20 Sense

20 SENSE: Natalie Joos, Casting Director and Tales of Endearment Founder

nathalie-joos-tales-endearment-by-valentine-avoh-1

If you’ve ever perused one of the ubiquitous street style websites or cozied up to one of those clunky ol’ fashion mags, you’ve probably stumbled upon the face of Natalie Joos. A fashion world favorite, the camera loves her unique style which is always striking in a way that never feels inauthentic or forced — a definite feat in today’s so-called circus of fashion. Though her main gig is working as a casting agent and consultant in New York City, the Belgian-born beauty propelled herself to tastemaker status when she started her blog Tales of Endearment in 2010. Prompted by the urge to showcase her love of vintage clothing, the site features weekly muses (beautiful snapshots into the lives of smart and stylish women) in tandem with Natalie’s very own looks of the week. Fashion history and present-day industry news also abound, making it a pristinely curated one-stop-shop for any fashionphile. After heckling her in the midst of fashion week earlier this Fall, Joos took time out of her busy schedule to fill me in on how it all began for her, the inspiration behind her work, and what she loves and occasionally loathes about her job.

Describe your trajectory since turning 20 up until now. I finished university when I was 21. I studied Communication Sciences with a major in journalism. After my studies I moved to London to study one extra year at the London College of Fashion. I took an Access Course in Fashion Promotion Media. This is where I met an American girl called Maria Chen who was studying fashion at Central Saint Martins (which is part of the LCF). She had already established a little brand in New York and asked me if would like to do her PR there. First I said no, but when she asked me a second time a few months later since it hadn’t worked out with their original hire, I said yes. So I moved to New York. Unfortunately I was only at the job for three weeks because the guy who sponsored her decided he did not want to pay me. But here I was…luckily I had other contacts and was never jobless. I worked for Cornelia Lauf first. She was the wife of Joseph Kosuth, a very important graphic artist. His close friend Glenn O’Brien was planning to launch a book with Cornelia’s new publishing company. When we all sat down at a meeting together, Glenn asked Cornelia if he could steal me away. Two days later I was at his office, bringing him coffee, dropping off his laundry and delivering season’s Knicks tickets to his famous friends’ homes. He wanted to hire me full time but couldn’t offer me a visa, so sadly I had to quit. But he introduced me to Anne Kennedy at Art & Commerce who in turn got me in touch with Craig McDean — “a young photographer” who needed help with the production of a book about uniforms. I worked for Craig for six years, at first just part-time, but eventually as his first, full-time Studio Manager. When I quit in 2003 I started my own casting company and did that until just this year. In May of 2010 I also launched Tales of Endearment, my blog about vintage and the cool girls who wear it.

What surprised you most about your twenties? What went exactly as expected? I discovered myself in my twenties. When I lived in London, it was the first time I was away from my parents and my boyfriend. I had a job to pay for my expenses, while my parents paid my rent. I also made amazing friendships that I maintain to this day. One girl is in Norway and one in Japan, but we are still very close. I owe my life and future to them, and I am impossibly grateful. When I returned to Belgium I broke up with my boyfriend and geared up to go to NY. Everyone noticed how much I had changed. It was definitely a huge improvement and a necessary development for me. I would not be who or where I am if I had not moved to London–I needed it to break free.

I also never thought I would go live in NY. I had always had dreams about London, which I finally accomplished, but I never had any desire to live in America. The idea was a little archaic to us Europeans. We saw the fashion as tacky and believed the people were superficial. It was really just a world we saw on television and it never initially appealed to me. But when you are young, you have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain in terms of experiences and knowledge. So I left, with two suitcases, and no expectations. I never looked back. It was the right next step for me and I made it work. The first few years were the best time of my life, I was out all the time and met so many people!

Do you feel like you’ve found your niche at this point or are you still searching? I definitely have a niche. I think people are starting to use the term “joosy” for things that remind them of me, like sexy dresses paired with cute shoes, and vintage, of course.

What excites you more about life: the enigmatic experiences or those with extreme clarity? I love epiphanies. When you come to a more clear understanding of how something or someone works. Moments of clarity are priceless because they have a very strong impact.

What did your twenties teach you about romantic love? Friendship? I wish my parents would have told me to find a (rich) boyfriend, haha! I had guys chase me all the time, but I never noticed nor cared. When I look back I regret being so clueless. Romance and love were not important to me then because I was partying all the time. Until I met my husband of course. I was never more in love than I was with him. I was 27 when we met, and almost 30 when we separated. I definitely broke a few hearts in those days but I also got my heart broken for the first time. I also learned a lot about the dating scene in New York and how different it it from Belgium’s. There are rules and games that I was not prepared for.

What motivates you? Creativity. My friends. Ambition.

Where do you get the most inspiration? How do you snap out of a creative rut? I love Rolling Stone magazine. I read it cover to cover. I am inspired by their writers and it’s a great place to find out about new talent, which helps with my casting business. Music plays a very big role in my life. I need it. I thought at one point I wanted to be a music writer and my dream was always to write for Rolling Stone. Of course my friends are also immensely inspiring, especially my sister. She has such a different perspective on things than I do– it’s refreshing and makes me do a double-take and question myself. You can’t always [successfully] be your own critic. Vintage shopping also gets my juices flowing. I love skimming the racks and inspecting them piece by piece until I find the ONE. It’s the thrill of the search and discovering unexpected things.

If you had to create a twenties survival kit what would it include? What I survived on in my twenties is not applicable nor relevant nor healthy in this day and age…. And I have no idea what twenty-somethings do these days!

If you had to settle for one motto/mantra, what would it be? No guts, no glory.

Biggest pet peeve about the fashion world or blogosphere? I hate the term blogger and I am fighting very hard not be called one, because it’s too general a term. I am probably pissing off my blogger-friends by saying this, but I always beg the question: do you mean writing or taking pictures? Because the term blogging doesn’t mean anything. Tales of Endearment is a means to an end. I am active in other fields like casting, styling and design and I am much more apt to follow that route than monetize my site. I write about dead product in the end. (That was a bad business decision, haha. Should have written about yachts and fast cars!) In general, I also think fashion should be more fun. Everyone takes themselves so seriously…Laugh, jump, clap!

Favorite part of each? I like having my own platform and enjoy producing nice images–I take that part very seriously. I have some loyal readers as well, and am grateful that there are people who appreciate my aesthetic. Starting the blog was a great way to get my personal vision across. It’s fun and I have learned a lot and made many friends! The world of fashion is my world, there’s no way around it, so I embrace it. And I try not to be too embarrassed to share what I do when I meet people who are [conversely] curing rare diseases. We all have a purpose!

What aspect of being a casting agent does the average person not recognize or get to see? The politics of it all. You can’t just GET the models you want. You have to fight for them. Either with money, or status, or whatever the modeling agents come up with to make your life a living hell. What happens behind the scenes or on the phone is ugly sometimes. We scream, get impatient or insulted, or simply cry. (Yep, that’s happened to me, on both ends.)

Do you have a favorite casting experience or a favorite model discovery? I loved working on the Rocawear campaigns. I’m a huge Jay-Z fan and he was always hanging out. Even Beyonce was on set sometimes. We had huge budgets and lots of fun celebrities and environments to work with. My favorite shoot with them was in Aspen, there were helicopters, snow mobiles and tons of little model kids. So much fun! I don’t think I ever “discovered” anyone but I did give breaks to a few girls who ended up doing well, like An Oost. I also did a “Top 30 Best New Models” spread for V Magazine that got a lot of girls attention and subsequent careers.

Why should we all be vintage fiends (a la your site) if we aren’t already? I don’t think we should ALL be vintage fiends–I don’t know if there is enough vintage to go around, haha. I just think that people can find affordable, unique fashion without having to shop at disposable fashion stores like H&M or Forever 21. Not only is vintage green (as opposed to those huge stores who use so much of the world’s energy to produce cheap frills that you throw away after one season), but it’s also much more personal. Thought and effort goes into finding something great with vintage, and you will be the only one wearing this piece of treasure. I don’t understand why people would want a skirt or sweater that everyone else is wearing…

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For more interviews like this, check out the 20 SENSE archive here!

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