Who are you and what are you doing?
I’m Gabriel Tamez, a vagabond journalist. I tell stories.
But you studied and worked in architecture. What was inspiring about it?
I did. School and all, I spent ten years total in the architecture world – five at university, five working at various firms. I’ve worked on everything from small residences in Israel to massive skyscrapers in the UAE, and museums in Germany to housing blocks in France. Some people get into architecture all pumped about fenestrations, insulations and floorboards. I admit I’ve had my share of working at that level of construction but it only exasperated me. Concept design and visualizations were my callings, telling visual stories about a building. It’s far more exciting.
What are your favourite architects or projects?
Well I used to hate Le Corbusier. I went to a rather structured school in California, and they really wanted to pound him into our brains. So as students do, we retaliated by looking to the Starchitects – Hadid, OMA, SANAA, Morphosis. Then I spent half a year living in Italy and Germany, train travelling across Europe. I finally walked into some of the iconic buildings by the Modernism masters and I remember thinking “You know what? This guy Corb, he knew what’s up.” It all clicked you know? It made sense. I still respect and keep up to date with the contemporary designers of course.
Architects sometimes transition into tangential fields such as photography, design and art. Why did you?
I think it has to do with curiosity and travel itch. It’s gotten me into all kinds of trouble actually, but they do make the best stories. The more people I meet, the more I realize the world is not an impossibly big place. There’s just an impossibly immense amount of stuff IN it. And I want to experience it all. So long as I can keep sharing a measure of those moments in words and images, I’ll keep documenting all my curiosities. Architecture kept me chained to a place; with journalism, I’m free to explore.
We met each other during Berlin Fashion Week in January this year. What is your interest in fashion and why?
Well that goes all the way back to my childhood in Tokyo. My mother used to work in fashion and she always dressed elegantly. Even to pick up vegetables from the market. To this day that hasn’t changed. Early on she taught me that “fashion is about respect. And out of respect for an occasion or person, one dresses accordingly.” She still frequently wears her Jil Sander pieces. They’re absolutely timeless!
I also went to an international school in Tokyo. They copied the British schooling uniforms so at five years old, we were trotting around in white dress shirts, bow ties, tailored coats and matching dress shorts. It works in Tokyo but when we moved to South Texas? Let’s just say, not so much.
Still there’s something to be learned there too. My grandfather is as Mexican as they get but he won’t leave the house without having his morning coffee, putting on an ironed shirt tucked into crisp jeans, polishing his cowboy boots until they mirror and selecting one of his dress hats. As for me, it took years of growing up and all kinds of fashion crimes, but I did eventually get back to my roots. Fashion runs in the family.
Regarding your experience, you’ve travelled a lot and lived in different countries. Now you’re in Lisbon. What is so fascinating about the city?
I was escaping Berlin! No offense but after three years and three winters, I had enough. For once I wanted a non-depressing winter and Lisbon seemed like the choice. So I wrote a letter to my friend, dropped it off at her work and I jumped on the next flight out of TXL. Fast-forward 24 hours and I was in a t-shirt and sunglasses, baking on my new balcony under a cloudless blue mid-November sky. After Berlin winters, it felt deliciously sinful.
So you lived in Berlin, the “creative city.” I find it lovely, but Germany has a lot of other impressive cities to offer. Why Berlin and which experience did you take away?
I’ve got an old friend that I went to university with. We’ve schooled, worked, wined, dined and travelled the world over together. He now owns a studio in Antwerp but when I was living in Paris a few years back, he was working in Berlin. He convinced me to switch over. So I made the transition in October and got a top floor flat in “Mitte” that I subleased from an Italian medical researcher who mysteriously skipped town.
Few weeks later when winter slammed around, I found out that the heating was broken in the flat. It wasn’t long before I was seeing minus 25 degrees inside that flat. I was going to sleep with several layers of clothing, three blankets and waking with my windows frosted from the inside. The flat was already paid up for, so I stuck it out and ended up with sinusitis and bronchitis in one go. It was a hellish intro to Berlin!
ventually I moved into an airy maisonette close to “Mariannenplatz” and made some close friends in the creative realm. Art directors, photographers, fashion designers, chefs – all creative minds seem to intersect at Berlin so it’s undoubtedly a networking node. But to settle, I don’t see the appeal. Aesthetically, I find Berlin brutally ugly. There’s just simply no charm! It makes walking through the city a depressing affair, but that’s my inner architect speaking.
And that’s where you started working as an editor for mb! Magazine. How is that?
It’s been a bizarre road in a fantastic way. Back then, I was writing for a couple of blogs but it was amateur league. I wanted to get serious on the writing front. One evening, I was dining with a friend who had just returned from the Arctic, test-drifting Mercedes cars on ice. Two week later, he set up a meet with an old friend of his, the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine.
We decided to meet in Berlin and she was coming in from Frankfurt for business. So she let me pick the spot, probably as a challenge of sorts? This interview drink, I remember I was sweating bullets. I’m not formally trained in writing, journalism or even photography but miraculously she gave me a shot. I remembering walking away thinking: “How the hell? Did that just happen?” I suspect it had something to do a mutual and unhealthy love for wine.
She took me under her wing and trained me in writing and editing. Going on three years now, I still regularly contribute on lifestyle content. The stories I’ve chased have taken me to some incredible places around the world. That said, the first year was blood stained! Journalism is tough work – especially for the shy like myself – and far less glamorous than it actually appears. Also living on-the-go out of two weekender bags has its ups and severe downs. However the unforgettable characters I’ve met along the way make it all worthwhile.
Which city is your next destination?
In terms of living? I think Paris or New York calls for a second chance. For travelling, I’m off to Japan in a few weeks, and then on to Slovenia to wrap up summer.
More about Gabriel Tamez here.