As a Belgian, I will always have a soft spot for luggage brand Kipling. Growing up, my first schoolbag was Kipling. It came with a matching pencil case to which I attached a number of fluffy monkey – because the more monkeys, the better, obviously. So whenever I see a Kipling store twenty-something years later, it brings me right back to my childhood and a ton of happy memories.
Through writing this blog I’ve been very lucky to reconnect with the brand over the past couple of years, working on their brilliant collaborations (Peter Pilotto, Style Scrapbook and Jean Charles de Castelbajac), so I was thrilled to hear they chose Natalie Joos for their next collaboration. Natalie Joos is a fellow blogger, a casting agent, a street style photographer darling and of course, a Belgian girl in New York who also grew up with the brand.
Perhaps you’ve never heard of Natalie Joos, but she has become somewhat of a cult figure within the fashion community, with a huge online following. Her wonderful style gets her featured in magazines and websites around the world and her website takes you on a beautiful journey with her on her travels and incredibly stylish life. I’ve been an avid reader of Tales of Endearment for a few years, so I was beyond thrilled when Kipling invited me over to Antwerp a couple of months ago to discover the new collaboration in person and to interview Natalie herself about her inspiration, her colourful life and all things Belgian…
Congrats on the collection, it looks great! Why did you choose to collaborate with Kipling?
NJ: I think everybody in Belgium has a special place for Kipling because we all grew up with it. They approached me as they wanted to do something with me because I am Belgian and they loved my colourful style. We met up and talked about what we could do and then we came up with the travel angle. I was very excited because it was such a part of my childhood! It was kind of a thing back then, everybody had something… I think I had the little pen case and I definitely had the monkey! My friend was telling me just last week how her little daughter goes to the same school I went to and all the kids are still mad for it! It persists, it’s been 25 years and the kids are still loving it today, I think that’s impressive! So of course I wanted to work with them and create something together…
I’m constantly traveling all around the world so I just want something that’s practical and light and durable, but something that looks great as well! At the same time I don’t want to spend a crazy amount of money on it either, so the Kipling luggage is ideal for me. It was an obvious choice for me to focus on travel.
The colours are really striking, I’m sensing a bit of a vintage vibe… what was your inspiration?
NJ: I was really obsessed with this colour combination at the time. I had bought this box of crayons that had like 200 different colours in it. I started choosing my favourite colours and making different combinations which I then coloured in on plain drawings of the luggage. I made a ton of copies and coloured them in, over and over until I found the combo I loved. I was obsessed with red and light blue at the time, and the orange was really strong so those became my main colours. We stuck with 6 different colours and we did some colour blocking that hadn’t been done before with Kipling. It’s really recognisable, you would definitely never take the wrong bag home at the airport!
Is there a piece of the collection that you love the most?
NJ: Well I just started using the little toiletries bag for this trip and it’s really great, I actually threw my old one out so I could use this one and it’s really practical, you can just throw anything in it. I think that might be my favourite piece… Although I also like the small trolley because it’s REALLY light and because I have a bad back I am not allowed to carry anything heavy, so the wheels are great!
Like me, you’re also a Belgian who moved abroad – is there anything in particular you miss from home which you can’t have in New York?
NJ: My mum… I think it’s the home cooking! And peace and quiet, I mean I have it my home but when I’m in Belgium, I just get to chill out… But there is not many things you can’t get in NY. And speculoos!
From your site and your pictures in magazines and street style blogs, we can see you have a pretty amazing wardrobe… is there one item in your wardrobe you cherish the most?
NJ: My pair of Tom Ford cat-eye sunglasses. I would really cry if I lost them! They’re sold out, they were quite popular at the time and they’re rare now and if I lost them…
If you had to invest in one item for your wardrobe, what would you buy?
NJ: When I do buy designer clothes I always make sure they’re not trends, so they stay great forever, like a classic Max Mara coat. That’s why I like vintage because it’s not about trends at all. So if I’m going to buy anything expensive as an investment, it’s going to be a classic coat or maybe a Delveaux bag or something like that.
Now you know you’re going to get snapped by the street style photographers, do you find you dress up for the cameras? Or is this how you dress at any given time?
NJ: That’s the question isn’t it? It’s what everybody asks me! Let me start by saying that I have always dressed up. I love getting dressed, and I love wearing things that are unusual or colourful or standout so even before there was the internet and street style photographers, it was just like little Japanese girls with little disposable cameras taking my picture. They would be running after me screaming ‘OMG we love your shoes!’. These pictures never ended up anywhere – they were just tourists or like girls who were just taking pictures for inspiration – so it’s safe to say I always dressed up.
Now, obviously I know there are going to be photographers and I know they are going to take my picture so of course I want to look good, I’m not going to show up looking like a bum or with messy hair. At the end of the day, I’m putting myself out there and by now, I am well known so I want to preserve my image and have images of me being dressed nicely! I now use the opportunity to help a lot of young designers; if they are going take my picture and I’m wearing something cool by a young designer that nobody knows, I feel great because I am doing them a favour. It’s like wearing vintage: nobody knows what it is and that makes it far cooler. I guess I dress up for myself because I want to look good and I like to be dressed in a unique way that stands out.
What do you say to people who criticise your style and that of fellow street style icons?
NJ: If you can’t dress up, then what are these designers making clothes for? What is the point? You know, who are they making them for? Why are they making clothes that are beautiful with colours and flowers and prints? They do it because people feel beautiful in them ! If we didn’t want to dress up, there wouldn’t be anyone to design for, so I think luckily there are people like us who want to wear these amazing pieces out in public, and we have real relationships with the designers we admire.
Do you have advice for girls who want to go in the fashion industry?
NJ: What I would say to any young girl is to be open minded, positive and be flexible, go with the flow, say yes to everything! You have to have good energy so people will want to have you next to them if you’re doing a job well and you’re a good person to hang out with, it’ll work out. It’s all about your energy. I often hear people complain – they come in for interviews and are like: I want $5000 a month, I don’t do overtime, I want health insurance I want this and that… when you’re in NY, there are a thousand girls like you who would do it for free so you have to be really openminded and ambitious. It’s as simple as that.
For me it has nothing to do with a degree, I couldnt’ care less about what you studied at university – I care that you’re a bright person, I want people who can spell, who can write emails, who are polite on the phone… but if you can do the job, I don’t care if you have a diploma or not or what kind of diploma you have. You’ll have people who studied economics and have this sudden realisation like “shit I want to work in fashion but I have this economics degree what to do I do?” My advice is to do internships – it’s the best way to start in the industry!
Kipling x Natalie Joos is available in stores and online now!
At the launch in Antwerp: