'What Ali Wore': Berlin's Unlikely New Street Style Star
Ali, an 83-year-old tailor and father of 18 in Berlin, is now famous after a blog documenting his original street style went viral in recent days. SPIEGEL talks with photographer Zoe Spawton about how she discovered the senior sartorialist.
One could say that Ali is currently among Berlin's most sought-after models, though his runway is the gritty streets of the Neukölln district. He owes his fame to his own singular street style and Australian photographer and Berlin resident Zoe Spawton, whose blog chronicling the octogenarian's outfits went viral this month.
"What Ali Wore" features Ali posing in an astounding array of get-ups, and he would seem never to wear the same ensemble twice. Some days he's casual in head-to-toe denim or camouflage, while other days he's all business in dapper suits and ties. The Turkish doctor turned tailor owns over 80 suits, though that's not nearly as impressive as his 18 children.
Blogger Zoe Spawton tells SPIEGEL ONLINE how she and Ali met.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ms. Spawton, do you remember the moment you first saw Ali?
Spawton: I work in a cafe in Neukölln, and every morning at 9:05 a.m., this elderly Turkish man would walk by. He was always dressed so stylishly that it was obvious he had put a lot of thought into what he would wear.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Your blog features dozens of Ali photos. How did you start working together?
Spawton: For a while we smiled and greeted each other each morning, but nothing more. After about eight weeks I asked him for the first time if I could take his photograph. Or rather, I gestured the question to him. Ali speaks little English and I speak only broken German. So I brought my camera and showed him that I'd like to take pictures of him.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did he agree right away?
Spawton: He thought it was funny at first. And I think he was a bit proud. Now he's the one giving me instructions and showing me where he wants to pose, though he doesn't allow it every day.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: When does he say no?
Spawton: Sometimes he just doesn't feel good, or is in a bad mood or sick. He will also refuse a photo if he feels like he's not perfectly attired, or if he thinks I've already photographed a certain outfit.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You've only been working together for a few months ...
Spawton: ... and we've kind of become friends in that time. We are happy when we see each other, and he occasionally brings gifts such as apples, chocolate, flowers and things like that. Once we went on an outing together to pick apples, and that was really nice. We can't discuss deeper things, though I still have the feeling that we are close.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ali stood out to you because of his clothes. Do you have a weakness for fashion?
Spawton: Not at all; I know nothing about it. I didn't notice Ali because of one particular outfit or another. I like that on any given morning, I don't know whether he'll be standing across from me in a suit or in casual clothes. And I like that, in his case, the clothing tells me so much about its wearer.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What does Ali's clothing tell you?
Spawton: The fact that he's so stylishly dressed certainly has to do with his profession. Ali has lived in Berlin for 44 years. Before he was a doctor, and now he works as a tailor. He made many of his pieces himself -- and right now he's sewing me a skirt. And Ali's ease, the mischief in his eyes, makes me imagine how he flirted with women as a young man. Ali has 18 children.
Interview conducted by Anna-Lena Roth
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