretty. That gives you a lot as a person, but simply that there are other values in life that are more important. These are things that you have to be aware of in order to realise that you are doing really well.
Let's move on to sustainability. What is your point of view on the fashion industry?
There are two sides to the coin. Some people don't even think about it and wear what they feel like and really consume a lot. They don't question where their fashion comes from and under what conditions. At the same time, there are a lot of people who are so incredibly concerned with sustainability that they sort of forget about 'I'd like to dress nicely'. What is important for me is to create a balance here as well. That I am really aware of where my clothes come from and I also ask myself whether I really need that fifth black T-shirt - of course I don't need it. I also like to make something new out of my old clothes, i.e. upcycling. I sew things over, change them and then see that I like them again. I often donate things I don't wear anymore or give them to vintage shops, where I also like to shop.
Living sustainably means even more: how much do you travel, what food do you buy, where does everything you consume come from, etc.? If you create a good balance for yourself and don't just consume without thinking about it, that's already worth a lot. I think the most important thing is to question consumption at all times, especially in fashion.
I also like to make something new out of my old clothes, i.e. upcycling. I sew things over, change them and then see that I like them again. I do the same with my sneakers when we're missing that certain something. Then I just change them or make them a little more exciting.
You can get an impression here: @maya.remie
The things I don't wear anymore, I often donate or give to vintage shops, where I also like to shop. This way I don't always have the conventional clothes that everyone has, but also unique pieces or rare and special clothes.
Thank you Maya for your inspiration. By the way, the Cologne woman is a freelance stylist and you are welcome to contact her at @maya.remie.