Birth of Style and the City
Kamel Lahmadi, founder of Style and the City
————————————— PROLOGUE ————————————–
December, 2006 - Friday, 4:15 p.m., director’s office of a famous french female magazine,
As you have most surely read here and there, the French press went through a difficult period due to the development of “free press”; through the advent of the internet and blogs.
Medias can react in 2 ways :
- be clever by embracing innovation, listening even more to unknown but talented people that have great ideas and visions (Think about founders of Apple, Facebook, Ebay, Amazon, Dell, Instagram, square, Twitter, Fab.com… all us !!)
- do nothing and copy badly what others creat. They will do it for greed, without passion and despite their money and ressources, will fail. (Remember when Murdoch bought Myspace…)
Unfortunately, from april 2006 until december 2006, I worked with a famous french female magazine that prefered the path of greed instead of the path of creativity. A choice that doens’t fit my values. As a former TV director, creativity and embracing innovation, creating the trends instead of following them are values I can’t live without.
I happily resigned despite a 3 000€ salary. I believe that people who refuse to betray their own self-worth nurture their destiny. Life is a series of cycles, good and bad. When one is going through a bad cycle, go back to who you really are; go back to your deepest sense of values and you will see that Life will always end up bringing together those who are made to be together.
—————————————- EPISODE I ————————————–
February 2007 – Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., Café Costes, Paris 8ème district-
Thank’s to my professional life, I have often occasion to attend functions where I meet celebrities. One evening, I was dining with a well-known fashion designer whose identity I promised not to divulge while creating “Style and the City”…so for that matter, it could be a “she”!
We were discussing mutual friends we had in common, a bit about our private lives, the world, our president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and our professional universe. He talked to me about his next collection, his sources of inspiration, his public success, which made him very happy, but also the Asian and European imitators that were gradually eating away at his moral. During the inevitable moments of silence, the ambient music and soft lighting eased away any discomfort; we were comfortable, at ease and pleasantly relaxed. I proposed that we order dessert and feigning indifference and taking advantage of the situation, I finally posed THE question that most journalists are rarely brave enough to ask a Creator of fashion; “don’t you find that style is more significant than fashion?”
He laughed, as he ordered a Tiramitsu…
Him: “I’m going to tell you the truth, Kamel. For me and for many people in this business, fashion is for sheep, therefore possessing style means possessing personality…”
Me: “..and to possess personality is to exist!”
Him: (overwhelmed by the aftershock of my statement), “Exactly!”
From our two hours together, it was that phrase that I retained in my memory: “Fashion is for sheep whereas style gives you personality” and his enthusiasm to my reply, “and to possess personality is to exist!”
————————————– EPISODE II ————————————
March 2007 – Friday, around 6:00 p.m., at the magazine kiosk, Paris
Jamel Debbouze (one of the most famous comedians in France) and I, have known each other for many years. (Many of you might know Jamel as the grocer’s assistant who played Lucien, in the famous movie Amélie », with Audrey Tautou.)Around 1997, I was responsible for selecting candidates for the game show, “The price is right” for the television channel, TF1, while he was producing and performing at the Trévise Theatre with his accomplices Eric & Ramzi, another very famous comedian in France. I adored them and regularly went to watch and offer my support. I clearly remember the time I was eating a hamburger on the patio at MacDonalds, when I saw Jamel walking by with his big smile and great sense of humour written all over his face;
Jamel: “So Kamel, would there be any kind of work for me at TF1? I need tv exposure!
Me: “I would love to help you out, but do you think I know everyone at TF1?”
Imagine! Today, he is the one who finds me work! This anecdote makes me smile. Jamel deserves the success, he has worked so hard for because he possesses enormous talent. He is incredibly motivated, definitely top notch….But now, let’s return to our sheep, at the magazine Kiosk…
Due to my affection for him, I could not help but be drawn to the cover of Paris Match magazine, easily visible on the shelves of the kiosk. On the cover, Jamel and a gorgeous top French tv host girl friend Mélissa Theuriau, walking side by side one Parisian evening, photographed together, from head to toe. I purchased a copy of the magazine and headed for the subway. But the extraordinary thing was, I didn’t open the magazine. I was hypnotized by the cover, quite simply due to the fact that I found that they exuded an enormous sense of style. Jamel was wearing a beret, an Adidas jacket, a black belt, a great pair of jeans and running shoes by some little known brand name, but fairly stylish. Mélissa was wearing a blue suede jacket, a large scarf around her neck and a pretty blue satin dress with black slippers. And a VIP bracelet on her wrist! (lol)
There was nothing extravagant about them, but the combination of these different elements gave them even more,… more…more style!
I was focusing more on Jamel. The same height, similar physique; I could easily identify with him in this regard. I immediately knew what image I would exude if I was walking down the street dressed like that: I would have style!!! And I felt good, confident and sure of myself. I no longer felt the pressure to be a handsome buck of six feet tall to feel “secure”. I realized that style would give me the ability to feel self-confident. That photo did me double service: not only with regard to showing me a combination of clothing which I would never have thought of (I have never been a fan of sports jackets), but furthermore, it gave me a sense of a realistic situation, on the street!! It wasn’t the type of photo that one usually sees in women’s magazines: a model dressed in luxurious designer clothing, a photo taken in a setting in which one would never find oneself or worse, a sublime model that would never resemble any sort of reality, pretending to pose in different scenarios. One just wanted to tell them, “huh! What you’re doing, is girly stuff!” There, the photo that I was looking at, was me in a sense. Those elements, taken independently of each other, were of no interest to me. It was the combination that seduced me. Alone, one can’t accomplish great things, but with the ideal team, victory is possible..
RER Vincennes, I bolted to my place.
I dashed to my computer and spent my night there. I surfed, I read, I analyzed, I took notes, I bookmarked my favourite sites… and I fell upon “The Sartorialist”, New York photographer. And I discovered a multitude of people whose photographs were taken on the streets of New York City, with one point in common: they had style!! I juggled from one photo to the next, from one page to another….I was captivated. The people weren’t necessarily physically beautiful, but they radiated beauty, confidence and serenity in themselves. Numerous styles gave me the desire to try them out. They weren’t models, but real people in the real world; my world. People that I trusted.
That night, my fashion designer friend’s phrase was never so present within me: Fashion is for sheep, whereas possessing style is to possess personality! And to possess personality is to exist…
——————————— EPISODE III and THE END ———————————
Friday, 8:30 p.m., at a large advertising agency in Paris – April 2007
This large advertising agency regularly organizes professional meetings in order to debate various subjects regarding advertising, the future of publishing, the role of advertising on cell phones, the web 2.0…..That evening, a hundred professionals…there was talk of blogs and the desire of brand names to permeate blogs without being rejected by them.
Stakeholder: “Companies have always preferred mass visibility rather than good quality visibility and appealing to more specific audience. Television, the press, radio, billboards, mail, websites and now blogs; ads, banners, placards, …. we forge ahead in droves and thank’s to mass communication and publicity, there are certainly some people that end up buying their products.”
The present advertisers laughed because they knew he was right.
My close neighbourg, seemingly solidly employed in advertising, confided his deepest thoughts to me,
Him: ‘The day that companies understand that they need to listen to the public, respect its choices and truly serve itsdesires; that day will be the day they will have won.’
Me: ‘The problem is that the media only offer space for their publicity.’
Him: ‘That makes us so much money, my friend !” But a media that permits the public to express itself freely to brands, be listened to and be able to play an active role; that media will have understood everything. It will be respected and appreciated by readers and advertisers alike.’”
————————————– EPILOGUE ————————————–
During those weeks, I couldn’t help but think about what he had said: a media that permits the public to express itself freely to brands, be listened to and be able to play an active role; that media will have understood everything. It will be respected and appreciated by readers and advertisers alike.
That evening, upon returning home, I sat back to reflect upon what had come about: since my resignation from the magazine agency to that meeting of advertisers; spending that evening dining with my fashion designer friend, and then that cover of Paris Match with Jamel and Mélissa. And if all of that was part of a destiny for which I was predestined? And if my route was not to stay in the press group but to stay in harmony with my values and create THAT media?
The idea of “Style and the City” was beginning to take form in my spirit. The more I reflected, the more I refined the concept; the more I refined the concept, the more I found how great it would be for readers, as well as authors and companies alike.
Why did I believe so much in myself ? Because we only need to remember the greatest innovations were not the work of large enterprises but the work of simple individual visionaries in the heart of their community, those who felt better than executives from those corporations the latent needs of the general population: Steve Jobs/Apple and its Imac, Ipod and Iphone, Bill Gates/Microsoft, Mickael Dell/Dell, and Google, Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon, Youtube, Myspace, Facebook and in France, Netvibes
And if it was as simple as listening to the public in order to understand it, to respect it and to simply offer it the service or product it desire..?
Summer 2007: french female magazines’ spirit
As french female Magazines and websites have no dynamic street style street, I contact them all to create a street style section. No one answered to my numerous emails and calls ever
Oct 2007: I will do it by myself because I believe in my feelings, my vision
I decide to create by my own the blog www.styleandthecity.com only with the vision of humanizing fashion by capturing the natural beauty of women. I started by doing the photo coverage of the Paris fashion week : the enthusiasm of reader was immediate, from my readers to the models that loved the idea of taking picture of them as a sweet human being and not as a model or coat rack
Next fashion week :
All the french magazines I cntacted sent their photographers to take street style pictures.
Street style blogs, from the new ones to the most famous try to « copy » Style and the City’s live and humanist style of photograhy.
Lesson learned :
Live is not an easy path. Some people will help you because they believe in you and want you to succeed. Others, lead by greed and jaleousy will copy and steal you. That’s life and you must deal with it.
How I deal with that ?
I focuse on my values, on my creativity because I know that we are here on earth to make it a better world. I keep on fighting for my values based on creativity, honesty, integrity because I want my futur children to learn from their father’s life. That’s what keep me so motivated, that’s what helps me to not betray my humanists values.