8 Things
Imke Klee, stylist

Who hasn’t suffered the sting of a thousand rejection letters? Imke Klee, for one. In 2007, having just completed an integrated design program at the University of the Arts Bremen, the German-born stylist and photographer sent her diploma work off to famed trend forecaster and design guru Li Edelkoort in search of some feedback. “It was sort of a trend book about how to transform traditional values into modern, contemporary ones,” says Klee — in other words, catnip for a trend junkie like Edelkoort, who responded almost immediately with an invitation to come join the Paris-based offices of Trend Union, Edelkoort’s renowned forecasting agency, which counts companies like Philips, Virgin, Camper, and L’Oréal among its international clients.

Since that time, Klee has been employed as an iconographic researcher, charged with creating images and sourcing new materials and fashions for the firm’s legendary seasonal trend books and color forecasts. “Every day is a new challenge,” Klee says. “How to switch between styling, photography, and research, how to interpret the present, and how to work in time for my own projects as well.” It’s a good thing, then, that Klee’s professional and independent work lives often overlap; the photo shoots she frequently initiates with her husband, photographer Antonios Mitsopoulos, often end up being used as fodder for Edelkoort’s trend books. At the heart of it, Klee says, “I am a collector of beautiful things, and I use them to create my own world; my process normally begins with a feeling and ends with a concept.”

No wonder, then, that Klee is so adept at creating mood boards —a subject she even teaches a course on at her old alma mater. In fact, when the photos for this story arrived — mostly taken by Klee, her husband, or sourced from around the web, they represent eight of her greatest inspirations — they looked of a piece, a controlled mood highly indicative of Klee’s wabi-sabi aesthetic. We invite you to take a look for yourself.

01pietheineek

Piet Hein Eek: Klee is partial to the rough, textural pieces by Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek, a longtime favorite of her boss and mentor, Li Edelkoort, as well. (The chair on the right was photographed in Klee’s own Paris flat.) “For me, his designs are incredibly modern interpretations of traditional values, forms, and folkloristic life,” she says — all themes that inform her own work. “I love that he can achieve such great design with such simple materials and forms.”

02raw authentic

That authenticity is also what draws Klee to artists like Atelier NL, Hella Jongerius, and Swedish up-and-comer Jens Fager. “There’s an interplay between these enchanted, dreamy, almost surrealistic aspects and the elementariness that appeals to me.”

03fabrics

Fabric: Because Trend Union is so influential in the worlds of textiles and fashion, Klee finds herself constantly surrounded by fabrics, swatches of which are included the firm’s biannual color forecasts. Klee is obsessed with the book on the left by famed Japanese costume designer Emi Wada, which comes packaged in a frayed cloth binding. “Her book is about the making of fashion and fabrics. I am totally inspired by the layering of raw materials and things that are slightly unfinished,” she says.

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Though Klee has aspirations of one day designing her own fashion collection, she’ll often for photo shoots buy pieces of natural fabric or muslin and simply drape them to resemble a garment, as in the white skirt in the photo above, which was used to represent a return to rural values and aesthetics in one of Trend Union’s reports.

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Fashion photography: As a researcher, Klee spends much of her time flipping through magazines, and she’s become addicted to the ethereal imagery and illustrations by London-based photographer Tim Walker and frequent Vogue UK contributor Paolo Roversi. “Walker has this sense of epic drama in his pictures that somehow shows the everyday and the absurd and the fabulous all at the same time. Roversi’s pictures are just filled with poetry. I always try to capture that sort of dignified aura in my pictures as well.”

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Sketchbooks: Klee’s affinity for sketchbooks, calendars, and diaries — “I have tons of them, full and empty!” she says — is both emotional and physical: “I need them to empty my brain. I write down my own ideas — things/words/sentences I hear/like/see — around me. I write down ideas I’d like to realize somewhere. But I also just love handwritten books. I love to touch them, I love the odor of them, I love when they are worn out, and I like the idea of reopening them when I am old.”

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Mood boards: “I love to arrange and photograph things, to create color cards and inspiration boards as well as simple still lifes,” Klee says. “I’m addicted to telling visual stories, to teasing out the loveliness of simple things. Ever since my childhood, I’ve always been drawing, collecting, painting, designing my room — and it is still my main ‘occupation.’ There was never a real significant change.”

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In her submission of work to Sight Unseen, for example, Klee paired this image of a girl with a flower fabric necklace — made especially for one of Edelkoort's trend books — with a spontaneously taken photo of dried petals she had at home on the table.

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Paris: In her adopted city, Klee says, inspiration is everywhere, especially in the haute bohemian area Montmartre and the flea markets that stud the perimeter of the city. “I also love the Merci store on the Boulevard Beaumarchais, the Marché Saint Pierre for fabrics, and all the little streets with beautiful boutiques.”

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Nature imagery: Even though Klee often works with artificial constructs, she mostly uses props and materials that can be found in nature. “As much as I love living in Paris, I could never make a final decision which is better: exciting city life or life on the countryside where I grew up. There you have the most beautiful forms and colors, organic food, and the ability to live an authentic and conscious life.”

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A typical self-initiated project. “I did the pigeons shoot with my husband. A pigeon fancier lives in the same neighborhood as my parents and I had the idea to ask him if we could photograph his birds. I loved the beauty of the plumage and it was a great challenge for us to photograph these animals. Some of the images were used for one of the trend books, but in general it is possible to buy pro-rata picture rights of my images. I would love to make a photo book out of them but until now, I have not had the time.”

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Prints of Klee’s food still-lifes, photographed in collaboration with her husband, Antonios Mitsopoulos, are for sale in Klee’s Etsy shop A View To, along with her fabric brooches and keyrings.