The Power of Community: Meet Berlin’s Female Leaders

The word community conjures something different for everyone. Is it a word that feels like a warm embrace? Or an expression that evokes security and solidarity?  What is clear is that we are all busy forming our own families, both online and off. Whether it’s through activism, sport, fashion or nightlife, we’re always in search of like-minded people, proving that family is less about flesh but more about shared vision and values.

Amidst the reality of a global pandemic, we’re all socially distancing for the good of the collective and the notion of community, conversation and collaboration has never been more important. 

As sneaker culture evolves to better reflect the people that wear the shoes and the myriad of cultures they represent, the spirit of Air Max continues to inspire Berliners to champion the power of active communities and make a difference. Before social distancing became the new norm, TITLE had the chance to spotlight a strong collective of female leaders who are pushing for progress within their communities. These women are all united by a common goal to make Berlin’s creative culture more inclusive, equal, meaningful and active. Whether that’s through dance, political activism, sneaker culture, or circular design – these women are all creating visibility, fighting for representation and expression.

We caught up with them all again recently via Zoom to learn more their personal stories, their vision for a better tomorrow and how they’re dealing with social distancing:

As a member of @houseofstlaurenteurope, Sophie Yukiko Saint Laurent (@sophieyukikosaint) knows about the value of community and hard work. The founding principles of ballroom culture, which was born the in the 1960s, was from a desire for queer people of color to have their own safe, communal space for self-expression and movement. 

Sophie is known for her positivity and for fighting for the things she loves. For her, it is important to not get too lost in thoughts of a better tomorrow: “I need to take the steps to actually make the things I want or dream of to come to life today. See them. Feel them. And during this process, embrace the struggle that comes with it all and fight for it. 

A lesson she shares with us: “I grew up with this this narrative of not having it easy and always having to fight and having nobody being in my corner. Looking back, I know this is not true. Nobody ever does anything truly alone. I hope for every human in this world they find their tribe.”

We asked how she, as a part of the international voguing community, maintains a sense of togetherness and why it is more important than ever to embrace the power of the collective:

“The ballroom community has been struck hard by a horrific pandemic once before. Back then, community was literally what kept people alive, and it provided dignity and hope to those who were completely let down by their government and society. Community is what speaks hope into one another, it’s what educates one another, provides information, prayer even, it heals, and it helps.

I feel blessed to have daily contact with my ballroom family and friends. It makes one feel less isolated, and maybe even more connected. I am still trying to figure out, how I can maybe provide some different way of coming together while sharing and celebrating everything we do. We can’t gather at Balls right now, and those usually are the heart of our culture.”

Daniela is DJ and a part of the LGBTQ+ community. She uses her Instagram @wideawakearthquake as a platform to not only showcase her unique style but also to raise social awareness. She’s involved in various activities including fundraising to support underrepresented communities and she openly shares her own personal experiences around identity. As a visible fixture of the German sneaker scene, she is vocal about drawing attention to its problems of gender equality. “Although the sneaker-scene is highly driven by the happenings in subcultures, women seem to still be underrepresented. But now I see more and more women finding success and supporting each other. This makes me really happy and motivates me”.

We asked Daniela how she keeps a healthy body and mind during while staying at home: “I have the impression that a lot of people are feeling pressured to be extremely productive in this situation. Small things like cleaning my scooter or sorting out my basement make me happy. A good mix of these little things help me structure my day and maintain a balanced routine.”

For Franka Marlene Foth, a dancer and choreographer, dance is part of her everyday routine, something intuitive, almost like a basic instinct. Her style is multi-dimensional, constantly evolving as it’s transformed over the years. She also leads an interdisciplinary artist collective F M K F 030. In Marlene’s opinion, people should appreciate their bodies more: “You can feel more, think better and be more connected to your own self when you have body awareness.” 

She believes dancing is the very essence of community – it’s something that brings people together as it is kind of a universal language: “A person’s energy can change the atmosphere of a room by simply being present. We all know that. Sometimes words are just not needed.”

TITLE asked her why it is so important to embrace movement even though we’re restricted to our homes: “I think it is crucial for staying sane! Dancers and other athletes are aware of that, but I think it is important to make everyone understand that too. Use your body! Movement and sport set endorphins, dopamine and serotonin free which are all important for your mental and physical well-being.”

Through her eponymous label @melisaminca, Melisa Minca produces a range of ethical fashion pieces using only deadstock, scraps and secondhand clothing. What’s important for Melisa and what drives her work as a self-taught designer is the community behind her: “A community for me is a network of people who support each other. Whether it’s by collaborating on projects or just sharing experiences and giving advice. I feel very fortunate to have been welcomed into new circles by some amazing people.”

TITLE asked Melisa how she spends her time in self isolation to be creative:

I was going to start a new collection, but given the current situation, I allowed myself some room to play instead. I’m rummaging through all my scraps (it’s called zero-waste, not hoarding) and I started creating dresses out of them in hopes that come summer, they will be worn by a person frolicking outside.”

Sade (@sade.nadia) is model and activist, advocating for representation for Muslim women and women of color in Germany. Her courageous nature has made her a role model for many young girls in her community. She was one of the first to model wearing a hijab in Germany. For her, it is especially important to give everybody a voice: “It’s important for young people to feel represented so they don´t feel limited in their hopes and dreams.”

TITLE asked how she spends her time at home and stays connected with her community:

“I’m spending most of the time with my family and we talk a lot and laugh a lot. But I also try to be in touch with my friends and loved ones. I want to use this time to connect with myself actually. I think everyone is in a state of self-reflection because we are forced to face the thoughts in our mind.”

As different as each of their lives might be, all of these incredible women have one thing in common: they’re all trailblazers who embody the true values of community.  

During this global moment of self-isolation, maybe we should learn a lesson from these female leaders and take a step back to think of those who are important to us and stay connected. Whether its via Instagram or video calls, let’s embrace the power of community. Humans need humans, to feel human.

To learn more about Air Max and Nike’s latest releases to celebrate your style and showcase your creativity, click here.

Photographer: Jen Krause

Styling: Neslihan Degerli / Avec Nous Berlin

Styling Assistant: Anastasia Scheel

Set Designer: Marcus Vinicius de Queiroz

H&M: Kristin Roes