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To go along with our ARYS Tokyo Talks series we felt the importance to showcase our incredibly talented network in Berlin with our audience. Not only do we call this city our base, where we mainly operate from, Berlin is also known as a melting pot for creative individuals from all over the world.
For our first ARYS Berlin Talks interview we met up with Anders Schans, born in Copenhagen and based in Berlin. We talk about his role as Collaboration Manager at Highsnobiety, why he moved to Beirut and how he processes experiences into art.
Could you quickly introduce yourself?
My name is Anders, I’m 25 years old, I was born and raised in Copenhagen, and now I find myself living in Berlin. I moved to Berlin as I got offered an internship at Highsnobiety three years ago. So I went here, wrapped up my studies, and started working. Apart from a short stint back in Copenhagen I’ve pretty much been here since.
Before you moved to Berlin, where were you at and what were you doing?
I was in Beirut going to AUB, the American University of Beirut, studying media with an overall focus on the cultural culminations that have led to the status of things. I studied how media ‘attempt’ to represent war, and how – lack of – representation affects the society. Coming from a background of studying media production and management, it was a bit of a switch up, but it was pretty awesome adding something to my studies that would challenge my perception of my surroundings. As a white kid from Copenhagen, moving elsewhere, seeing things and attempting to make sense of them, was a healthy way of redefining my own privileged understanding of a global-level society. My plan was initially to stay in Beirut. I started applying for jobs and internships there in order to settle down for the time being. But Highsnobiety called me and they were like “Yo, can you come to Berlin for an interview?”. So I did without any plan of moving to Berlin, I just went there, did that interview, and two months later I moved here.
What made you to pack your bags to study in Beirut and what makes the city so special for you?
Beirut became an interesting example of a place that holds an extremely rich cultural history, while remaining constantly challenged at its core by both Western and Eastern institutions of power. As someone who’s perception of the Middle East growing up, was affected by the discourse of media, it was a way of challenging my understanding of representation that I picked up through media exposure. And so I went there without any idea of what the city was and what it looked like, but with an open mind to let it redefine itself to me. I think it just became evident really fast that I felt extremely at ease and home there. Obviously, I’m saying this from my perspective of looking the way I do and it’s easy to romanticise Beirut when you don’t have a Lebanese passport, given that it’s a passport that doesn’t get you very far on a practical level. But as an international moving there, I’ve had the best experience I’ve had of anywhere. I think what Beirut has to offer lies in the city’s long history of war and oppression. Creatively, you often see that in a city experiencing oppression and war, times will be followed up by a counter reaction driven by art and creativity. Suddenly you take the lid off the boiling water and all these creative ideas flow and people want to express themselves. You see galleries opening, people exploring with creative expression, and another sense of realizing ideals. Time and time again you see the city being set back, by the civil war from 1975 to 1990 by the Israeli bombings in 2006, by the explosion last year. Despite all of that Beirut always manages to rise above and get back at it with the same gracefulness and hospitality as before. That’s an extent of the quality that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Being able to keep that mindset is a pretty beautiful and multi-sided approach to life.
Why did you end up joining Highsnobiety?
I had a sneaker store in Copenhagen that I started with a friend of mine when I was 19. I wanted to go from being a store owner and creating the culture to covering the culture. I think you do that best by stepping away from it and observe it from the distance and kind of reassess your take on it. And I felt like Highsnobiety is the perfect outlet for it.
Tell us more about your store. How did you come to open up a store at a young age?
Well, I graduated high school with pretty grim grades and decided to take a gap year to figure things out. After 3 months of playing Call of Duty in my underwear, I decided that I needed to change my strategy and move in another direction. My friend Niklas had started a webshop that I helped with, one thing led to another, and suddenly we had a store – Hypetrade. Looking back the name is a little steep. We wanted to do the first curated sneaker consignment store in Copenhagen. I was like 18 at the time and mad broke, so given our limited funds, have a business model that didn’t rely on big investments in stock made it pretty risk-free. Our first store at Nørrebro, Copenhagen was DIY in it’s cheapest and best sense, but we managed to make some waves with it and eventually opened another 2 stores. I left in 2016.
What are some of the most exciting projects you worked on at Highsnobiety?
I don’t think there’s necessarily like a particular project that I found more exciting than others, but I think the overall exciting thing about Highsnobiety is that it’s a bunch of young creative minds with a ton of ideas, and such a drive to offer something new to the realms that they’re all interested in, which could be pop culture, fashion, sneakers, music, art and I think it shines through. Most people have a drive and a creative thinking that I get inspired by on a daily level, and if I can just be exposed to 10% of their creative minds, I consider myself lucky.
Your favorite spot in Berlin?
I think Berlin has a thousand cool spots, but, one spot that I always been drawn back to is the Viktoria-Luise Platz in Schöneberg, the area where I also live. Sometimes I’m just sitting there and reading because it brings me this kind of peace, it feels like I’m able to grasp time better when I’m there. It’s like everything just slows down and I can sit there for hours and just look at people. It’s also hella quiet cause it’s kinda hidden away from all the main streets. It was inspired by Paris at that time it was built, but got bombed during the war. The atmosphere is still intact though. It has a vibe that doesn’t feel like Berlin, which is a bit of a paradox. I guess my favourite spot in Berlin is something that doesn’t resemble Berlin.
Tell us more about your art and how you came up with your pseudonyme?
I started writing down my thoughts years ago. I started using writing as my way of processing experiences and over time it became my way of reminding myself of how I had processed things in the past. Particularly when I moved to Beirut, I no longer found it sufficient to write down my thoughts, because there was simply just too much going on. So I would just like sit around with canvas and do drawings. As I kept on doing that, I noticed a pattern in my aesthetic preferences and a willingness to unfold it further. Any creative endeavour in general is all about you being exposed to something, you curate it, and then you imitate it. With that universe of imitation you can extract what really resonates with you, and then you start using that and you try to conceptualise that within your universe of things. I found a lot of inspiration in middle Eastern cartoonists such as Mazen Kerbaj and Marjane Satrapi, and in graphic novels in general from the early 2000s, and tried to incorporate that in all the things I drew as a kid. I guess that the pragmatic and straight forward approach is why people are showing interest in buying it, requesting tattoos, and similar things. In my head it is still my way of processing my surroundings. I still use it as kind of like a self therapeutic exercise of understanding what’s around me and expressing myself and the fact that that somehow strikes something that makes it resonate in others is super interesting. If creative expression is the subjective reaction to things, it’s awesome to think that, within that, also lies glimpses of universal appeal. The name “Atramento” means black ink in Latin and all my drawings are done in hand simply using black ink, so that’s that. It’s an homage to the flaws that comes with analog endeavors.
Were you nervous to share your art with the world?
I’m not necessarily nervous about it, and I guess that comes down to me doing it for myself more so than anyone else. That sort of eliminates the pressure of it being a performance for others.
How do you reflect your fashion style?
I guess it’s all a matter of aesthetics. I just like shapes and silhouettes and in that sense it’s similar to drawings. I approach buying a jacket based on the same idea – I have a silhouette in mind, I have a fabric in mind. It’s the same method that I use for drawing. I have an overall silhouette of something in mind, knowing nothing about what it’s going to look like, and eventually I make sense of it through conceptualising.
Any future plans with your art?
I have people reaching out now and then asking for projects and I’m super open for that. I love collaborating with people and I love working on stuff that exceeds the normal canvas. But I don’t necessarily want to make a plan for it, I just want to see where it takes me. So for now, my only plan is to continue using it as self therapy and if that resonates with others, then that’s sick.
Any closing words?
I think people need to be better at rediscovering the playfulness they once had. It’s important to hold on to some of these playful ideas and use them as a mean of expressing yourself. There are the small things that enable us to be in contact with what we truly are and how we experience things around us – and if that happens to be drawing or writing or anything else, then all power to you.