13. März 2020

„Being playful with fashion is great.“

Veronika knows everyone, and everyone knows Veronika. At least that is the impression you get when you follow her on Instagram. Born in Berlin and emigrated to New York 26 years ago, the beautiful blonde works as a celebrity stylist. She started out studying photography and was working for Cartier many years. The job gave her the chance to build up a vast international network, and was the founding base for her own business she runs today. When wet met Veronika Borchers on Times Square in the White Cube, she also told us about her passion for Africa and a very special organization that she works for in her free time, the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. She tries to spend as much time in Africa as possible and hopes to one day split her life between both continents. A huge contrast that challenges Veronika, but also makes her value both worlds. 

How does it feel, standing in the White Cube?

There is an interesting contrast between the crazy amount of activity around the cube and the peace inside. It is a momentary quiet that you feel inside, calming, serene, and protected.

You were born in Berlin and you moved to New York when you were quite young.

I moved to New York twenty-six years ago. I came here to go to university, study photography, and then I just never left.

To me, New York always feels like it is eating me up a little bit, you know, taking all my energy. How does it feel for you? What makes New York special to you?

I think New York is the ultimate test for everyone. It forces you to dig deep and rise to the occasion because life is so extremely challenging and tough every day. Nothing ever comes easily. It is a certain type of person who is attracted to New York for this reason. It forces you to have a very strong passion about something, and a calling to be here. That drive is what unites all of us that live here, but I think we all reach a point where it is a relief to be away from it, but then you are always drawn back.

Speaking about passion, I would like to talk with you about Africa. You are a Board Member of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust. It is a strong contrast to your life here as a celebrity stylist. You live in New York and you have this other heart beating.

I really feel like I am standing with one foot on one side of the world and with my other in Africa. It creates tension, because it is a big dichotomy.

I am at home here; I belong here in New York. The opportunities that New York offers are unique; the connections you make here that will end up benefiting you in other parts of the world are incomparable. All the people I have met through my business have led me somewhere. As much as I am always tempted to go to Africa and not come back, I think New York is where things are happening. My idea is to merge the two worlds and use the resources of this city where people have money, and access, and opportunity, and funnel that into something else meaningful. That is really my goal to find a way to have one contribute to the other.

What does the organization do exactly and what is your task there?

In Africa, I work on the board of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which is an environmental organization, involving the local community. The mission is to find a way to protect the natural habitat, the animals, the whole ecosystem, while enabling the locals to financially benefit from their land and therefore incentivizing them to protect it. 

What makes you believe so strongly in this trust?

I like that the whole community is being involved. I do not like the idea of people coming to Africa implementing a western way of life, something brought from the outside. The Maasai Wilderness Trust is approaching it from the ground up, involving the community. They ultimately end up benefiting financially, their whole families benefit through education we provide, the entire framework is there. There is the animal conservation part, which is at the core, but everything around it is supporting the people that live in the area as well.

How can our readers, our followers, support this amazing organization?

The obvious thing is donations, but I think travelling responsibly and being aware of the choices you make when you are travelling is equally important.

Many people go to Africa to places where they can interact with wild animals, walk with lions, pet the Cheetahs. From an animal ethics perspective, it is not the right approach, but many organizations financially capitalize on this. For people that go to Africa, it is important to really educate themselves, to understand what kind of lodge they’re staying at, and if there is a community project that’s part of it, is it contributing to some bigger picture goal? I think that is so important and easy for anyone to do, just some research.

What do you feel when you came back to New York?

It is tough because in Africa, the landscape is just so epic and overwhelming, and powerful, and that connection to nature. I am drawn to these experiences because in an environment like New York, we have learnt to dominate everything. We have big buildings and we take over, and we have conglomerates, and we have big factories, and cars, and everything. We subjugate nature in every possible way, and when you are there, it is the complete reverse. You feel small as a human. You feel insignificant, little. You feel like you are in the place that you belong, actually.

Do you feel more vulnerable, or more emotional?

The world that we have built here is not authentic to me; it feels like an illusion, that humans are so powerful; dominating everything. It has a very strong impact on me when I first come back. It can take me days to get back into it and be willing to embrace this lifestyle, and consumerism, and the amount of people.

Just a few days being here and I have the feeling that people are not about deeper relationships here. What do you miss when you think of Germany?

I really miss the food.

What is your favorite food?

Oh, the bread! German bread is the best! Just even the ability to go to a restaurant and spend a small amount of money, and have something that feels very fresh and simple.

Do you think you will ever come back to Germany?

I am not sure. I do not know. The part about Germany that is appealing is the idea that it is halfway to Africa. A flight from Belin there is half the amount of time. From New York, it is such a huge commitment to go there every time. It takes so long.

What makes you cry?

Our disconnect from nature. Nature is profoundly impactful for me. I am moved by it and touched by it. So many powerful documentaries have been made about plastic pollution, the oceans… they devastate me. The films ‘Albatros’ & ‘Racing Extinction‘, in particular, broke my heart in a million pieces. 

Let us speak a bit about your profession. You style many well-known celebrities. Do you personally connect with them? Do you interact with them and do they become friends sometimes? 

In some cases, yes. Especially in my years working with Cartier. The value of the merchandise that I was responsible for was so high, that I always brought it to their homes and spent a lot of time waiting whilst they were getting their hair and makeup done. So there was a lot of interaction and a lot of downtime just waiting, waiting with their families or whoever was in the house, and so I built a lot of very close relationships with those people.

Do you ever get nervous when you meet a celebrity for the first time?

The thing is, when you are in your element, when it is something you know you are good at and you have done for a long time, you are comfortable, so it is easy.

How do the celebrities get to wear your pieces? How do you select the styles?

I think because I have known many women that I style for a long time, they have come to trust me, which is nice. They know that everything I send to them is unique to their sense of style, and who they are as people. Everything is based on the many, many years that I have worked with them and my knowledge of that individual, and their personal preferences. It is very curated and focused on what I know about them and what their preferences are, so when they get things from me they know there’s a lot of thought put into it.

Many stylists always dress in black. We loved that you are so colorful.

That is such a New York cliché. When I first moved here and went to art school, I wore dark colors and tried to be edgy. To be honest, color affects my mood so much! When I wear something bright, it changes how I feel that day. I love it! Being playful with fashion is great.