Meet Studio Germanini, a multitasking Berlin-based duo who DJ, design, write, style and create visual projects fusing their considerable creative skills. After being enraptured by the ’90s-tinged nostalgia of their recent short film Alcopops and Candy, Nasty Gal tracked down the Germanini girls to find out how they met, their idea of a perfect day in Berlin, and what they’re working on now and next (the short answer: a lot).
Hi there, Studio Germanini. Please introduce yourselves, and tell us what you do.
Hey, Nasty Gal! We are Studio Germanini a.k.a. Nina Byttebier and Nicola Powell, a dynamic duo from Belgium and England respectively. Nina is a stylist, journalist and art director, who studied at the Antwerp Fashion Academy, was formerly fashion editor for Vice Germany, and now freelances for various publications. Nicola is a freelance video editor, currently completing a Bachelor in Montage at the HFF Konrad Wolf in Potsdam. Our Facebook page says, “We make meatballs. We make fun.” In reality, it’s less meatballs and more video and photo projects with a focus on fashion and art. But it is fun!
How did you first meet? Why did you decide to work together?
We met over four years ago in Berlin. Actually, it’s a really funny story. Our ex-boyfriends happened to be identical twin brothers (!) and our first-ever meeting happened one morning in their kitchen. We immediately bonded over a shared love of absurd humor, girl bands and dumb clips on YouTube. Later, we discovered we had really complimentary ideas and tastes, so we started making videos for fun and then also DJing together as Germanini, which evolved into us putting our ideas into practical photo and video projects. The first thing we actually produced was a photo ‘zine called Erotospilia (“cave of love” in Greek), which was a combination of both our photos and some texts from a summer trip around Greece in 2011. We got a really positive reaction and decided to keep going.
What was the catalyst for your recent art project ‘AlcoPops and Cotton Candy’?
We went to check out this traveling funfair in a park near where we live, and it was like something from another time and place. The experience of being there was really intense; the combination of neon lights, noises from the rides, screaming, the cotton candy smell. It was timeless, in a way, because this funfair seemed the same as the ones we’d been to as teenagers, going out for the first time. We’d wanted to do a project about a girl gang for a long while, and this funfair was the perfect setting.
The series references ‘nineties girl bands and pop culture’. What is it about that era that you find so inspiring?
The nineties was the era we both grew up in and where our earliest memories come from, but also when technology started to develop really fast. The colors, quality and look of ’90s movies, music videos and fashion have influenced us since we were kids, and continue to do so now. Being a kid in the ’90s was amazing–it’s the age when you discover your own taste in fashion and music (Nicola was obsessed with Michael Jackson), and decide which Spice Girl you identify with (Nina was Scary, Nicola was Ginger). Then there all these crazy hardcore, trance and gabber scenes which somehow filtered into our music tastes, despite as being far too young to appreciate them at the time. And, of course, there was Girl Power–this notion of cool, tough, girls getting on in the world without exploiting their sexuality, which was something that really inspired us as young girls.
The project evokes a real sense of nostalgia for youth, despite the fact that you’re both still very young. Why is that?
We’re both naturally very nostalgic people. We often talk about childhood memories, showing each other videos and photos, sharing experiences of growing up in different places in the world, finding similarities and differences of the surroundings and cultures we grew up in. While growing up, we both always wanted to be older and further in life: the sense of fernweh (a German word that roughly translates to “wanderlust”) was very strong.
Tell us about the shoot itself.
All the girls are friends of ours, we asked them to be part of the project both because of their attitude and combined looks. We told them about our girl gang idea, showed them all these mood images we’d collected, and told them to just go wild at the funfair. Once they were there, the girls morphed into hyper versions of themselves and somehow everything happened very naturally–probably because of this crazy location. Every time a song they knew came on the gang would stop to dance and sing along, and then check their make-up in the reflections from mirrors on the rides. It was beautiful.
The girls in the film wear some great ’90s-inspired outfits. Where did you seek inspiration for the styling? Where did you source the clothes?
Initially inspiration came from movies like The Craft, Mi Vida Loca and Clueless, and bands like TLC, The Runaways, and the Spice Girls (obvs). Also, imagery from sources like The Face magazine, alongside more modern references like Spring Breakers. We pulled some clothes from brands like Nike, Baby-G, BEEN by D’heygere and Vaisslle, but since we wanted to keep it real, we asked the girls to bring their own clothes and mixed our stuff in too. There was a huge pile of clothes in the studio and we just told them to pick stuff out and put their outfits together themselves. We all did each other’s hair and make up, exchanged friendship bracelets and had a really fun, girly getting-ready session.
How would you describe your own personal style? What pieces are you currently wearing to death?
We love black! Black mixed with black, plus some Air Max ’90s or chunky heels, but generally we’re pretty eclectic. Nicola wears as many gold earrings as her ears will allow. Nina currently loves her neoprene wetsuit sweater and a patchwork purple and white leather bomber with a massive Adidas logo across the back. We also LOVE dressing up. For Halloween this year we formed a girl gang (again!) and dressed up as the girls out of M.I.A’s Bad Girls video. Nina sewed a bunch of leopard print dresses, and we adorned ourselves with huge amounts of gold, scarves, camo print, bandanas and amazing fake nails.
Berlin has a reputation for being one of the most exciting creative hubs in the world. Is the perception as good as the reality?
This is a subject we could talk about for hours. Berlin is a great place to be if you’re willing to work hard and make the city work for you. It’s a really welcoming and open community for creative people: You meet a lot of inspiring people on a daily basis which obviously fuels your own creative process. We see Berlin as our home–not just a cool, cheap party city. For us right now, it’s the perfect place to develop as young artists, but who knows what the future will hold.
What’s your favorite way to spend a day in the city?
So, the perfect Germanini day would definitely go something like this: We’d start by gossiping with friends over coffee and croissants at the lovely Bully’s Bakery in our ‘hood. Then, we’d walk along the canal in the sun, visiting the markets on Maybachufer and having a late lunch at a good turkish grill in Kreuzberg. After that, we’d go to one of the city’s great galleries or museums like KW, Hamburger Bahnhof or Neue Nationalgalerie, followed by a trip to Mitte to check out the boutiques and book shops around there. After that we’d probably eat some more, most likely in a cute little place called Jimmy Woo.
The evening would start with wine and cocktails in one of the many bars in Neukölln, followed by a concert and a dance binge. Currently our favorite party spot is this club called Chesters. We try to to not go every weekend but, hey…
What’s the soundtrack at Studio Germanini right now?
Literally right now: a slowed down Gabber mixtape from Belgium. It’s amazing. But in the last weeks we’ve been listening to a big mix of stuff, old and new–Foxy Brown, Aaliyah, TLC everyday, Bruce Springsteen, Suprême NTM, Destiny’s Child, Wu Tang, FKA Twigs, King Krule, Stargate, Miles Davis, Fatima Al Qadiri, Excell, the new MIA album. Winter is coming, so the Twin Peaks soundtrack has returned to our kitchen. Nina’s gone on a whole early ’70s trip with E.L.O. and Donald Fagen while Nicola’s working out to DJ Jubilee and other Bounce queens.
What are you working on next?
There are so many ideas floating around, including a fashion film series about team sports and fast cars and a couple of new photo ‘zines. Next year we’ll be returning to Greece to shoot at ancient archeological sites, as well as working on a limited edition Germanini clothing line and training ourselves to get really good at lucid dreaming. We’re excited for 2014!