Inspired by yoga, sports, nature and a lot of other things we’ll be talking about later on in our interview, Ava Carstens is based in Hamburg and works as a fashion consultant. Besides being a fashion director and project manager at the German LOVED&FOUND magazine, she oversees many different fashion and image concept related projects.
The Hamburg based LOVED&FOUND magazine tells stories about things the editors love and have found. It can be seen as a guide through the jungle of numerous items that have been spat out on our globalized world. An interesting twist is that the structure follows its own logic: Every issue has its own typography and is unique in its layout concept. For every edition there’s one selected underlying topic that runs like a common thread through every story.
Ava’s unique knowledge of style, fashion and design all the way down to colors have landed her several major projects with international brands in the industry. If your familiarity with Ava Carstens begins with her being featured on the most popular German fashion blogs like “This is Jane Wayne” or “Journelles”, then you’ve likely already formed an opinion about her work and personality. You might have also caught wind of her latest projects, like cooperations with adidas or G-SHOCK.
So I sat down with Ava for a nice skype conversation, where we discussed industry topics, looking at them from a personal point of view!
photos: Daniel Feistenauer
hair & make-up: Susanna Jonas
photo assistent: Coda Immanuel Johannes
production assistent: Sara Rybakow
cinematographer: Jonas Samuel Eger
We’ve been friends for quite some time now. How do you value friendship and what does it mean to you?
Friends can be family. It’s a deep connection. It’s all about the intensity. It doesn’t matter where they’re based or how often you can meet your friends, as long as the emotional connection is really strong. I also consider my closest friends as soulmates, they’re my support system and the other way around. It’s important to be happy for your friend’s achievements and to support your local heroes!
What motivates you in life?
Without a doubt my family! But also yoga, surfing, dancing and meditation. With that I try to listen more to my body and less to my mind. In that moment I don’t think about anything, trying to find serenity and relaxation. Yoga makes me feel grounded by releasing energy through my body and mind. After a yoga class, I feel happy, energized and comfortable with myself. And with that I allow my brain to rest. That’s exactly where I get my creative input from to produce the best output. On the other hand, sleep is very important and not to forget: good food! At the end of the day it’s all about treating yourself, meaning your body and your mind, well!
Walk me through how you would describe your job(s) to a non fashion insider!
As a fashion consultant you can’t be a one trick pony, because with that position comes a lot of responsibility. Creating concepts, preparing presentations for clients (it doesn’t matter if the meetings are face to face or via skype or email), dealing with inquiries for samples that come in through PR agencies. Sometimes I also do styling work for designers, or I’ll organize the whole production, which usually includes booking an entire team, consisting of a photographer with an assistant, hair and makeup artists, a making of-videographer, a stylist etc. In this case I’m also responsible for location scouting. Do we need a studio or do we have an outdoor set? We need a catering, then I have to do a briefing for the team, create moodboards, that help us following a certain direction on the day of the shoot and assuring us of where the journey’s going. A lot of it has to do with the responsibility to realize a shooting or film production and everything that comes with that. That can be editorial work, like writing articles, selecting the final pictures or final clips with the help of the photographer and finalizing the layout or film version. If we’re dealing with a printed project, then it’s also important to have a final look before everything goes out for print.
Sometimes I’m also in the position of a curator where, among a lot of other stuff, I’m responsible for a party or a nice get together. Here’s also another event that I was in charge of. On the other hand my job also requires a lot of chemistry meetings and pitch presentations.
What are chemistry meetings and a pitch presentations?
A chemistry meeting is basically a meeting with clients or brands of the beauty, lifestyle or fashion sector. We start with an introduction of participants and present some of our ideas. These meeting have a lot to do with developing a strategy that targets exactly the client’s goals in the best way possible. At first it’s important to get an overview about the whole project, to get a feeling for where we are, to be able to set goals and to develope a strategy to reach them together. It’s like one step before the pitch presentation, where there’s a team consisting of the creative direction, art direction, account managing, strategist and experts like me, who work out some “special” ideas, mostly content. Nowadays many brands are looking for real stories and real people.
I recently saw a making-of video on youtube about a collaboration with G-SHOCK and LOVED&FOUND. Can you tell me what that project was about ?
One of the most exciting things that come along with my job is the interdisciplinary workflow, which was the case with the cooperation with G-SHOCK. The challenge was to create a strategy to present the watches in another context and thus uplifting the product. As a result I ended up introducing the G-SHOCK people to an upcoming Hamburg based fashion designer, named Izzy and a Crow, and together we came up with the idea to create a an exclusive menswear collection, based soley on the design of the watches. Neither the logo nor direct references are attached. I produced an editorial series with my team. At the end of the day everybody was beyond satisfied with the outcome. But at the same time we all agreed that this whole project contains even more potential and that it would be sad to let it fizzle out. That’s why I came up with a remarketing strategy: At the end of May there’s going to be a pop up store, combined with a vernissage and a party! At this event you’ll have the chance to buy some of the photo prints from the editorial, as well as the bags and backpacks (which are unique items by the way). The watches will be presented and later on there’s gonna be drinks and a party! I’ll be looking forward to that!
Li Edelkoort, a very influential fashion forecaster recently claimed that there’s „A new army of fashion bloggers who are dependent on inducements from the industry”, meaning that intelligent critique has been replaced by shallow coverage by what Edelkoort called “the ‘like’ generation.“ What’s your take on that quote ?
I agree to a certain level, because I totally think that the “like generation” does exist, but on the other hand, quality, critical blogs and journalists still exist as well. But it’s hard for the readers and users to know where you should draw the line, since there are mostly blurred . So for me everything comes down to awareness. People need to be critical, don’t take everything for granted and need to start second guessing things. As for bloggers I think it’s important to select or separate the offers and cooperation requests. Don’t sell yourselves to everything just to make money out of it!
That’s a funny story because Nike from “This is Jane Wayne” just commented below one of my instagram pictures “#girlcursh @tanzekind” (aka Anni)! A couple of days later Anni approached me via e-mail and we met up in Berlin for a photoshoot.
As for Jessie it was similar. Since we’re friends on facebook, she private messaged me and informed me about her new Closet Diary category “7 days, 7 looks” and asked me to jump on board.
Speaking of instagram! As we talked about the quote by Li Edelkoort before – keyword „Generation Like“ – you can also say that we live in a very selfcentered world where we take Selfies on the daily basis, blog about your outfit of the day etc. Do we not only live in a „Generation Like“, but also in a „Generation Me, My-Selfie and I“?
Yes we do! At least most of us do. It’s all about self-realization or individual fulfillment. We’ve changed our behavior and found some new niches or slots to move forward. Some of us managed to turn their names into brands before even turning eighteen. We are also a fast-forward generation. We are not the generation who follows big idols, mentors, companies and brands anymore. We follow people or more precisely we follow the image they’ve created over the years. Apparently everything needs to have a personal reference, otherwise it’s not interesting to us. Most of the brands caught wind of this movement and analysed the “me, myself and I”-generation and started to change their brand communication instantly. They’re trying to reach opinion leaders rather than product evangelists. Nowadays you can personalize everything: your individual sneaker, cellphone, watch, pen etc.
It’s been a learning process for all of us and we teach ourselves a lot through autodictation. I would like to answer that question more precisely with a quote or phrase I wrote for an editorial: ”You can describe Generation Y through a fascinating paradox: We’re in love with our home country but at the same time full of desire to conquer new horizons. We’re digital users, hopeless optimists, out-of-the-box thinkers and unconventional individuals. We’re constantly challenging our environment, trying to achieve the best result possible for ourselves, striving to come one step closer to fulfill our personal fortune of happiness. With to that development, critical voices are justified and important to create awareness of all egoistic, narcissistic behaviour, and dreamy hipsters.
We as a society changed from passive mass media consumers into pro-active autodidact digital users, who know what we want. As a result we’re selfmade curators.”
I know that you’ve always been an active and outdoor-oriented person! You dance, you practice yoga and whenever there’s a chance to go to the beach you go surfing. What’s your opinion on this kind of sporty lifestyle and the fact that it has found it’s way into mainstream outlets like instagram? And do you think that some people just follow a trend and don’t do it out of their own motivation?
That’s a good question. For me personally yoga, dancing, sports in general and living a healthy lifestyle (most of the time), is a part of me and I’ve lived that way since forever.
But because of instagram I tend to use this lifestyle for my business in some way as well, and I don’t care about the bio/healthy food/vegan/sport/yoga or whatever trend. Everyone needs to know what is the best for him or her, never to be too serious about yourself or follow dogmatic rules if it makes you unhappy. But if you feel comfortable within yourself – spread the word. And yes, I use my sporty lifestyle for my own business – always been and always will be girl boss! 😉
For me it’s real, it’s not some pretentious lifestyle to keep a certain online image alive. I’m mean I’ve started to dance when I was 5 years old. I stopped eating meat when I was 7 or 8. It has nothing to do with a trend. And I prefer a sport and healthy trend over a pop and plastic lifestyle like it was in the 90ies. So let’s go for it! Put on your running shoes and start eating clean hahaha
As we talked about all the craziness that’s happening on the internet, how do you find balance between your online and offline life ?
In my opinion it’s all about awareness! Sometimes it’s helpful to leave the phone in your pocket while meeting friends or family. It’s always good to remember “take memories instead of photos”. That’s why I love to be out in the nature, it always keeps me away from the online “vortex”. Everything that keeps me grounded, things like surfing, running or yoga make the balance easier between online and offline. If you’re in the ocean paddling for your next wave you realize that nothing else matters apart from yourself, your board, the wave, the wind and your flow. If you lose the flow the waves will wash you hard. It’s the so called “washing machine” – getting spun around and around underwater by a wave. It’s the same with the online swirl. So better keep your head up 😉
What’s the most valuable advice that you’ve been given that helped you taking your career to the next level and who gave it to you?
To learn how to dispense and delegate! You need to let go of things, you can’t do everything. That was really important for me to understand and learn. It improves your working quality and takes your career to another level. I learned that from my great bosses. I’m really grateful for working with these inspiring women and men.
All pictues except the fist: photos: Daniel Feistenauer fashion direction & concept: Ava Carstens hair & make-up: Maria Pilar using Tom Ford fashion assistant: Charlotte Harke