Motivation Monday II: The style DNA

Interview fashion stylist Lena Hoffmann Berlin Motivation Monday series
Dear Adventurers, have you ever wondered what’s the point in living “from TGIF to TGIF“? What good is it to only live your life three days a week? Motivation Monday, stat!
If there’s one meaning to life then it is “live life to the fullest”, and if this includes force-loving Monday, be it. This June, I’m trying to add zest to Mondays with Motivation Monday.
New here? >>> MOTIVATION MONDAY is a four-part series of interviews with exceptional young women. They have a story to share and, most importantly: They are the heroines of their livesIn addition, I love interviews (and did a lot of them), I adore asking questions and will accept any excuse to do so ;)
So maybe grab a coffee or a fresh juice or a nice cuppa (green tee, perhaps?) and let’s see what this Monday holds ready…

The DNA of style

We opened last week with lovely Vanessa from Take Only Memories; today let me introduce you to an amazing fashion stylist from Berlin: Lena Hoffmann.
Lena’s been working with literally every important German photographer and for most renowned fashion magazines in Germany, Russia, and France; she creates looks for German musicians and celebrities, and works for national and international TV commercials and ad campaigns.
Lena is someone you’re not likely to spot in Berlin, beaming with kindness and cheerfulness. Her personal style, effortlessly, timelessly chic, always with a nod to fashion history, stands out from the crowd of (often) uniformed Berlin fashionistas. Well, it stands out from any crowd. So the first thing I want to know, is this:
– Lena, you’re one of those rare people with an amazing, effortless feel for style. How much of this is pure DNA, how much is work, experience, knowledge of fashion, fabrics, proportions, trends? How much time do you invest for your style-spotting on a daily basis? How do you recognise trends to stay on top of the game?
– Well, my interest or rather my passion for fashion must run in the blood. As a child I’ve never played with dolls; I’ve dressed up my sister, my friends and myself; I’ve made outfits for my sister to choose from that I would spread all over the floor in the children’s room. And I’ve clipped pictures from my mother’s fashion magazines – to make own “publications”.
Of course, later, during my fashion studies I’ve learned quite a bit about the theoretical side of fashion, but I believe that intuition, emotion and curiosity are more important qualifications.
But still nothing beats experience. On one hand you need to learn about what works – combinations, cuts, colours… on the other hand, and that’s crucial, you need to learn how to deal with clients, editors, photographers, with everybody involved, because a photoshoot is pure teamwork. You need some experience to be able to truly read between the lines.
As for trends, I do spend a lot of time trendwatching, browsing through each magazine I can get my hands on; each morning I check on the Internet to spot new shoots, new campaigns, so that I start the day in a good mood, discovering something beautiful.
This never feels quite like work, it’s great fun for me: creating mood boards, looking for inspiration, discovering trends for a project is the favourite part of my job! I’m very lucky to have clients who trust me and give me free rein.
Travelling is crucial for a stylist, too; I can spend days in cafés watching the daily life of locals, this is where I get most inspiration from. For instance, in Africa is where you find the most divine colourways; I can get enthusiastic about a beautifully tailored kaftan; or admire the perfect elegance of an elderly Parisian lady. I blend all I take in travelling with trends and zeitgeist to develop my own style.
Passion and curiosity are crucial, yet nothing beats experience.”
– During all the years I’ve known you I couldn’t help but notice – despite the fact that you’re one of the most-booked Berlin fashion stylists – you seem to never come under stress, always being positive. You’ve said once that it’s because you love what you do; but, in retrospective, has the way to this dream job been smooth or have you ever felt need or curiosity to try something different?
– Well, thank you! I do, in fact, believe that if you’re as happy with jour job as I am, spleen has got no chance. But I try to be inspired by stress rather than let it drag me down.
I’ve never actually have planned my career. I’ve started to sew, to iron, to dye fabric, to paint on fabric at a very early age. I remember clearly how my mother bought the very first edition of the German ELLE – and I, barely ten years old, was hooked instantly and wanted to be the editor-in-chief; even though I doubt I could spell it…
More than that, to study fashion design was a logical step, yet rather serendipitous. You see, I’d already started studying history and political science back then, but thought I might as well try to pass the entrance exam. Which I did. Nevertheless I was pretty positive that I was not to become a fashion designer, neither self-employed, nor on the payroll. I knew I had to work in fashion, I just was not sure about how exactly.
Serendipity stroke twice as I met my first agent right after my graduation; I remember her exact words: “Lena, you’re certainly a good stylist” – and we got started.
I’ve never assisted another stylist, instead, I jumped right in at the deep end. So the beginning of my career, in fact, the whole journey has been a big, exciting adventure; I think it was just perfect for me.
I never aimed at a specific job description, just at aspects important to me: travelling, being independent, meeting fascinating people; throw in my love for fashion and shopping, and it all feels just right. I’ll never lose my enthusiasm.
Of course, there have been moments where I’ve thought about doing something different, I’m a dreamer after all; but those dreams were mostly about living in another country – because nothing beats the feeling of an accomplished photoshoot or seeing your work out there on bills and on television.
Travelling is crucial; I can spend whole days in cafés watching the daily life and people’s style.”
– In Italy, in the UK and the USA professional fashion stylists put themselves into limelight a lot, build a personal brand – I’m thinking Rachel Zoe, Anna Dello Russo, Carine Roitfeld or Nicola Formichetti. Do you think it’s possible in Germany or is it understatement über alles? Could you imagine stepping into limelight yourself?
– I think it’s not possible to compare the situation that has shaped the personalities you’ve just named to the situation in Germany or Berlin in particular, so we’ll probably stick to the understatement. And there are good reasons for that.
Rachel Zoe’s or Nicola Formichetti’s world is celebrity styling. We don’t have a comparable celebrity system in Germany. Self-staging and the celebration of style are neither needed, nor actually welcome, especially at the top.
Budgets, too, differ internationally. And advertising campaigns are the most paying jobs for fashion stylists in Germany. A commercial film shoot is physically hard work with 20-hour-working days and absolutely glamour-free. So I wouldn’t last a day styled like Anna Dello Russo.
And, last but not least, the significance and status of fashion here differs from that in other countries, especially in France; people in fashion are less respected, so somebody like Carine Roitfeld can hardly emerge.
I do believe that we’re on our way to value fashon and its creative lot more, but an entrenched fashion culture can’t develop offhandedly.
And as for me, well, I only can tell that I prefer to be known for my work and for my cheerfulness rather than for wearing fancy outfits (borrowed anyway) that let me look like I’m somebody who does little apart from wearing whimsical clothes… which refers to some streetstyle bloggers, not to the star stylists of course.
Besides, it’s just not me, standing in front of a camera…
Just one wish for Berlin: More sunshine!”
– You’ve told me once about a truly exclusive heirloom… So, if you were to put together a few items for your hypothetical granddaughter today, what would you pick?
– Well, first of all this piece exactly: which is a small Hermès Kelly bag, goanna leather, diamond clasp, just gorgeous. I’m already kind of “bequeathing” it by borrowing it – if a close friend needs it for a very special event.
Over the years I’ve kept several pieces, favourites, key pieces that stand for certain periods in my life or just are important for the decade’s fashion; homemade pieces with no tangible value, yet meaningful. These would be the heirloom.
Oh and my beloved Wrangler denim jacket that I bought in 1996 on our class trip to London. It’s merely patches by now but I still fit into it, wondrously. I’d save it first from a house fire, really.
– Last one: as a “natural born” Berliner – given three magical wishes, what would you wish for to make life here better?
– Will all my heart – I love Berlin just the way it is; precisely because it’s not perfect. I’d be happy if just one wish would come true: more sunshine.
Thank you, Lena!
>>> DISCOVER last week’s Motivation Monday I with Vanessa Locke.
>>> DON’T MISS next week’s Motivation Monday III with Alyssa McDonald.


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