My personal experiences coming into adulthood have been, by most standards, a little bit far from what is ordinary. I went to a high school where the end goal wasn't necessarily going to university or college, but rather to get a job in a dance company somewhere around the world. By choosing this path, I've forfeit my "university experience" that most 18+ year olds get to have. I'll never know the realities of college dorm rooms or frat parties or the infamous "Freshman Fifteen".
This is something I've come to accept. It's the choice I made and I don't regret the path I've taken, but I can't help but sometimes dream of the life of a "normal person".
I sit across from my friend Simone as she tells me about her quest in searching for a job, and I begin to realize that perhaps the elusive "normal life" is not so different from mine after all.
"My favourite food is fries and ketchup." - Simone, after asking if I could interview her.
Not to suggest that Simone is "normal"; she is everything but ordinary. I find her life fascinating. Simone has chosen the kind of path that I envy and would have loved to have taken, had I not tumbled down the ballet dancing route. Born in Copenhagen, Simone had been back and forth between Israel, Denmark and London during her early years. At 18, she studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Israel, while still nurturing her interest in fashion. Her mother being from London, Simone's style and personal taste tended to take inspiration from UK fashion, very much of what Simone describes to me as the "Bricklane" look. And when she was accepted into Middlesex University for fashion, it was an obvious choice for her to move there.
Following her graduation, Simone had originally made the choice to take the year to work before continuing her education, but a single moment of anxiety and a longing to return to the lifestyle in Denmark, led her to apply to the Visual Culture program in Copenhagen University. Being a very competitive program with only 30 acceptances a year, Simone was ecstatic to receive the news of her admittance on the day of her graduate show in the east end of London.
"A lot of things just happened by chance," Simone tells me, as she takes a sip of her tea. These are words that I can relate to when considering my life story, and I'm sure they are familiar to many people out there. Life rarely works out the way you plan, but very often opportunities come as open doors.
As a part of her MA in Visual Culture, Simone was given the possibility of doing various internships. She had several experiences with companies across Copenhagen and London, from which she gained some skills but also exhausted herself with the hard labour of interning. However, Simone's face lights up when she begins to tell me about her most exciting experience thus far...
On a spontaneous trip to New York, Simone was visiting a friend whom she made while in Israel. At the friend's house party, she was introduced to the friend of that friend, whose boyfriend worked at Proenza Schouler. Following their discussion, Simone, a big fan of the brand, then emailed him with a lighthearted "It was so nice to meet you. Send my love to your boyfriend".
"That was basically my application!" She laughs, almost still in awe that it happened. Simone was then offered an internship at Proenza Schouler in New York City. She loved everything about New York and was especially enamoured by the unique personalities and eccentricities in styles.
"New York is more daring and Copenhagen sometimes lacks that," she states when I pick her brain for her thoughts on Scandinavian fashion. She agrees that people here are very stylish and that they look great, but they are often too minimalist and too black. Simone tends to favour colour and patterns, barely owning anything black, and pats her bright pink scarf as she tells me that colour, in her opinion, is more feminine.
She also tells me that she's always thought that Scandi-fashion was a year behind. This was interesting for me to hear, as when I first arrived in Copenhagen, everything seemed so foreign and fashion-forward to me, as these trends were only just beginning to come to Toronto before I left. She explains in more depth that this was because she had constantly been exposed to London fashion growing up, so she was aware of the pace of trends between the two countries. She points out that only very recently has there been an explosion of Danish fashion designers in the global media, and that Copenhagen Fashion Week is only something like ten years old. I contemplate this for a moment, and realize how the culture you grow up in will always be ordinary in comparison to something that is foreign to you.
I ask Simone what was the most valuable thing she gained from her internship in New York:
"Before this, I've only worked in small companies in Copenhagen where you had to do all sorts of jobs and hands on work to keep the business running smoothly, even if it wasn't your area of expertise. It was really interesting to see how this was different in a big company. The job distribution was entirely different - the designers' focus was to design, the seamstresses focused on sewing.
"The hardest part was running around doing errands, going to different sample rooms to find fabrics and always being on your feet. The working day was pretty long and being an intern is really hard work.
"The job was fun because every day we had a new task. And the designers were really friendly. I was lucky to be one of the only interns who got to meet them personally, completely by chance. After that, they would say hi to me at the intern table - it was great."
Simone says she would love to return to New York someday, but for now, she stays in Copenhagen. She's finished her schooling and is now looking for a job that isn't an internship. She's gotten loads of experience over the years and is now ready to dive into the profession.
I ask Simone about the sort of job she's looking for and she shrugs her shoulders. Her main interest is in fashion, but her degree tends to follow the direction of communication and what happens after the clothes have been made. Ideally, she'd love to do something with trend forecasting or branding.
"I know it's bad to say, but I'm kind of enjoying the free time right now," Simone says, "Right after graduation, I did a lot of internships so I was constantly working." Now, Simone being an expert intern, she's in the luxury of having companies approach her for internships.
She goes on to tell me about some her own creative ideas. Simone is a very artistic mind, with a passion in all sorts of arts and it's obvious that she's a very visually influenced individual. She tells me how she'd really like to take this free time to build a proper, beautiful, creative portfolio and to write a great cover letter. She'd like to work on her sewing and designs and curate her inspiration.
"I think it's good to show what is mine and not just the work I've done for other people," referring to her multitude of internships, "You can't just say you know how to do something. You need to show people what you are actually capable of."
"I love to go to art openings and museums, to get inspired by the beauty," She pauses a little, "But I need to do something with that inspiration. Sometimes, I think too much and then get scared. There's that feeling that I'm not good enough." Solid words and thoughts.
I finish my last sip of coffee and consider how closely Simone's words hit home. I go back to my last year at school when I was desperately auditioning for dance companies around the world. It's not so different to Simone's search for a job in the "real world". I refer to it as the "real" or "normal" world, because it's not the "ballet world", but my discussion with Simone makes me realize the two worlds are more or less the same, with as many exciting opportunities as there are hardships.
From there, Simone and I make our way through Kødbyen and to an art opening - because she's my cool friend to do that with. We get inspired by the work of other artists and enjoy the company of one another. I have no doubt something exciting will come Simone's way, because, she's so skilled and experienced in what she does, she has a hell of a lot of passion, and, as she mentioned before, these things just kind of happen by chance.
*** Photographs from Simone's summer of 2016