Blue skies over Zurich; what seems like spring is pure coincidence. I meet Maurice at Langstrasse in Zurich, the hipster mecca of the city. His style, which he would describe as “rock-chic”, stands out. Not because he is wearing Vetements’ newest collection or looks great in a Prada suit, but because he radiates something calm but simultaneously bold. Maurice finishes smoking his cigarette. His tattoos and his determined look immediately catch my eye. I ask myself: Who is this person? Who is this young photographer that not only thrills thousands of people on Instagram but also has made a name for himself in the fashion industry?
Images conceal stories and behind these stories are humans. When I saw Maurice Sinclair’s pictures for the first time, I immediately noticed his unique style. There was something that fascinated me, but I didn’t know what it was at first. It quickly became clear to me that someone, who at such a young age is able to capture fashion in pictures so skillfully, has to be a person that lives for this kind of work. However, I didn’t only speak to the 24-year-old about his passion that he has made to his full-time job, but also about the fashion industry, the influence of Social Media and the pressure of feeling the need to be perfect.
Being an artist is in Maurice Sinclair’s blood. He is the son of a musician and shares the same passion for photography with his grandfather, which already began when he was a child. “As a young boy I began to photograph anything possible and as a teenager my friends had to play the models.” Maurice smiles while lighting another cigarette. This is all the half-Peruvian reveals about his past because the future is what matters. The music of the future is also the film “Pacific Desert”, its trailer he just recently filmed in Peru. “The story reflects every person, just as myself, who notices that one always reaches the same point in life if we don’t change anything.” The trailer presents a young man who is repeatedly washed ashore and finally ends up back in the ocean. Is Maurice afraid of standing still in life?
Maurice spends half the year abroad, away from Switzerland and he sees nothing wrong with that. “I feel welcome everywhere and never like an stranger.” When it comes to fashion photography, destinations don’t have a direct influence on the 24-year-old. “In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than taking a picture in Paris with the Eiffel Tour in the background. Is that what a well-known photographer does? For me it’s important that the person is foregrounded. That’s who counts.” Maurice doesn’t forget to mention how important the human aspect is, which makes photography something very vulnerable.
Sinclair is well aware of the fact that when beginning in this business, there is hardly any money to be made. He explains that it belongs to the process, to find one’s own style while simultaneously shooting “regular lookbooks”, where the clothes are the main focus and the aspects of emotions fall short. Especially in Switzerland, Maurice continues, it is sad that people are only interested in the final product. “I would like to get to know a model to be able to photograph it the way it really is. Authentically.” Maurice is also authentic. Where is the arrogance? Where is the attitude? Where is the anti-mindset that seems to be the only thing working in our world today? Maurice is grounded. To be out of touch with reality would mean to lose touch. Even if he admits that when it comes to Instagram, he’s a bit of a narcissist. Nevertheless, the Zurich native is skeptical about Social Media. “Of course anyone can call themselves a photographer on Instagram but that doesn’t mean that he or she really has the talent for it. I am convinced that real talent will always come to light.” Is it reprehensible to use Instagram for self-promotion? “No, but it becomes clear quite quickly if someone is solid or putting on a show.” The world is no Instagram-Feed, also not for Maurice.
At the age of 15 Maurice was a real nerd, well that’s what he claims. Though this seems hard to imagine. His interest in fashion developed later on. Following trends is still not his thing, even today. “I dress according to my emotions because to me, fashion is a form of expression. Sometimes I like walking around like a punk and other times like a rocker. AllSaints’ fashion is perfect for that. They are rock-gothic but still chic.” And Vetements? “I don’t buy much by Vetements” However, he still praises the label founded by Demna and Guram Gvasalia. “The zeitgeist is rebellion; not doing what everyone else is doing and not following the trend is actually the trend.” Indeed, the anti-revolution in the fashion industry is quite obvious at the moment. Can such fashion labels create timeless pieces that will brighten the future? “Vetements doesn’t create timeless must-have pieces such as a black blazer or a blue pair of Levis jeans that every fashion enthusiastic guy wants to own. The same goes for sportswear brands such as Fila, Kappa, Champion & Co that are extremely popular at the moment. For years, these brands were considered uncool but now they will be worn until they disappear again. The key to success is to be able to deliver, and whether Vetements will be able to do that, will show.” Maurice is surprisingly critical and speaks loud and clear when it comes to today’s man: “It bothers me when men wear something because it’s en vogue and not because they feel like wearing it or think it looks nice. Seriously? Leggings don’t suit most men but they still all wear them. Why?”
Although Maurice travels often, it seems that Swiss fashion and society has left a mark on him. Men in London and Milan are different than in Zurich or Bern. “Especially in Germany and Switzerland, a lot of trends look extremely copied. You can go to London and you’ll see a guy wearing leggings and a fur coat and you can assume that he’s trying to express something with his clothing; how he feels and lives. It’s not the same here. Often times it looks like they’re trying too hard. I’m not trying to say that Swiss people can’t dress extravagantly, but often times it just doesn’t seem real. People that have a fashion background have understood something about the history of fashion and don’t just help themselves to the Urban Outfitters rack, but they actually think about it. Some men have the urge to belong to a certain peer group and thus dress accordingly. But often, this clothing style does not reflect their personality.” Maurice is outspoken. Honesty seems to be the number one priority when it comes to photography and fashion for him, something that can’t be taken for granted today.
Current campaigns, such as “Make Love Not Walls” by Diesel, broach political themes and spread statements that are demanding more love and less hate. Although Maurice sees such campaigns as clever marketing strategies, he agrees that the entire spectrum of fashion shouldn’t be underestimated. “Fashion, like music, can change the entire world population. With it, we can approach and positively influence the younger generations. But when it comes down to it, you should stand up for something because you’re truly convinced and not because a brand is promoting it.” Maurice puts on a warmer black hoodie. Do you know the kind of people that can literally wear anything? He’s one of those people. A further strongly political discussion revolves around fair fashion. There are a growing number of labels that are celebrating environmentally friendly fashion. An amazing development, right? “Let’s be honest, if I was the CEO of a big fashion corporation, I would also support organizations that fight child labor. However, this doesn’t mean that my brand offers fair manufacturing.” Maurice is skeptical and I find this skepticism reasonable. Although many studies show how transparent certain fashion brands are when it comes to production (check out FashionRevolution.org), such results do not reveal the actual circumstances. Sinclair speaks bluntly: “Today, no matter how sad it sounds, it is unrealistic to think that it is possible to produce fair and good-looking fashion for a good price. Sadly, that is not the way our system works. It also doesn’t matter if your leather jacket costs 3000 Euros by Gucci or 30 Euros from Zara – all big brands manufacture under terrible conditions.” I disagree with him. There are a great number of examples of successful vegan brands and personalities such as Emma Watson that have shown that it is possible to buy fair fashion for little money. “Of course there are always exceptions that need to be paid attention to. Unfortunately, it still remains true that a fashion-conscious man can’t fill his wardrobe without shedding a drop of blood. The same goes for the meat industry. It’s not the corporations but the consumers that need to take a first step in the right direction. As a consumer I need to understand that I am ruining the world if I buy 10 t-shirts at Primark for 10 Euros.” A difficult matter and Maurice shows no inhibition whatsoever. It is one of the most controversial subjects in the fashion industry and speaking bluntly should be praised, even if such harsh words are polarizing and hard for some to take. Despite his resentment, Maurice tries to encourage fashion fans to at least try not to support cheap brands while shopping. But when it comes to fair-trade ones, he remains skeptical. “The consumer is also used by fair-trade fashion: often times all it is, is the image that is supposed to legitimize the price.” This is a slightly different standpoint, but one that can still be discussed. Is a label really better just because it’s got a so-called “fair-trade” stamp?
Maurice Sinclair’s mantra is loud and clear: “Do you want to become a professional photographer and take pictures of flowers? Then photograph flowers until you become the best flower photographer in the world.” He makes it no secret that the road to success is a rocky one. “I must admit I’ve had my difficulties. Ups and downs are a part of life – not giving up and continuing to pursue your dreams, even when it’s hard, that’s what counts. Many have the feeling that after spending a year of taking pictures, you become a photographer. This impression exists today, because anyone can take good pictures with the touch of an iPhone. But I think that when it comes to photography, just like music and fashion, you need to hit the nerve. Everything that I photograph has to be good. The ground level needs to be consistent and that takes a lot of experience – good and bad. I strongly believe that if you really want something, hard work will pay off.” Whoever saw Maurice as a possible member of a “Rich Kids of Zurich”- gang, please think again. He emphasizes that it would be a huge mistake to pursue this career for money. “I know that this is a huge dilemma for many young adults today. Either you do something you really enjoy although it might take a few years to be in a good place financially, or you do something that’ll bring in money, but won’t fulfill you.” Many creative people have difficult decisions to make and it is clear what Maurice decided on – thank God. Thus he also has a disciplined mindset. “I think you should follow your dreams but stop dreaming. A Vogue cover isn’t going to shoot itself. You need to start off by setting smaller goals without forgetting the main one in the back of your mind. We all only have 24 hours a day and instead of spending 7 of those on our cell phones, we should spend that time studying the history of fashion and photography, for example. Anyone can shoot a portrait but mastering the rules is the actual skill.”
Five hours have gone by. The photographer I only knew from pictures has turned out to be a person with not only likable but also critical and reflective facets. Quite often, people ask me how I survive in such a “superficial fashion world”. My answer is simple: this interview. Maurice’s goal is for people to feel something when looking at his pictures and to understand his messages. Starting today, there’s room on my wall now. Karim
Text & Styling: Karim Coppola
Photography: Jasmin Sonego
Assistance: Claire Oehninger
Outfits: AllSaints, Diesel, Zara, Guess