We did a Friends & Family interview with our project partner Maya Rémie. Find out who she is, what she does and how she found her style. Thank you Maya for your time and we look forward to our future collaboration!
So Maya, who are you and what do you do?
I am a very creative person, so my life revolves around creativity. I work in advertising and fashion, do photo and video shoots and am a stylist. My official job title is actually Senior Stylist Content Creation. On top of that, part of my job is Art and Creative Direction. This means that I write concepts and think up stories in different directions. How do I get a product to the customer in the best possible way and reach the right target group for products and brands? That's broadly what I do. My life, so to speak, consists of getting inspiration everywhere and then implementing it in my own way in pictures and video.
I always get a lot of inspiration from friends and my immediate environment, but also simply from people I see on the street. Then I sit down in a café or bar somewhere and take a closer look at the people. I just like being out and about, talking to people, of course also from the industry, and that's how I get so much inspiration for my own projects.
Did you always know you wanted to do a creative job?
I knew I wanted to do something with fashion. Fashion has always been = that's where I want to work. I'm really, really into it. It started at school when I was 13 or 14 and I was really into fashion, but at that time it was so far out of reach that you could actually work in the fashion industry. I come from a small town and there wasn't much in the way of 'we dress fashionably' and I didn't have the typical comparison that kids have today. I always dressed a bit differently than the others, a bit more flashy. So everyone always said, yes, Maya is doing something with fashion, but who knows what.
Somehow I always looked into it, but I didn't know what exactly I should study. At that time I thought you could only study fashion design, because that's the most typical thing. In the end, I studied fashion journalism and media communication at the Academy of Fashion and Design in Düsseldorf.
It was definitely a pretty cool degree. I was able to try out a lot of things in terms of fashion. But of course it's quite normal that when you're 20 you have to think about which direction to go in. I've always dressed very casually: a lot of sweatpants and towards comfort, but always a bit chic as well.
How did you get into styling?
Meanwhile, I worked a lot in photography at the same time and did an internship with a fashion photographer. I stayed with him and got into styling. I was just thrown in at the deep end because a stylist had cancelled at short notice and the photographer then said, "Maya, you dress well, go for it!" I was so overwhelmed, but in the end it worked and from then on it went relatively quickly. So I had to take responsibility relatively quickly, but I also made really good contacts that way.
Shortly after, big clients booked me and so I started freelance styling alongside my studies and was able to earn money with it. I was really lucky because I also studied privately. My mother was also extremely supportive, which was by no means a given. Nobody in my family does anything creative, except my grandmother, who is an artist, but nobody else really knows anything about it. I was made possible, and I'm very grateful for that.
Since I love streetwear, I naturally felt at home in the sneaker scene and linked it to my job accordingly. I was already in it before, but then I actively worked and did photo shoots and videos for streetwear brands. I still do that today.
What makes your style?
Wide silhouettes, one or two striking colours combined with black, beige or grey, lots of gold jewellery and tattoos. I wore almost exclusively black for a while, it's still often like that today, but now I combine it differently. In the past, it was mostly only the shoes that were colourful, because I didn't want to stand out even more because of the tattoos. Nowadays, I don't care about that and rather like the overall look, consisting of the combination of my clothes, the tattoos and my jewellery.
Of course, I have also developed my style through music. I listen to a lot of hip hop, that inspires me extremely. That's why I wear a lot of baggies and hardly any tight trousers, it just doesn't work. Generally, I have a lot of men's clothes and most of them are much too big. I combine them with tight tops, for example, but I also like to wear them completely baggy from top to bottom. I also don't feel like buying a normal T-shirt that is obviously exactly my size.
What is it like growing up in a small town?
Today, people still look at me a bit askance when I come to my home and my mother is actually asked about me quite often. The tattoos play a role and as I just said, I usually dress fairly cleanly with flashy shoes, but then it's also usually the flashy silhouettes of the clothes, precisely because I wear so much oversized. When I moved away, my wardrobe became more colourful. But I also moved away when I was 19, before that I didn't have the courage, but then I wasn't that influenced.
Now I really don't care. Many people from back home think it's great that I'm doing my thing. I get a lot of compliments for that, which of course makes me happy. Most of my former friends still live there, of course, and don't come out, although I could imagine that they might sometimes feel the need to. I always felt the need to turn my passion into a profession, so I just did that. Others have a different passion, which might look different, of course.
What was it like with your friends, were you also the bird of paradise?
I wouldn't describe myself as a bird of paradise at all, but as fashionable and perhaps rather independent and self-confident. Besides, I still wear a lot of black, but just a bit more conspicuous than others. My friends here are all such that we already fit together very well visually *laughs*. It's also not true that they're all very colourful now, but they do their thing just the same and maybe they also work in fashion or maybe they don't and then maybe they're interested in fashion.
To be honest, I hardly have anything to do with people from my home country any more, simply because they lead a different life than I do. But you can see the difference between the city and the country. The style is of course completely different, whether in terms of fashion or lifestyle. In Düsseldorf, during my studies, it was also very different than now in Cologne, simply because the Düsseldorf style is different than here in Cologne.
Would you describe your style as Cologne style?
No, but it fits better. And yet, in a way it does *laughs*. Düsseldorfers tend to be more chic. Maybe it's a cliché, but most girls still wear dresses and high heels, and I'm not like that. I also like to go out for a fancy dinner and dress up, but just more reduced and a bit more casual. Which doesn't mean I don't wear high heels, but combined differently. I also love dresses, whether fancy or tight, but then I combine them with sneakers and don't add anything on top. For example, I would wear a bodycon dress with high-top kicks or casual wide-leg trousers with high heels. I think the right mix is what attracts me to fashion.
But then how did you find your style?
Well, I think that also came because I just dealt with it accordingly a lot, because it's just my job and my biggest interest. You always look for inspiration, of course.
"Fashion often means being different or simply daring to do something."
That's exactly what I did. My style only developed over the years into what it is today. I don't want to say that it will always be what it is today. Now, at the time of the interview, it is of course much more Cologne, which makes it so. Simply also because I know I can go out in sweatpants and no one cares. That's the changing times, of course. Five to ten years ago it simply wasn't the case that people said, I can combine sweatpants with a blazer. I think there are many factors that have an influence on that.
Does Cologne also make sense for you professionally as a (fashion) city?
I used to go to Cologne a lot when I was a kid because it's only like 40 minutes away from my hometown. I always liked the vibe, so the city is my adopted home. In terms of the fashion outlook, Berlin might have been better, or maybe even a city abroad. At the same time, streetwear is always a thing, because it's everywhere. But for me it wasn't 'I'm going straight into streetwear', but into fashion, and fashion cities like Milan, London or Paris might have made more sense. But I didn't feel ready for that at the time.
But I just didn't do it, because I've always learned to stack up small first and not to want the big one straight away somehow. I'm also kind of a chicken, I have to say, about that. I think I was a bit afraid to go out on my own. So Cologne was a cool idea at first, I felt extremely comfortable here. I started a job here that really suited me. It was a safe number, but I also approach such things with a lot of common sense.
Today it's still like that. That doesn't mean I wouldn't move somewhere else on principle, but if you know Cologne, you love Cologne. People simply don't judge you here. People do look, but it doesn't come across as negative.
How can you do your own thing in a time when everyone is wearing and showing the same thing on Instagram?
What helps, I think, is to consciously distance yourself from it and perhaps tell yourself that you can do it yourself and don't need the opinion of others. Instead, you should wear what you feel comfortable with. That's the only way to come across as authentic.
I don't want to dress up. I find that very exhausting. In my job, of course, I kind of show the young girls what the latest trends are. But sometimes I feel really stupid because I think to myself, no, I don't want to show them that they can wear leggings and a crop top when they're 14. That's not the image I want to convey. I'm more of a fan of 'then wear baggies with a crop top and look like that', that it somehow looks casual and not so grown-up.
I wasn't like that for a long time at that age, I looked like an idiot before. Even when I was interested in fashion. But I think many of us know that, times have simply changed.
How can you overcome the dichotomy?
It's a bit difficult to answer. The bottom line is that I want to get the best out of it and don't follow the typical trends, but say: 'You have to dare to do something unconventional for once and not always do what everyone else is doing'. Even if that means breaking the rules. In the past, no one would have worn a dress or suit trousers with sneakers.
I believe that by breaking the rules, you can find your own style. It shouldn't be a blunt copying and 'I'll copy the girls on Instagram' who are already grown up and adapt it to me as a 13- or 14-year-old. That makes no sense. And I don't think you have to wear the most expensive sneakers at that age, absolutely not. I think it's much more likeable if you don't dress up and dress stylishly, even if you don't have the most expensive outfit on.
"I think Instagram should be taken as inspiration, but not as a guide to how to dress these days."
At the moment it's a guide, absolutely. Otherwise the girls wouldn't all look the same right now. It works, of course, but I think it's a shame when you see a group of girls who all dress very similarly and maybe just wear the same shoe in different colorways. I actually come across that very often. I would like to see more of something original being made of it. I would also feel totally stupid if my friends looked like me. And everyone who is interested in fashion has the potential to realise themselves and find their own style.
But why is that?
Well, the brands want to make sales, of course, and that makes sense, all good. They give a certain style, but it's up to the customers how it's carried on. In the best case, you take that as inspiration and make something of your own. That is the crux and the moment when fashion really begins. Today, everything can be done online, both the comparison and the inspiration itself.
As much as I appreciate all that, I often distance myself from it. For me, very, very much takes place in the real world. I sometimes have too much of Instagram because I realise it puts me in a bad mood. I'm generally more of a person who turns a lot of things into positives when something doesn't go right, which is completely normal. When you're faced with a problem, you have to see the positive and make the best of it. It's exactly the same with Instagram: If I notice that it's dragging me down, then I close the app or use it differently, seeing it as a source of inspiration. No 'I can't do that', but I do my own thing with it now.
Stay tuned for the next part with Maya, where she will tell us more about her job as a stylist and creative director. By the way, she is a freelance stylist and you are welcome to contact her for a job. @maya.remie.