Most of us don’t get our fashion inspiration from glossy mags or red carpets anymore. Ever since the rise of social media, the way we present and consume fashion has changed drastically. But with this ever-expanding collective influence, the actual fashion that gets shared seems to be reaching a singularity. Rather, no matter if you're in Brooklyn, Bangalore, or Berlin, there seems to be a distinct look that's popular everywhere.
You know it: It's unisex, heavy on the nostalgia, slightly skater, and relies on brands as diverse and specific as Off White, Vetements, Loewe, and Adidas. It's fuzzy jackets and dad hats worn with joggers and sneakers, with ripped denim, pristine fishnets, and a sparkly sock boot. But, the reason for its universality has a lot to do with the kind of modern, involved lives women are living these days. We're more diverse than ever, more open than ever, and more inclined to ditch convention when it doesn't serve our needs. And that's happening all over.
We decided to take a look at how this local-gone-global approach plays out in the hometown of one of Refinery29's local editions, Berlin. Being the ever vibrant, pulsating city that it is, Berlin has managed to craft a unique sensibility that sets it apart from the other fashion capitals in Germany (and Europe), so we decided to ask two Berlin-born young women, Cassandra Jean-Francois and Marie-Paule Bamage, what they think about their individual styles.
You’re both from Berlin originally, which is actually quite rare these days. What are your favorite places in the city?
Cassandra Jean-Francois: "A lot of the times you’ll find me in Kreuzberg or Mitte. My friends are really scattered all over the city, which is why these two neighborhoods are really good to, sort of, meet in the middle. They also have a bunch of really nice cafés and bars, and a lot of nice stores, too. I have to admit, though, that as a West-Berlin kid, I don’t hang out in Friedrichshain or Prenzlauer Berg quite that much. I live in Moabit and I feel really comfortable there, because it’s got everything you need right nearby: cute little coffee shops, grocery stores and corner delis — and the U9, which is one of the most important subway lines of the city."
Marie-Paule Bamage: "For me, that’d be Neukölln and Mitte. I live in Neukölln, and it’s where I feel most comfortable. I love the intense mix of Turkish and Arabic culture, and to have all these people around me, it’s just an overall buzzing, yet really familiar atmosphere. I’ve lived here for quite some time, so this just really feels like home to me. Mitte is a brash contrast. I go there on days when I feel the need to get out of NK and see something completely different. Nothing further East, though; I’m pretty West-bound, too."
Do you feel like the city has had an influence on the way you dress and how you look at fashion?
CJF: "Kind of, yeah. When I’m outside, I observe a lot, be it on the train or at a party. We may not do it on purpose, but I think we inspire and take a lot of ideas from each other in Berlin. And then in the end, Berlin becomes a big colorful concoction of a lot of other cities from all around the world."
MPB: "Honestly, for me it’s a bit more difficult. Oftentimes I feel like Berlin is holding me back, so I can’t stay here for too long. I find other cities, such as London or Paris, way more interesting when it comes to fashion and style. In general, I find more inspiration when I travel. It doesn’t even matter where you go because you constantly find yourself among new skylines, new people, new vibes. I feel like it makes you notice all these little things; you get to observe your surroundings more cautiously."
Have you always been interested in fashion?
CJF: "I have always had a thing for fashion and aesthetics, yes. Even as a little girl I was into high fashion brands. [laughs] But I really believe that Berlin has played a big role in that. I feel like the city automatically sensitizes you for trends and movements."
MPB: "Definitely, yes. I’ve always had a passion for the beauty of things. I started watching fashion shows at a very young age, soaking in the beauty of the runways. As a kid, every time my parents took me for a walk over Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm and we passed by Hermès, Chanel, Gucci and YSL, my nose would be stuck to the windows."
What role does fashion play in your current lifestyle?
CJF: "Fashion is really important to me, because I care about my appearance and my outfits. Of course, my conscience kicks in every now and then, making me feel bad for spending a lot of money for these vanities. But then again, this is just a part of myself."
MPB: "Fashion makes life more beautiful and it’s a way to surround myself with the beauty that I like. Because, and I really believe that, the more beauty I surround myself with, the better I feel. And so when I wear a perfect outfit, I instantly get into a better mood."
Are there any fashion or style rules you still abide by?
CJF: "In general, you should just wear whatever you feel like wearing. Of course, for me personally I know what works and what doesn’t. For example, I’ll never wear an all skintight outfit, like skinny jeans and a skintight top. For me that’s an either-or kind of thing."
MPB: "The only rule for me is that I won’t mix gold with silver. Other than that, I just go with whatever I feel like wearing at a given moment."
Do you intend to make a statement through your fashion choices?
CJF: "Not really. Depending on my mood, I might decide to wear something that really underlines how I feel that day."
MPB: "No, there’s no one statement that I’m trying to convey, it’s more of a mood. When I leave the house hungover, wearing sweats and a hoodie, for example, that’ll clearly tell you not to talk to me."
Both of you are active on Instagram with quite a few followers. Do you have a specific look in mind when you share something or do your posts happen rather randomly?
CJF: "I love taking pictures and combining them to create a bigger whole. Together, I think they show very well what my sense of aesthetics looks like. I definitely try to post regularly and am always on the lookout for 'grammable moments."
MPB: "To me, Instagram is a kind of creative mood board, kind of like Tumblr. It's a way to collect my inspirations and ideas and bundle them into this one stream that really shows what I see. I also love to stage each picture in a way, so that there's a kind of thread to follow with each post that follows. Sometimes, though, it becomes a little too much and I need to take a break. Instagram and I, we have a love-hate relationship."
Do you care about the comments on Instagram?
CJF: "Of course, I appreciate every positive comment. It's good for my ego [laughs]."
MPB: "Really most of the comments are compliments, in which case they're very sweet and always make me smile."